The Neuromuscular Research Laboratory (NMRL) has conducted state-of-the-science sports medicine research since its inception in 1987. We're proud of our long legacy of sports and military-focused research studies. Click each study below for more detailed information.
- Female ACL Injury Prevention Program
- Shoulder Research
- Golf Research – Par Without Pain
- Cycling Research
- Warrior Human Performance Research: Injury Prevention and Performance Optimization in the US Military
- US Army 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Division
- Naval Special Warfare Group 2
- Naval Special Warfare Group 4 – Special Warfare Combatant Crewman
- Naval Special Warfare SEAL and Crewman Qualification Training
- United States Army Special Operations Command
- Air Force Special Operations Command
- Marine Special Operations Command
- United States Marine Corps – Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force
See details below:
Female ACL Injury Prevention Program
The incidence of injury to the ACL in high school and college aged female athletes has reached significant proportions with reports of up to an eight-fold noncontact ACL injury occurrence compared to male athletes. These injuries result in considerable disability due to complicating osteoarthritis that eventually develops in up to 80% of all individuals sustaining and ACL injury. The Female ACL Injury Prevention Program was established to examine the risk factors for noncontact ACL injuries in female athletes and the role of intervention strategies to reduce the risk for injury. Utilizing an adaptation of the public health approach to the injury control process, this research aimed to determine injury patterns, risk factors for injury, and the effectiveness of intervention programs. Overall, results of this research can assist clinicians in developing the most appropriate age, sport, and sex-specific training programs in order to reduce risk factors for noncontact ACL injuries.
The NMRL has been investigating shoulder pathologies since the 1990s. Utilizing the collaborative knowledge of experienced clinicians and scientists, this research has aimed to study pathological shoulder characteristics in an attempt to improve the prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of such pathologies. These projects have been designed to identify sensorimotor, kinematic, and kinetic discrepancies that can assist clinicians in the early recognition of potential pathology, as well as provide the most effective treatment procedures to alleviate symptoms and structural damage.
Golf Research – Par Without Pain
The Par without Pain injury prevention program was launched in September 2001 as a collaborative effort of the NMRL, UPMC Center for Sports Medicine, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, and an advisory board of PGA golf and teaching professionals. While golf appears to be a sport with very little risk of injury, golf-related injuries have been occurring to the low back, shoulders, hips, wrists, and hands. Establishing fitness and conditioning parameters for golfers is important to minimize the risk of these injuries and increasing performance and enjoyment of the game. The Par without Pain program was the first scientifically validated program to enhance golf fitness and performance and was based on laboratory testing of more than 200 golfers, including PGA touring professionals. Overall, this research can inform teaching professionals and coaches about the physical preparation needed to minimize risk of injury and optimize enjoyment of golf.
The NMRL cycling research project was implemented to integrate scientific data with practical application for the competitive and recreational cyclist. This research focused on identifying physiological and biomechanical deficits in cyclists while developing methods to improve upon these deficits, including the effect of core fatigue on cycling mechanics and characteristics related to performance and injury. This research may inform the development of training programs that improve performance, pedaling efficiency, and reduce risk of injury in recreational and competitive cyclists.
Warrior Human Performance Research: Injury Prevention and Performance Optimization in the US Military
In the late 1990s, epidemiological studies indicated that unintentional musculoskeletal injuries are a “hidden epidemic” in the United States armed forces. As tactical athletes undergo rigorous training much like traditional athletes, similar injury patterns were emerging, with a significant proportion occurring at the lower extremity and resulting in loss of duty. The physical, psychological, and financial cost of these preventable injuries warranted the utilization of a sports medicine research approach in order to develop injury mitigation and performance optimization strategies for military personnel.
US Army 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Division
In 2006, the NMRL initiated its first Department of Defense (DOD) project with the US Army 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Division at Fort Campbell, KY. This project employed a four-phase model derived from the Public Health approach to injury prevention, including identification of injury patterns, identifying the specific biomechanical and physiological demands of tactical tasks, characterization of risk factors for tactical performance and injury, implementation of intervention programs based on data collected, and surveillance of the efficacy of these programs on reducing injury and improving performance. Using this information and considering the tactical demands of the Soldiers, the Eagle Tactical Athlete Program (ETAP) was developed and validated. Division-wide implementation of ETAP began in May 2009 utilizing the "Train the Trainer" strategy. The ETAP implementation utilized an Instructor Certification School (ICS), which was a 4-day school designed to teach Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) how to implement ETAP with their respective units. A systematic approach was implemented to monitor daily training exposure, track injuries, and monitor performance adaptations with the research objective to evaluate the effects of ETAP on reducing unintentional musculoskeletal injuries. At the result, the ETAP improved physical performance and reduced musculoskeletal injuries across a large cohort of the 101st Division Soldiers. The ETAP project was completed in Feb 2013.
