Motion and Sports Analysis Lab

The John C. Wilson Jr. Motion and Sports Analysis Laboratory has been improving the lives of patients since 1992. When it first opened, the lab focused on treating patients with walking disorders, typically related to chronic medical conditions. Today, young athletes also benefit from the lab’s computerized clinical motion analysis testing and research, and comprise approximately half of the 400 children and adolescents seen every year by specialists.

The lab features a state-of-the-art 10-camera motion capture system—similar to technology used for motion capture in video games and the motion picture industry—that evaluates children and adolescents via strategically placed sensors on the body and force plates embedded in the floor.

The data generated from testing is invaluable. Physicians and surgeons often use findings to personalize treatment and surgical plans based on a patient’s unique condition. For athletes, the data yield quantitative measures that can determine if there are any areas they may need to focus on to prevent injuries, enhance rehabilitation and prepare for returning to sports.

The Motion Lab is the only accredited lab in California, and one of just 14 fully accredited motion labs in the United States certified by the Commission on Motion Lab Accreditation Inc. It is also one of the few motion labs in the country with a mobile unit that brings assessment services directly to schools as well as club and recreational sports teams.

Our Patients

A variety of children and adolescents can benefit from a visit to the lab, from a child with a complex neuromuscular disorder to a high-performance athlete. The lab’s specialists see patients with:

Complex walking problems

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Spina bifida
  • Arthrogryposis
  • Skeletal dysplasias
  • Myopathies

Sports-related problems

  • ACL injury and repair
  • Patello-femoral syndrome
  • Knee pain
  • Patellar instability/dislocation
  • Symptoms limiting sports participation

Other orthopaedic conditions

  • Clubfoot
  • Femoral and tibial torsion
  • Slipped capital femoral epiphysis

Impact of Motion Analysis for Walking Problems

For patients with movement disorders, comprehensive motion and sports analysis testing can make diagnoses and treatments much more precise. Many abnormalities cannot be correctly assessed without computerized motion analysis. This technology helps surgeons accurately determine and quantify problems due to the positioning of the hip, knee and ankle, along with deformities of the long bones of the legs.

The benefits of gait analysis are profound:

  • Pre-operative motion analysis results in changes to surgical plans for nearly 90% of children evaluated in the motion lab.
  • Pre-operative motion analysis reduces the need for additional surgeries done at a later date by 67%.
  • Repeat motion analysis after surgery results in recommendations for changes in post-operative care in 84% of cases. Recommendations may include:
    • Botulinum toxin injections
    • Serial casting
    • Physical therapy or changes to a patient’s current regimen
    • Changes in bracing to maximize the outcome of surgery and further improve the patient's mobility
    • Additional surgery

Motion analysis testing also allows surgeons to evaluate all joints simultaneously, enabling them to then correct multiple problems during a single surgery. This leads to improved quality of life for children and families whose lives would otherwise be disrupted every few years for multiple surgical procedures.

Impact of Sports Analysis Testing

Sports biomechanical testing can be used to identify precise movement abnormalities and abnormal forces at the joints that cause symptoms which could limit an athlete’s participation or increase the risk of injury. An evaluation can be used to develop treatment plans that improve muscle strength and body movements, and facilitate a safe return to sports. 

The Testing

Motion Analysis

A comprehensive motion analysis test consists of:

  • Detailed clinical evaluation and videotaping
  • Evaluating the pressures occurring in the feet during walking
  • 3D kinematic and kinetic measures of joint motions and forces during walking
  • Surface and fine wire dynamic electromyography measurements of muscle activity and timing
  • Integrating and interpreting the findings
  • Physician review and recommendations based on the results

Sports Assessment

A comprehensive sports assessment consists of:

  • An interview about sports participation and injury history
  • Warm up on a treadmill or bike
  • Muscle strength testing
  • 3D kinematic and kinetic measures of joint motions and force during running, squatting, accelerating, decelerating, jumping and cutting
  • Dynamic electromyography measurements of muscle activation
  • Integrating and interpreting the findings
  • A copy of the complete report including an assessment of injury risk, recommendations to decrease the risk of injury and data to determine when it’s safe to return to sports following an injury


The John C. Wilson Jr. Motion and Sports Analysis Lab constantly strives to advance the field of motion analysis through robust research, which includes:

  • Clinical outcomes research

Studies in this area document the efficacy of surgical procedures, evaluate whether one procedure is preferable to another for treating particular problems, and identify which patients are the best candidates for specific surgeries. This research ranges from retrospective reviews of clinical data to randomized controlled trials. We have used motion analysis data to study the effects of bone surgery in the upper and lower leg (femur and tibia), hamstring lengthening and distal rectus femoris transfer, calf muscle lengthening procedures, and bracing with ankle-foot orthoses, among others.

  • Impact of gait analysis

We have conducted extensive research to understand the impact that gait analysis has on clinical decision-making, treatment and outcomes. Our studies have shown that 90% of pre-operative treatment plans change as a result of gait analysis data. Our research has also demonstrated that outcomes are much better when treatment follows gait analysis recommendations and that less subsequent surgery is needed when gait analysis is done.

  • Effects of walking on bone and muscle development

We are conducting two large multiyear studies to understand how walking affects bone and muscle development in children with spina bifida and cerebral palsy. Loading of the bones and muscles during physical activities like walking are important to build strength, maximize function and prevent fractures. By combining quantitative data from motion analysis, activity monitoring, computer modeling and imaging, we are discovering the extent of and risk factors for bone fragility in these patients so that appropriate interventions can be made to maximize bone strength and minimize fracture risk.

  • Movement biomechanics of pediatric athletes

We are using motion analysis to identify movement patterns that cause pain or orthopaedic problems or can place a young athlete at risk for subsequent injury. This information is used to improve rehabilitation plans and to determine when an athlete is ready to return to sports. We are researching the differences between young pre-adolescent athletes and older middle and high school athletes with the aim of preventing future injury by identifying and correcting risky biomechanical patterns before an injury even occurs.

  • Concussion

We are using motion analysis to understand more precisely the course of concussion recovery in children and adolescents. Young patients experience greater symptoms and take longer to recover from concussions than adults, which makes it vital to ensure that they are fully recovered before returning to sports and other vigorous physical activity. Our testing quantifies movement and balance while the patient performs a simultaneous mental task. This “dual-task” testing is more challenging than performing the physical or mental task alone and reveals if subtle deficits from the concussion are still lingering.