Our research combines human subjects testing, biomechanics modeling, and computer simulation to improve our fundamental understanding of factors affecting human capabilities, as well as how and why injuries occur. We are also interested in developing strategies and technology to improve human capabilities and overall health. Our work has been supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and private foundations. Below is a sampling of our work.
The U.S. population, on average, is getting older and larger. Both advanced age and increased body mass index increase the rate of falling. In this study, we tried to learn why. We found that, when presented with a slippery floor, older and bigger participants experienced similar slips, but were less able to recovery balance to avert a fall. As such, the increased rate of falling may be due to an impaired ability to recover balance after slipping.
Understanding Slips and Falls
Balance Training for Fall Prevention
Practice makes perfect, right? Well, how about for preventing falls among older adults? Trips and falls contribute to a large percentage of falls among older adults. In this study, we showed that practicing balance recovery after a trip-like perturbation in a safe, controlled setting can improve the ability to prevent falls after actual trips. This study provided a launching point for a follow up study investigating the efficacy of this same intervention among older adults living in retirement communities.
An estimated 60-80% of all adults experience low back pain at some point in their lifetime. Low back pain is related to the stability of your spine. In this study, we studied individuals with exercise-induced low back pain to help us learn how the presence of fatigue influences measures of spinal stability. We found differences in measures of spinal stability between healthy controls and these individuals when they weren't experiencing low back pain, and difference changes in spinal stability after exercise/pain.
Understanding Low Back Pain
Gait Impairment and Hip Bone Strength among Older Adults
Many older adults have have difficulty ambulating as easily as when they were younger. We investigated the underlying factors contributing to this mobility impairment, and found that insufficient hip range of motion and ankle strength are primary contributors. As such, these impairments are attractive targets for intervention to improve mobility among older adults. We also used a finite element model of the femur (hip bone) to identify greater strains in the femur among older adults during gait that may indicate impairment in bone remodeling processes.
Develop Customized Assistive Devices
Texas A&M Philosophy professor, Dr. Jose Bermudez, regularly takes part in the Race Across America, a non-stop, 12-day, 3000 mile race from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD. During his last race, he experienced a condition called Shermer's neck when the neck muscles can no longer hold the head upright. This year, a team of students designed and fabricated a device to support Jose's head in the event that this condition struck again.