Naval Special Warfare Group 2
In 2007, a second remote laboratory was established to work with Naval Special Warfare Group 2 in Little Creek, VA. Naval Special Warfare Group 2(NSWG2) is the East Coast group of SEAL teams. Research was designed to scientifically address the current injury prevalence of NSWG2 Operators and identify modifiable contributors to injury and optimal physical readiness. A total of 302 Operators were enrolled and underwent a comprehensive human performance assessment for injury prevention and optimal physical readiness to evaluate biomechanical, musculoskeletal, physiological, and nutritional characteristics relative to injury and performance. The data collected by the NMRL were provided to NSWG2’s Tactical Athlete Program (TAP) personnel for modification and current training. Our research identified specific risk factors for unintentional musculoskeletal injuries; validated the effectiveness of NSWG2’s TAP and training to improve the suboptimal SEAL-Specific characteristics that have been identified; and initiated interval testing/surveillance to assess operational drain, reference following injury, and effectiveness of TAP to improve physical readiness.
Naval Special Warfare Group 4 – Special Warfare Combatant Crewman
In 2010, a remote laboratory was established to work with Naval Special Warfare Group 4 in Stennis, MS. The Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCC) are one of the elite combat units of Naval Special Warfare and specializes in the operation of rapid mobility in shallow water where larger ships cannot operate. Modeled after research with Naval Special Warfare Group 2, this project aimed to identify injury risk factors that are culturally-specific to the SWCC. Our research included testing the specific task and demands of the SWCC and identifying the biomechanical, musculoskeletal, physiological, and nutritional characteristics which contribute to injury and inhibit optimal performance. The Operators at NSWG4/SBT22 are tactically different than NSWG2 and testing demonstrated culturally-specific injury patterns, and suboptimal characteristics relative to injury and optimal tactical readiness. The data from this project was provided to NSWG4/SBT22’s Tactical Athlete Program (TAP) personnel to incorporate into current training. The modified TAP program was validated to improve the previously identified suboptimal SWCC-specific characteristics.
Naval Special Warfare SEAL and Crewman Qualification Training
In 2012, a remote laboratory was established in Coronado, CA to work with Naval Special Warfare SEAL and Crewman Qualification Training students. SEAL Qualification Training/Crewman Qualification Training (SQT/CQT) is the final phase of training to become a SEAL/SWCC. However, little data exists to identify the physical and physiological characteristics of SEALS/SWCC at the beginning of their career and the potential for long-term injury and suboptimal performance. The research with SQT/CQT was conducted in order to identify suboptimal characteristics and risk factors for injury in SEALS/SWCC prior to Group/Team assignment, establish baseline data for Force-wide interval testing to assess career decrement and injury prevalence, reference following injury, and effectiveness of TAP to improve physical readiness, and assess tactical readiness. Overall, our research established baseline characteristics for SEAL and SWCC Operators upon entry into the force that will allow for tracking of injury, risk factors for injury, tactical readiness, and effectiveness of TAP. Laboratory and tactical testing was performed on 300 SEAL/SWCC Operators upon completion of SQT/CQT to identify baseline data for integration into interval testing at Little Creek, VA and Stennis and establish risk factors for SQT/CQT graduates.
United States Army Special Operations Command
In 2012, a remote research laboratory was established in Ft. Bragg, NC, to work with the United States Army Special Operations Command. The overall objective of this research project was to scientifically develop an injury prevention and performance optimization program that is culturally specific and dynamically responsive to the unique tactical demands of the Special Forces soldier. This project conducted task and demand analyses to identify the operational and training-related tasks during which musculoskeletal injuries occur, laboratory tests designed to determine suboptimal parameters that increase the risk of training and tactical injuries while reducing the capacity for peak operating efficiency, and nutritional interventions to optimize physical readiness and wellness.
Air Force Special Operations Command
In 2013, a remote laboratory was established at Hurlburt Field, FL to work with the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC). This research model consisted of task and demand analyses of training and tactical operations, identification of risk factors for injury and of inhibitors to optimal performance, and improvement of physical, physiological, and nutritional characteristics through specifically designed intervention programs. Consistent with our injury prevention model, this project was culturally-specific to the Operators of AFSOC.
Marine Special Operations Command
Beginning in 2014, the NMRL conducted research aims in support of a research project with the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC). These aims were established to evaluate the tactical demands, injury risk factors, and performance optimization strategies of the combat swimmer.
United States Marine Corps – Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force
A remote laboratory was established in 2014 in Camp Lejeune, NC to work with the Marine Corps’ Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force (GCE ITF), which provided a deliberate, measured, and responsible approach to studying female integration into US Marine Corps combat units. The GCE ITF incorporated research efforts supported by several outside agencies, including RAND Corporation, Center for Naval Analyses (CNA), Naval Health Research Center (NHRC), and the Marines Corps Operational Test and Evaluation Activity (MCOTEA). The University of Pittsburgh’s research aims enabled a thorough scientific approach to injury surveillance and testing and analysis of tactical requirements and musculoskeletal and physiological profiles of Marines. The results of this study assisted in informing the 2015 Department of Defense decision to lift the restriction on women serving in combat arms across all armed forces.