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Oro Muscles: Next generation performance analytics

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Tanya Colonna is co-founder and CEO of Oro Muscles, a Netherlands-based company developing wearable tech for the elite sport and health and fitness markets.

The wireless EMG device provides invaluable performance insight, giving trainers and therapists the data to maximise performance at the highest level.

Where did the Oro Muscles story begin?

Co-founder Hobey Tam had been watching a basketball game with some friends. One of the players went up to get a rebound, but when he landed, his leg split open.

As engineers they were wondering: what could we do to stop this from happening? And how could we see what’s happening internally?

The injury looked random, but it wasn’t. So many things led up to that moment.

We wanted to look at this deeper level of muscle analysis, as muscles are the source of performance. And there were so many ways we could go with it, whether it was sport or physiotherapy within movement disorders.

We’re athletes ourselves, so we were really interested in how we could solve this problem. We conducted maybe 200 customer interviews to get a sense of the market.

We ended up applying to different accelerator programmes and won one in Groningen, the Netherlands and decided to go from there.

Where are you now with the tech?

We focus on the analytics component of the device, but we also have an exclusive licence for these small, medical grade sensor systems that smoothly integrate into any workflow, whether it’s sports or neurophysiology.

And we have 10+ pilot sites running , including top-tier physiotherapy centres, first league teams, Olympians and Ivy League Universities.

So far, we’ve validated that we can output the same accuracy of metrics as clinical specialists using  a €200,000 motion capture lab and watching slow motion footage, however, we can do it in >60 times faster without the need of an expert- we can act as a portable human movement lab.

We are also working with a couple of big names within elite athletic training, including the godfather of powerlifting, Mike Tuchscherer. We sent him a sensor system about nine months ago.

He’s so interested in data. He tested his own urine for a month just to see if there was any correlation with fatigue. There wasn’t. But now he knows!

He came up with this system called RPE –  the Rate of Perceived Exertion. The idea is that it allows you to plan your training according to how your body is responding.

An RPE of eight means that you have two more reps in the tank. But that’s a feeling, right? You need to do a lot of training to get used to that.

And there’s different things that affect it. Is it the peripheral nervous system? Is it your central nervous system? Are you just tired from that day?

Interestingly, this system he developed for over 10 years to monitor stress coincided with the data that we got from our sensors.

He’s now really interested in helping us scale and sell this to his coaches, so that they can use it with their athletes.

It’s huge because now this system that was quite limited to powerlifting can now be expanded to on the field athlete monitoring as well as isometric movements.

We can make it more qualitative and visualise the outputs in correlation with functional performance outcomes for coaches to better optimise their training programs, accordingly.

It’s also crucial in rehabilitation.

You’ve also worked with the Dutch Olympic speed skaters and elite teams…

We’ve been able to show them whether a particular exercise actually makes them skate faster.

Our findings were a bit counterintuitive to what they were expecting. A movement once thought critical to speed skating, turned out to be non-specific. This was 30% of their time in the weight room.

Coach Kosta Poltavets said, okay, cool. Let’s adapt the training. They tested it with Koen Verweij, a gold medalist from the Sochi Olympics. He was injured so wouldn’t be competing.

And after six weeks of using the movements that we selected with our tool, he skated his fastest time ever in training.

After this, we moved on to utilising the device on the rest of the team members and uncovered even more uses for our device in load monitoring and technique analysis.

What about rehab?

We’ve shown that there’s a new metric in how you quantify return-to-play that can help to expedite rehabilitation.

We can also help coaches and physiotherpists pick better movements to make a more personalised routine for specific athletes.

Where are you on the trajectory of rehab and what actually has to happen now for you to get back to either your normal daily activity or return-to-play?

It’s been shown that proper objective measurements can increase efficiency of rehabilitation by over 30 percent. We’re making this type of quantitative data more accessible and portable.

Premier League spent £90 million in injured player salaries over the course of two years.

If you can reduce that by 30 per cent, you not only help make the team stronger, but you’ve save the club a lot of money.

Are you only targeting elite athletes?

Eventually, we want to make something for the amateur market.

The way that we analyse data is extremely powerful. And we want to be able to integrate that into some type of software to make fitness watches more efficient with more granular analysis.

We use medical-grade sensors, so we don’t want to decrease the price point too much. But we can still help the volume market. So we’re now navigating that.

But right now we are targeting the elite. So the elite football clubs and we’re working with an American football team as well.

We really want to focus on any elite team that are looking for that extra edge on the competition- whether it’s in the realm of performance, injury prevention, or rehabilitation.

For team sports, we can increase the baseline level of strength required for a specific sport.

By strategically monitoring and visualising the response of the athletes’ muscle to training in conjunction with critical performance metrics, we can bring a new layer to injury prevention.

For technical sports, we can get really into the data and show them how to increase power and efficiency with their technique.

Some guys that we’re working with barely fit through a door. You wouldn’t realise how technical some of these guys are by looking at them.

But they are very technical in what they do. They plan and analyse everything.

What’s next for Oro Muscles?

The next launch will be six-sensor system, so six muscles can be analysed simultaneously and provide even more key insights. Some beta testers can already experience a four-sensor system.

We’ll be releasing software alongside that where coaches can analyse the player’s data- we translate gigabytes of data into key, actionable insights that decrease the risk of training interventions.

The release date depends on funding, but the plan right now is to have those 6-sensor systems and integrated coach dashboard ready for launch in Q1 of 2023.

We’re actively seeking additional elite clubs to partner with in football, rugby, and basketball.

These clubs will receive exclusive, tailor-made solutions so we can work with them to fit a deeper understanding of players into their current workflow and add value through simple, relevant player metrics that keep their best players competing at a higher level and add key information to return-to-play.

It requires minimal time from the team’s end to receive these invaluable insights.

If anyone is interested, they can feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn (Tanya Colonna) or via email ([email protected]).

They can also learn more at www.oromuscles.com.

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