Research

  • MBRL is under the direction of Dr. Powers, Dr. Salem, and Dr. Kulig and is located within the Division of Biokinesiology & Physical Therapy, on the University of Southern California's Health Science Campus. Established in 1996, the MBRL features a 2,500 square-foot motion analysis laboratory, including a sixteen station data processing area. 

    MUSCULOSKELETAL BIOMECHANICS 
    Director: Christopher Powers, PhD, PT, FAPTA 

    The basic theme underlying this research program is that the identification and understanding of basic injury mechanisms will lead to the development of more effective and efficient clinical interventions and prevention strategies. To this end, investigations evaluate the kinematic, kinetic and muscular actions associated with human movement, the pathomechanics of orthopedic disabilities and issues related to rehabilitation of the musculoskeletal system.

    Pathomechanics of Patellofemoral Joint Dysfunction
    Although recognized as one of the most common lower extremity disorders encountered in orthopaedic practice, the etiology and treatment of this condition remains elusive and highly controversial. We are currently conducting several studies aimed at understanding the pathomechanics of patellofemoral joint dysfunction.In particular, we are evaluating how abnormal lower extremity mechanics may contribute to elevated patellofemoral joint forces and stresses in this population. To test our hypotheses, we are utilizing patient specific models of the patellofemoral joint, dynamic imaging, and finite element techniques. The long term goal of this research is to use biomechanical data to develop a classification system for persons with patellofemoral joint dysfunction and to conduct clinical trials to establish the efficacy and cost effectiveness of various interventions (surgical and non-surgical).

    Pathomechanics of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries 
    As female participation rates at all levels of sporting activity have dramatically increased, so have certain sports injuries. In particular, the incidence of ACL injury in female athletes has been reported to be 4 to 6 times greater than male athletes participating in the same sports. The purpose of this line of research is two-fold: 1) to quantify gender differences in biomechanical and neuromuscularaspects of sport specific movements, and to determine how gender specificmovement patterns vary across different stages of maturation, and 2) to assess the influence of a training program in altering biomechanical and neuromuscular aspects of movement in female athletes, and determine whether a given response to a training program varies across different stages of maturation. By better understanding the biomechanical and neuromuscular factors that may place the female athlete at risk for ACL injury, we hope to provide a foundation on which further investigation of injury prevention and rehabilitation can be based.
 

    Biomechanics of Slips and Falls 
    Slipping is one of the most common causes of falls,and has been reported to account for approximately 62% of underfoot accidents in the workplace . In conjunction with Sub-committee F-13 (Safety and Traction for Footwear) of the American Society of Testing and Materials, we are investigating issues related to the evaluation of utilized and required friction, and devices used for the evaluation of pedestrian traction(tribometers). In addition, we are evaluating the influence of footwear sole hardness on slip initiation and recovery in young adults The long-term goal of this line of research is to provide objective data for the development of standards for safe walkway surfaces. 

    Through the use of advanced imaging techniques, functional biomechanical measurements, and musculoskeletal modeling, the various research projects in this program contribute to a better understanding of the causes of various orthopaedic conditions.


    EXERCISE AND AGING BIOMECHANICS  
    Director: George J. Salem, PhD  

    This program recognizes the growing importance of exercise and activity interventions in improving health and life-quality across the lifespan.Investigations are designed to: 1) quantify the musculoskeletal loading and neuromuscular recruitment patterns associated with functional activities and exercise (e.g. golf); 2) examine the influence of exercise prescription on muscle dynamics, tissue adaptation, neural control, physical performance, brain function, and ultimately life quality; and 3) examine the feasibility,efficacy, and mechanisms-of-action associated with the integration of complementary and alternative modalities (CAM), such as yoga, meditation, and guided imagery, with traditional rehabilitation therapy. Study participants include children, younger & older adults, elite athletes, and patients with neurological disease. 
      

    Healthy Older Adults:  Previous studies have characterized the musculoskeletal loading patterns and adaptations associated with a variety of exercises and activities performed by older adults (e.g.weighted-vest, yoga, resistance exercise). Current and future investigations will examine the effects of resistance level, movement speed, repetition number, program frequency, anthropometric-specific prescriptions, as well as integrative modalities (e.g. meditation), on the efficacy and safety of exercise for healthy older adults.   

