Arm sleeves may seem like an accessory these days, something to boost a football player’s swag more than anything.
But some actually serve a bigger purpose.
Especially the ones Purdue quarterbacks have been wearing during practices this season.
Domenic Reno made sure of that.
Reno, the senior associate director of football strength and conditioning, has trained pitchers in the minor leagues and understands the importance of tracking pitch counts. He figured that could be a valuable tool for quarterbacks, too. He found motusQB, ordered a package, and gave it a try first this summer with David Blough. The compression sleeve has a spot to insert a chip that tracks a variety of data from volume of throws to arm angle to arm speed to shoulder rotation to fingertip velocity.
Reno was happy with the data he was collecting. Blough would go through a throwing session, come in and sit down to review the data and be able to track his arm slot and his velocity and look back at the film and see what kind of throws those angles and velocity produced.
So Reno ordered more of the product and outfitted his entire group of nine QBs and has been tracking them this season in practices. (He doesn’t use it in games.)
Though the quarterbacks may like the more flashy data — they quickly started competing to see who had the best velocity, not surprisingly considering the makeup of the group — Reno was mainly interested in the volume.
“The biggest thing for me right now is with the quarterbacks, it allows me to, once I track it that practice, I’m able to sync it, collect the data, and when we go train that next day, I’m able to adjust their workouts based on how much volume they did,” Reno said. “So let’s just say one of the guys throws 120 balls and another of your guys throws 70. I know the guy who throws 120 balls has a little bit more stress on his shoulder and his elbow, then I’m going to back down from that lift if we’re doing upper body. The other guy, I can either keep what we’re doing or I can progress a little. So it’s injury prevention.”
But Reno isn’t only planning to use the data during season. It’ll be a helpful tool in the offseason, too. Because, with a full season’s worth of data, he’ll have a better idea of how much each player threw and can use that as a measure for how much needs to be done in the summer.
If one player would throw, at the most, 120 balls, Reno knows at some point in the offseason, he’ll need to make sure that same player reaches that peak.
“So that way when you go into camp, when you go into season, their arm doesn’t go dead. So that way they’ve at least touched that point, so they don’t get injured,” Reno said.
Another tool in injury prevention is that the device tracks the stressload on the QBs’ arms.
So if a player comes in after a practice and says his shoulder or elbow is sore, Reno can bring up the software and look specifically at each throw, to try to find which one may have been the culprit to produce the soreness: Perhaps it was a bad arm slot.
Reno actually can track the quarterbacks in real time with an app on his phone, but, mostly, he will just pull the data up on the computer in his office afterward. The program shows a chart with varying colors to track each element, and Reno can click on each throw to get the specifics.
At first, the players were a bit skeptical on whether the sleeve actually would track their volume, among other things, effectively. But now that they’ve seen the results, they’ve bought in, Reno said.
“Elijah (Sindelar) is a big baseball guy, so he understands it completely. David is so dialed into his body and what he does that he’s very in tune with this whole data system, the data we’re collecting. The guys are interested to see (the data),” Reno said.
Reno also is looking into a new product that would track snap-to-throw speed via a bracelet. He’s still waiting on the company to finish it.
But, really, whatever kind of technology and innovation that could help Purdue’s players, Reno is all for it. Seems like any time he brings a new product or idea to director of football strength and conditioning Justin Lovett, Lovett approves. It’s been a good relationship between the strength coaches, and it’s focused on one thing: Helping the players produce on the field.
“We’ve got nine quarterbacks. If there are nine different things to help each one, then I’ll do nine different things," Reno said. "Each quarterback has his own game. As a strength coach, you have to be able to find out what kind of game they play and try to enhance that.
“Obviously, Justin and I have been working together for a long period of time. We have a great relationship. He’s all about whatever it takes to help these kids increase their athletic performance. This is not a weight room thing. We’re not (only about the) weight room, try to get the guy to bench 500 pounds or try to get to the quarterback to whatever it is in the weight room and then all of a sudden go on the field and not perform. Whatever is going to help these kids perform better on the field, that’s what we’ll do. It doesn’t matter if we have to be here from 4 a.m. 'til midnight getting the job done. If they’re going to see the success on the field, (we'll use) whatever system and techniques and drills, any thing we can do to help these guys. Because at the end of the day, it’s about them performing well on the field.”
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