Current Projects

Does Altered Emotional Regulation Modify Visual Attention Among Injured Athletes
Samantha Schlageter

The ability of a person to visually assess their physical surroundings, fixate on relevant cues and make expedient decisions, can potentially affect the way an individual reacts to certain situations. Within athletics, this visual attention may influence emotional regulation and alter responses that shift a person’s focus, thus affecting decision-making and ability to coordinate muscles for injury avoidance.

Neuromechanical Contributions to Hamstring Stiffness Dysregulation and Injury
Dr. Andrea DiTrani Lobacz

Hamstring strain injuries (HSI) remain one of the most commonly occurring medical problems in sport and recreation and are associated with high rates of missed playing time and re-injury. Despite increased research interest over recent decades, the financial cost and incidence of HSI continues to rise. A number of risk factors and mechanisms have been explored, but evidence remains inconclusive. Therefore, the purpose of this series of studies is to examine how hamstring neuromechanics become instantaneously decoupled in previously injured limbs and during fatigue and anxiety, as measured through patient reported outcomes, proprioception, and stiffness regulation.

Neuromechanical Links Between Cognition, Fear and Joint Instability
Dr. Yong Woon An

Functional joint instability following an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) sprains can lead to a secondary ipsilateral or contralateral ACL rupture and untimely knee osteoarthritis, despite surgical repair. Previous research has examined neuromuscular control (NMC) interventions to address functional joint stability; however, clinical outcomes have varied. Recent neuroimaging studies suggest an ACL injury not only damages static joint restraints and peripheral mechanoreceptors, but also alters neural networks in the brain (neuroplasticity). Additionally, ACL patients who have higher fear of re-injury/movement seem to have diminished knee function compared to those with relatively less fear perception. Emotion regulatory neural circuits in the brain demand greater cognitive processing to manage increased attentional resources, which suggests that greater fear interrupts executive functions related to neuromuscular control. However, minimal data exists on how the brain perceives sensory information emanating from the knee, how fear may disrupt NMC, or how cognitive training programs may enhance executive function skills and improve fear-regulation and muscle stiffening strategies following ACL rupture.

Factors Influencing Upper Extremity Tissue Characteristics and Injury in Youth Overhead Athletes
Dr. Aaron Struminger

Despite previous research and proposed intervention strategies, upper extremity injuries and surgeries in youth overhead athletes continues to rise. A lack of knowledge about factors such as age, sport specialization, and overuse pathomechanics are likely reasons for the continued high injury rate. Incomplete information about underlying tissue characteristics and insufficient knowledge transfer from the laboratory to field setting, limits the ability of sports medicine professionals to fully understand these injuries. The purpose of this study was to investigate how upper extremity tissue characteristics and injury may differ among those who participate in separate sports, specialize earlier in their sport, and display various biomechanical patterns.

Anatomical And Neuromuscular Adaptations In Division I Collegiate Baseball Players
Dr. Stephen J. Thomas

The incidence of shoulder injuries has been increasing among baseball players and it is the most commonly injured joint in both high school and college baseball. Current theories suggest that these injuries may be due a cascade of deleterious anatomic and biomechanical adaptations that occur from the continuous stress of overhead throwing. The purpose of this work was to examine potential adaptations to specific anatomic structures that may contribute to alterations in biomechanical variables, increasing the risk for shoulder injuries. This was addressed in four studies. The first study used a novel ultrasound method to determine if the posterior capsule adaptively thickened in baseball players due to the chronic stress placed on the dominant shoulder during the deceleration phase of throwing and if the thickness is associated with alterations in glenohumeral and scapular motion, in both the dominant and non-dominant arm. The second study attempted to determine if bi-lateral alterations existed in subacromial space and if these alterations are associated with changes in scapular upward rotation.he third study sought to determine if humeral retroversion was increased on the dominant arm and if relationships existed between glenohumeral range-of-motion and posterior capsule thickness. The fourth study attempted to determine if decreases in neuromuscular control and stiffness regulation occurred on the dominant arm and if relationships existed between posterior capsule thickness and joint stiffness.

An Evaluation of Neuromechanical Decoupling Following Ankle Joint Injury
Dr. Allen Needle

Ankle sprains occur in nearly 50 percent of the population, with close to 70 percent of patients experiencing residual symptoms or recurrent injury. Joint laxity and neurological function have been proposed to change following ligamentous injury; however, few studies have investigated these measures concurrently using direct measures. As a result, it is unclear how neurological function may no longer be appropriately tuned to mechanical restraints at the joint occurs among patients with functional ankle instability. Furthermore it is unclear what adaptations allow some patients to “cope” and avoid this neuromechanical decoupling related to instability after injury. The purpose of this study was, therefore, to evaluate the relationships between joint laxity& stiffness, and neurological function as measured through muscle spindle activity, somatosensory cortex activation, corticospinal excitability, and motoneuronal pool excitability among subjects with and without functional ankle instability.