    Neurological Disease:  Studies in this area are designed to explore there lations among functional performance (chair standing, stair climbing, and walking), neuromuscular dynamics (EMG, strength, power), and muscle physiology(mass, fiber type, substrate utilization) in patients with neurological disease. This information can then be used to more effectively design exercise programs (e.g. body-weight supported treadmill training) that improve physical function and preserve independence. 

    Senior Golf Science:  Given the balance, speed, strength, cardiovascular, flexibility, cognitive, motor skill, and social requirements of golf participation, we believe that golf is a uniquely comprehensive therapeutic intervention that can be used to promote well-being and improved quality of life in healthy and physically-impaired older adults.  Golf is a recreational activity that includes regular walking over uneven and often hilly terrain interspersed between high power golf swings, precise putts and various changes in body position (e.g.  picking-up a ball). In older adults, this walking is of moderate to high intensity; thus,golf can be used to promote cardiovascular health. The golf swing is a high speed yet precise movement that requires coordinated control of major muscle groups throughout a large range of motion. A successful golf swing is also dependent upon bilateral weight shift, rotation of the head and trunk, and control of momentum; thus, it challenges dynamic postural control. On the other hand, putting requires the individual to maintain a still position in order to appropriately modulate the power—challenging the static postural control of the individual.  Golfing also requires continued attention and decision making, alterations in swing speed and direction, and the execution of motor-control strategies that change with each type of shot.  Thus, golf is likely to also influence neuroplasticity, including brain morphology and cognitive function.  Lastly, golf is played in groups of individuals (2-4) and consequently is likely to increase socialization and reduce isolation, which are problems common among seniors.Unfortunately, golf research has traditionally focused on golfing performance in younger adults and not on the physiological and psychological benefits of participation in seniors.  That is why we have developed the Institute for Senior Golf Science  www.pt.usc.edu/golfscience.  Our goal is tostudy the feasibility, safety, and efficacy of senior-specific golf training programs for individuals that do not currently golf.  Additionally, the institute is examining the use of golf as a therapeutic intervention in persons with disability (e.g.stroke and multiple sclerosis). 

    Funding for these projects has come from Federal Institutes (NIH, NIA), National Foundations (APTA, NATA,NCAA), Private Foundations (Strause Sports Medicine Research Foundation,California Physical Therapy Fund, Arthroscopic Association of North America,Kinetics Foundation, Fitness Quest, Alfta Rehabilitation Center), and intramural grants (UCLA, CSULB, and USC). 

     
     
     
     CLINICAL BIOMECHANICS 
    Director: Kornelia Kulig, PhD, PT, FAPTA 

    My research is clinically motivated, theoretically informed and experimentally tested. I am committed to the study of human movement and postural control in a model of clinical conditions of seemingly musculoskeletal origin that are characterized by frequent recurrence of symptoms. In that clinical model, I study the peripheral and central adaptations to pathology, use and disuse. I seek to understand the impact of these conditions on locomotion and other functional activities. Taken together, I aim to refine and continue to test our framework for intervention and prevention of recurrent pain in the low back region and in lower extremity tendons. 
     
     
    Recurrent tendon Pain: Neuromechanical Adaptations to Tendon Degeneration
    Tendinopathy is a significant source of morbidity worldwide. We examine morphological, functional and systemic predispositions which may contribute to the development of tendinopathy. Laboratory and clinical studies of lower extremity tendons (Achilles, Flexor Hallucis Longus, Tibialis Posterior and patellar) are currently underway. We are interested in identifying mechanisms and predisposing factors of effective or ineffective adaptations, with an emphasis on tendon architecture, mechanical characteristics of the musculotendinous unit and its relationship to intersegmental dynamics during varying forms of locomotion as well as peripheral and central adaptations to tendon degeneration. The long term goal of our research program is to provide a robust foundation for studies examining efficacy and effectiveness of non-surgical and surgical interventions for tendon pathologies. Ultimately, we aim to provide a scientific foundation for the prevention strategies specific to tendon pathologies. 
     

     

    Recurrent Low Back Pain: Postural Control and Spine Biomechanics 
    Low back dysfunction is the main cause of disability of musculoskeletal origin. We have developed a multidisciplinary research program that systematically examines postural control, trunk musculature and their response to disuse, pathology and rehabilitative strategies. Our studies on trunk and segmental kinematics informed us about the role of structural morphology on motion in the absence or presence of pathology. These findings, coupled with electromyographic analyses, provide the basis for an optimal framework of postural control and lumbar spine mechanics that may be present during painful episodes and between symptom remissions. This framework can provide essential knowledge leading to the development of novel intervention strategies.