Making EMG Wearables to Improve Athletes
In the U.S. alone, there are about 13,700 professional athletes, 460,000 collegiate athletes, and millions of high school athletes who play sports at a competitive level and find themselves susceptible to sustaining a variety of injuries from hamstring pulls to ACL tears [1, 2]. These injuries happen when muscles experience loads that are too great to handle. In fact, there are about 200,000 ACL tears that occur each year . Furthermore, there is about a 29.5% recurrence rate and about 20.5% of patients sustain an injury on the opposite leg . After injuries occur, athletes will then face about six to nine months of rehabilitation.
One underlying cause for muscular injuries is an imbalance in strength when comparing muscles from the right side of an athlete’s body to their left. This could be a result of an athlete being unable to recognize that they are not exercising with proper form or it could be a result of an athlete having injured muscles. When athletes do not have good muscular balance, their stronger side will be forced to compensate or their movement patterns will be altered in order to produce the same amount of total force, leaving them with a higher risk of injury . Although preventing injuries is impossible due to their unexpected nature, reducing an athlete’s risk for injury and encouraging better exercise form will accelerate improvement. HANG2gether set out to accomplish this task by providing athletes and trainers with real-time workout results measured with a wireless electromyography device, called Vitalize.
Electromyography (EMG) is a standard method used to measure muscle activity. When an athlete’s brain wants a muscle to move, an electrical signal is sent to the muscle. As the muscle receives this electrical stimulation, a contraction will occur. These electrical signals can be collected using surface EMG (sEMG) electrodes. The sEMG electrodes stick to the skin covering the muscle and get wired to a microprocessor that can collect data and send the signals to be processed and seen on a computer or a smartphone.
The EMG signals can display information that corresponds to the output of a contraction. When an athlete produces more force by lifting more weight, there will be a higher value that is seen. As explained by a study done by Mario Cifrek, trends in fatigue can also be observed through EMG signals because an increase in repetitions causes slower conduction velocities of the electrical signals which will be seen in the plot of the median frequency .These concepts are well documented in literature, but there are multiple factors as to why EMG systems can be improved upon.
Some setups are very bulky and contain a large network of wires that would restrict an athlete’s range of motion. Other setups may be small and portable, but they do not provide accurate data because the electrodes are not appropriately in contact with the skin throughout the athlete’s workout. EMG systems are also very expensive or inconvenient to set up, making them impractical to be used for workouts.
HANG2gether stresses the importance of accurate data, comfort, easy of use, and affordability. We seek to solve all problems listed above using Vitalize, a wearable technology that revolutionizes the design of previous EMG systems and empowers athletes to quantitatively observe their improvement over the course of an individual workout or over a span of multiple workouts. Vitalize uses innovative sEMG electrodes that use an adhesive that will ensure a good contact with the skin without sliding around or causing irritation. Vitalize will be compact and lightweight so there will not be any equipment preventing an athlete from working out with their normal movements. When athletes want to measure their workout, they will be able to quickly attach their Vitalize device to their muscle and begin collecting data that will be filtered and presented on a simple smartphone app.
Vitalize is an inexpensive device that will provide valuable metrics and graphs to help athletes adjust their workouts. Ultimately, athletes can have actual data that can validate how their bodies feel and ensure that they are fully prepared for the next time they step on the court or the field. They will be able to have real-time feedback telling them if they are pushing themselves hard enough or if they should focus more on their weaker side in order to avoid compensation.
Over the past 3 quarters, HANG2gether has worked to develop an effective business model to make Vitalize a successful product on the market. HANG2gether aspires to have competitive athletes of all ages using Vitalize to get to step their game to the next level. Initially, HANG2gether plans to work alongside athletic trainers and physical therapists. This will expose athletes to the benefits of Vitalize and encourage them as well as their teammates and friends to use our product. Currently, HANG2gether has completed the first prototype, which is 70 x 60 x 22 mm. This is wireless hardware that attaches to electrods and communicates directly to a smart phone device.
HANG2gether plans to continue refining Vitalize and estimates that the final product will be around 35 x 70 x 12 mm. Testing and validation will also occur in order to guarantee an accurate device and HANG2gether is awaiting approval to begin testing Vitalize on athletes. HANG2gether is collaborating with the experts from the Orthopaedic Education and Research Institute as well as doctors from the UCI Athletic Department to perform studies on athletes.
In 2015, a group of five undergraduate Biomedical Engineers at the University of California, Irvine were assigned the task of designing a medical device. After spending time arguing about the best soccer and basketball teams instead of brainstorming ideas for a project, the guys had no starting point except that they all had a strong passion for sports. The idea finally came about when they realized they could use non-invasive technology to enhance the performance of athletes at an affordable cost. Thus, they joined the initials of their last names, as they began to work together and HANG2gether began to develop Vitalize.
Ben has researched electrochemical fuel cells in Dr. Madou's BioMEMS laboratory and interned at Joshua Medical Health Clinic.
Kyle obtained direct medical device internship experience. He was taught work in cross-functional engineering teams, including R&D, Manufacturing, and Quality Assurance.
Craig volunteered as an undergraduate researcher in the DOSI lab at the Beckman Laser Institute, where he was able to gain valuable experience dealing with real-time data acquisition as well as hardware and software interfaces.
Graduating senior at the University of California, Irvine with Biomedical Engineering degree with specialization in Micro & Nano Biomedical Engineering. Salam gained experience in Bio signal processing, and CAD though the different classes and research experiences at UCI.
Daniel volunteered as an undergraduate researcher at the UC Irvine Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Center. Research consisted of over 300 hours of MATLAB programing to analyze data received from visual response test of lab rats.
- Michelle Khine, Ph.D.
Associate Professor at University of California, Irvine
- Michael Chu
Ph.D. student at University of California, Irvine
(Picture not available)
- David Franey
- Ryan Helber,MBA
Hoag Orthopaedic Education and Research Institute
Feel free to contact HANG2gether at:
Email address: HANG2gether@gmail.com
University of California Irvine