ATOAC Research Highlight: The Exercise and Sport Injury Laboratory at the University of Virginia

The Exercise and Sport Injury Laboratory at the University of Virginia

Exercise is medicine…but it can hurt!

Leading a healthy lifestyle is good…. “exercise is medicine!1  However, orthopaedic injuries (including injuries to lower extremity joints) are an unfortunate consequence of being active. We share the overall concern of the ATOAC that osteoarthritis is an irreversible and sometimes inevitable outcome following major joint injuries. Since osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease) is irreversible, prevention is key – starting at the time of injury.  Sports injury prevention is paramount – our medical community has made strong efforts to campaign for safe sports participation for all age groups.2   Regardless of age, gender, race or athletic level, safe and expedient return to play following injury is a common shared goal.  Healthcare providers such as athletic trainers, physical therapists and exercise/fitness specialists all share these goals….safe and expedient return to play.  The irony to this mantra is the requisite order – safe first, expedient second.  Why?  Because injury is more common in those who are already injured – which may be a short-term concern when athletes are exposed to the same “risky” environment where the initial injury occurred.  The long term concern is the potential for recurrent injury, pain, disability and poor health-related quality of life.  There are many ways to approach the problem of recurrent lower extremity joint injuries because there are so many potential factors that contribute to patient outcomes.  Among the many potential underlying factors that may increase risk for re-injury and poor outcomes are poor skeletal muscle function and faulty movement biomechanics.  Our lab specializes in studying patients with acute and chronic injury in active settings to better understand potential risk factors and to develop interventions aimed at restoring optimal muscle function and movement patterns – people who exercise in the presence of altered muscular or biomechanical function may be exposed to risk.  There is much to be done…organizations like the ATOAC foster collaborations to identify risk factors and develop early interventions to help patients with joint injury.

The Exercise and Sport Injury Laboratory at the University of Virginia is led by 4 faculty scientists.  We have a variety of expertise that fosters collaboration and growth.  Research expertise includes chronic ankle instability (Jay Hertel), sports concussion (Jake Resch), modalities and rehabilitation (Sue Saliba) and knee ligament injuries (Joe Hart).  We have a breadth of research interest but all share a common goal – helping patients achieve their goals after sports injury.  This applies to the athlete who aspires for the world stage, to the recreational athlete who exercises purely for health and fitness and the working mother who just loves playing with her children and family in their spare time.  Our lab group has interest in evaluating skeletal muscle function to identify potential underlying causes for injury, re-injury and degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis.  We appreciate the goal of “return to activity” so we often study neuromuscular response after fatiguing exercise.  We also study many aspects of movement patterns and neuromuscular function – from force steadiness during isometric contractions to inter-segmental coupling during gait.  Prevention of injury and re-injury are key aims to the research agenda in our lab group.  For our lab, prevention aims to help active people achieve their goals despite a history of injury.

Our lab group will have a strong presence in both general and free communications programming at the 2015 American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting in San Diego, CA and at the National Athletic Trainer’s Association Annual meeting in St. Louis.  Look for our Logo (above) and stop by our posters, come to our presentations and let’s have a discussion about helping our injured athletes achieve their goals!




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