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Buckeyes on the Cutting Edge of Football Injury Prevention
By John Porentas

You know all those video games you've been playing and all those really cool movie effects they can do nowadays? They have finally impacted your college football team as well.

Dr. Ajit Choudhari
Photo by Jim Davidson

Dr. Ajit (think "dodge it") Choudhari (chow-dree) is the Director of Biomedical Research at the Ohio State Sports Medicine Center located at 2050 Kenny Road. Dr. Choudhari's domain is the motion capture lab where the same technology that is used to make those cool video games and movie effects is now being put to use to measure incoming OSU athletes in the hopes of preventing injury in their careers.

"The development of this technology over the last 15 years was really driven by video games and movies," said Choudhari.

"I study how injuries happen, who is likely to get them, and how we can help them and treat them better.

"In this lab (which just opened this March) we actually measure how people move including the angles of their joints, the forces on their joints, the torques on their joints.

"From that we're building a database of information so we can determine who is at risk for injury."

Trainer Doug Calland gets Terrelle Pryor ready for the tests. The metallic dots on Pryor's legs and hips are anatomical markers. They will be the only things visible in the digital recording of Pryor's movements. Researchers will then analyze the paths of the markers as Pryor executes certain motions to determine potential physical weakness Pryor may have. The OSU strength staff will then create a strength program to improve those weakness and prevent injury.
Photo by Jim Davidson

The technique involves the attachment of metallic reflectors called anatomical landmarks to the athletes and then having them execute a series of motions. The motions are recorded, but the only images recorded are those of the markers which are strategically placed on joints such as the ankle, hip, pelvis, knee, etc. The motion of the markers as the athlete executes the movements is then analyzed to determine just how an athlete moves. It is the same technique that is used to produce all those stunning effects you see on video games and in the movies.

The idea to use the lab as a preventive medicine tool for OSU athletes is the brainchild of OSU Head Athletic Trainer Doug Calland and Director of Football Performance Eric Lichter. The goal is to try to determine if an incoming athlete has any sort of biomechanical weakness and then address that weakness with a customized strength and conditioning routine in the hopes of preventing injury.

"We're trying to identify weaknesses that they can start to work on immediately," said Choudhari. "We want to improve the preventative training ability."

"We've always tried to do the best we can at preventing injury and trying to find ways of improving performance," said Calland.

"This is a way to kind of broaden the scope with the technology we have now, try to measure things a little bit better and try to figure out if we can predict where weaknesses are in balance and coordination and try to address them early."

This year the OSU freshman football players will be tested, but the upper classmen will not, though this is no the first time the OSU training staff has employed the technique.

"We did some stuff with Mike Nugent when he was here as a kicker. This is the first time we've done a whole group in this lab," said Calland.

Lichter explained why the training staff was involving the freshmen but not the upper classmen.

"We feel like we have enough information on our current players.

"We've been with them, we've been in the weight room, we've been in therapy and different aspects so we feel like we've got a good handle on those guys.

"It's the freshman we have the least information on. We don't know biomechanically where they may be weak or strong," said Lichter.

The measurement techniques employed are so new that there is not yet enough data available to make definite determinations on injury risk. The data collected at OSU will be some of the first collected, but it is the hope of Choudhari that over time enough information will be collected to make reliable predictions on injury potential for each athlete. Choudhari also is hoping to expand the research and data collection to other sports at Ohio State.

"We're starting with football. Once they found abut this lab becoming operational just a couple of months ago they asked if we could do this. The plan is to move into several other field sports; soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, they have a lot of knee injuries especially. We'd like to have this be a part of all the sports," he said.

In addition to the injury prevention aspect of the testing, Choudhari also indicated that he is hopeful that the data will lead to performance benefits as well such as improved speed and agility.

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