Physical Therapy student takes research to the baseball diamond
Project aims to boost Hartford Hawks' batting performance
On many days last fall, ENHP honors student Matt Glassoff ’21 was hard at work on his senior project – but not in a classroom or laboratory. Instead, Matt was out on the athletic fields working with UHart’s Division I baseball team, conducting research to help improve the team’s batting performance.
Matt’s research project investigates the relationship between players’ hip and trunk mobility and the speed and launch angle of their hitting. “There are a ton of factors that come into play when a baseball batter attempts a swing,” Matt explained. His research aims to find correlations between batting performance and physical factors, which the coaches can use to maximize players’ on-field results.
A self-described “massive” sports fan, Matt is a student in the combined Bachelor of Science/Doctor of Physical Therapy program. When it was time to develop a project for his honors thesis, he knew he wanted to do something related to sports. “After doing some research I decided to dive into baseball hitters, because hitting is a lot harder than most people think. I’ve always been fascinated by how easy the professionals make hitting a 95-mile an hour fastball look,” he said.
Matt took his ideas to his research advisor Tricia Prokop, assistant professor of physical therapy. Prokop had worked with the University’s baseball team on an earlier research study, so she brought the Hartford Hawks coaches into the discussion and they developed the study together. “The baseball coaches have been amazing to work with and have been super-supportive of my research,” Matt said.
Specifically, Matt’s project investigates the relationship between players’ hip/trunk mobility and exit velocity, or how fast the ball comes off the bat, and launch angle of the ball. To collect data for his project, he put the players through a baseball-specific movement screening to measure their hip and trunk mobility. Players were scored as they performed five different exercises. After their screening, each player took on-field batting practice. The exit velocity and launch angles of their hits were recorded using a motion camera system called Rapsodo.
Matt Glassoff '21, BS/Doctor of Physical Therapy program
After doing some research I decided to dive into baseball hitters for my honors project, because hitting is a lot harder than most people think. I’ve always been fascinated by how easy the professionals make hitting a 95-mile an hour fastball look."
Matt is now analyzing the data to find correlations and provide the coaches with more information about their players. Senior BS/DPT student Kelly Giebner ’21 is also working as a co-investigator in the study as part of an independent study project. “We’re hoping that our final paper will be a resource for the coaches to better understand the relationship between their players’ physical capabilities and on-field performance,” Matt said.
One of the benefits of UHart’s pre-physical therapy program is the opportunity for undergraduates to conduct faculty-mentored research. In many programs this kind of research is limited to graduate students.
“An honors project is an opportunity for students to explore a topic of interest to them with faculty mentoring, and Matt has certainly demonstrated his interest in working with baseball athletes,” Prokop said. “It’s always rewarding to work with students on a research project they are passionate about, and it has been a pleasure to advise his project.”
Matt hopes to continue this research as he moves into UHart’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program. “There are so many layers to our study that I feel like we’re only scratching the surface,” he said. And while he expects to work with many different patient populations in his career, he said working with athletes would be a “dream.”
Fun fact: Matt is from Toms River, New Jersey, which is also the hometown of professional baseball player Todd Frazier who has played for the Texas Rangers and New York Mets. Frazier’s Little League team won the Little League World Series in 1998.