The term Return-to-Play (RTP), which is widely used in sports medicine, describes the decision-making process used to determine when an injured or ill athlete can safely return to training or competition. In recent years, uniform tests have established themselves in order to be able to make better and more objective statements about the right time for the return of an injured athlete. The resulting standardization already offers considerable advantages. However, the tests always take place in laboratory environments, contain predictable movement tasks, which are far away from a regular game, and are rather a boring duty for the athlete, which has a negative effect on his motivation.
In order to eliminate or compensate these disadvantages, EXXETA, in cooperation with the Institute for Sport and Sports Sciences at the University of Freiburg, has developed a prototype to support the RTP process with a VR system.
With the help of VR, the attention focus of an injured athlete can be shifted to the outside in the virtual environment. It is also possible to quickly expose an athlete to a variety of movement tasks, especially unexpected movements. These advantages lead to potentially better and more realistic test results, allowing more risk-free and reliable statements to be made about the correct RTP timing.
The prototype developed by EXXETA realizes a full-body tracking in VR with which the athlete can see his own movements in virtual reality. This means that the movements captured by the motion capturing system are transferred to a 3D character model, which represents the player in the virtual world. This way the immersion of the user into the virtual world reaches a very high level.
The system offers numerous advantages:
- Accurate motion detection through motion capturing system
- Wide range of motion and high freedom of movement thanks to wireless VR headset
- Unpredictable and individually adaptable movement tasks
- High sense of presence through full-body tracking and design of virtual worlds
- Low end-to-end latency
The prototype proves that an application in the context of sports medicine and sports science is very well possible and promising. In order to test the widespread application of the system, further studies have to be carried out.
From a technical point of view, the project has created an initial platform for building not only VR applications to support RTP processes in the future, but also numerous other applications in the field of sports medicine and sports science.
Based on the described project results, we will implement further applications in the sports context. The focus will also be on an extensive sports scientific and sports medical evaluation of the system and the applications realized with it, for which the cooperation with the Institute for Sport and Sports Science of the Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg will be further expanded.