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Dr. Moira Pryhoda Furthers Biomechanics Research with Cleveland Guardians

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Sylvia Morna Freitas

Student Content Writer

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Dr. Moira Pryhoda, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at the Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Sciences, has been involved with the University of Denver since 2008. Initially receiving a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from DU, she went into the industry and then to school at the Colorado School of Mines for her Master of Science in Geochemistry. 

After receiving that degree, Dr. Pryhoda’s work with gymnasts eventually led her to the field of sports biomechanics, which brought her back to DU for her PhD and postdoctoral work in biomechanics. Now, she embarks on an exciting new opportunity to work with the Major League Baseball team the Cleveland Guardians in the field of sports biomechanics.

During her early years at the University of Denver, Dr. Pryhoda co-founded the DU club gymnastics team and coached the DU Jr. Pioneers for USA Gymnastics at the Junior Olympic compulsory levels and Talent Opportunity Program. A gymnast herself in her youth, Pryhoda said she became invested in “trying to do everything I could to help my athletes perform better at the level that they wanted to perform.”

Pryhoda explained how that led her to the field of biomechanics and thought, “It was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” This personal passion brought her back to DU to earn her degree in biomechanics.

Dr. Pryhoda completed many projects during her doctorate and postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Denver. For her dissertation, she worked with Division 1 athletes at DU who had suffered concussions. Pryhoda explains the study as “a longitudinal study of their balance trying to see if there’s any differences in how they balance before concussions versus after concussions to try to track their recovery through the concussion as well.” Dr. Pryhoda said that the project is ongoing.

In addition, she’s studied athlete footwear “to determine what closure system on footwear could help specific athletes move better and the movements that they need to be really quick in.” Pryhoda mentioned that she’s also been working with the DU gymnastics team to try to help reduce the rate of Achilles tendon tears.

With all of her work, Dr. Pryhoda emphasized, “The whole point is giving a coach another tool that they can use to help their athletes perform better or reduce injury rates—make sure they are recovering. That’s what I’m really passionate about.”

Most recently in these efforts, Dr. Pryhoda has partnered with Dr. Michelle Sabick, Dean of the Ritchie School and biomechanics researcher, on a project that studies the kinetic chain of pitchers. Their hypothesis rests on the idea that “pitchers who generate energy using their large, lower body muscles and transfer it to their throwing arm will need to create less force in that arm than pitchers who rely more on their arm muscles to throw which may protect them against shoulder and elbow injury.” It was this work that caught the attention of the Cleveland Guardians and Dr. Pryhoda said she is excited to continue to explore this area with them.

In regard to the new position, Dr. Pryhoda said, “It’s always been important to me to help the people that can actually use the science. And that’s what got me really excited about this project in the first place is that I could see a really clear potential to present this to athletes and coaches and help them use it in their practice.” Dr. Pryhoda went on to say that the large analytics department of the MLB presents an exciting opportunity for her to collaborate with others on biomechanics. As she looked further into the new position, she was also very interested in exploring the complex aspects of pitching and hitting. Specifically, Pryhoda detailed her two main interests:

 “Pitching is really a full body movement and seeing how each of your body segments interacts with each other to produce—usually what you’re going for is a high velocity pitch—was really exciting to me because there's so many different biomechanical factors that go into that as you’re moving through your kinetic chain… Hitting incorporates that, plus, it's a reactionary movement, you're reacting to a pitcher. So incorporating some of that and looking at your eye movements, your ocular motor system, and how that's interacting with the rest of your biomechanics.”

During her distinguished academic and professional career at DU, Dr. Pryhoda dedicated much of her time and passion to the DU community. She wanted to express her gratitude to the DU club gymnastics team, “Not only did I make great friends and memories through that experience, but it’s been really fun to watch an idea that my friends and I came up with grow over the years and continue to provide students a fun way to get or stay involved in the sport.” 

Involved with DU for nearly 15 years now, she added, “It feels like home at this point.” 

While Dr. Pryhoda will be missed, she will be staying in the area and traveling for her new position with the Cleveland Guardians.