Biomechanics Research Lab


student jumping for testing purposesThe Biomechanics Laboratory (178N Forker) is a 1750 square foot facility that is part of the Human Performance Laboratories housed within the Department of Kinesiology. The major pieces of laboratory equipment include:

  • An 8-camera Peak/Vicon Motus motion analysis system has video, optical, and analog capabilities.
  • Two Advanced Mechanical Technology Inc. force platforms are positioned centrally on a 35-m walkway in a pit isolated from the building foundation.
  • A Biopac Systems Inc. EMG system includes 8-channel capability with 4 channels of long-range (10 m) tethered equipment.
  • An Exeter Research Impact Tester is used to simulate walking and running impacts
  • A Playground Clearinghouse head impact system is used to simulate falls onto various surfaces.
  • A data logger (Biomedical Monitoring) is used in conjunction with accelerometers, rearfoot and knee electrogoniometers, and electromyography as a portable data collection system capable of high-speed recording for extended periods of time.
  • Principal strains are measured in bone with a Vishay Instruments strain gauge measurement system.
  • An eight-channel Octostim stimulator is used to deliver electrical stimulation pulses to muscles via surface electrodes.
  • Two three-dimensional Kistler force transducers measure hand-support forces applied to a bench or walker during functional movements such as sit-to-stand transfers.
  • Matlab software is used to run biomechanical simulations; SIMM software is used to develop musculoskeletal models; and SPSS/SAS software is used for statistical.


Impact biomechanics

The Biomechanics Laboratory has close ties with industry in the area of impacts. We have tested the cushioning properties of footwear for such organizations as Fila, Air Walk, Remington, Speedo, Wilson and the US Military. We have tested impact attenuation in gymnastics mats, vault tables and pads for companies such as Hadar Manufacturing and American Athletics. Shock attenuation has also been assessed in wheelchairs and basketball rims. Current research in this area involves the effects that the geometry of the body during the impact has on the effective mass and the impact attenuation.

Osteogenic exercise

Older adults and astronauts during long duration spaceflight have decreased bone strength that can lead to fracture. Exercise has been shown to increase bone strength and could be used as a preventative measure if the boundaries of safe and effective use can be identified. We are using biochemical blood markers that are associated with bone resorption and formation in an effort to identify optimal patterns of impacts. We are also collecting impacts from various sport and exercise activities so that we can eventually identify those activities that produce the greatest osteogenic effect. The pattern of impacts can also play a role in stress fractures in athletes and military recruits. These are serious injuries that result in significant health care costs, lost training time, and interference with job performance and competition.

Lower extremity foot function

Foot disorders are difficult to study in humans because the foot is complex and resistant to internal examination. We have built a machine that allows us to move the muscles and skeleton of a cadaver foot in a natural motion so that we can measure bone movements and strains. We are working on using this information to build an accurate model of the foot so that function and dysfunction can be studied.

Sit-to-stand transfers

The ability to move from a seated position to standing is an essential transition for activities of daily living. Many individuals require external support to perform sit-to-stand movements due to lower extremity limitations. The goal of this project is to evaluate the sit-to-stand movement in individuals following total knee arthroplasty (TKA) as compared to healthy older adults in terms of weight-bearing symmetry and combined lower extremity joint torques. Individuals after TKA appear to utilize their upper extremities to maintain a more symmetrical movement. By manipulating the initial foot position and the location/presence of upper extremity support, it may be possible to sit-to-stand transition for individuals following total knee arthroplasty.

Farm Injuries in Children

Parents often begin to involve their children in agriculture by assigning them farm maintenance and livestock feeding activities because they are deemed to be safer than the operation of tractors and field equipment. These tasks may require children to move or lift loads that are proportionally large and/or heavy. The nature of potential injuries associated with these activities may compromise the musculoskeletal development of the child resulting in permanent damage. No data are currently available to help parents gauge the risks associated with these tasks or to identify appropriate carrying limits based on the developmental stage of their children. This project will investigate the unique risk factors that farm children experience while performing carrying tasks. Based upon our findings, educational materials will be developed that target farm parents and safety educators in an effort to reduce injuries to farm youth.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) is the most common cause of lateral knee pain in runners. Friction between the iliotibial band and the lateral femoral epicondyle is commonly suggested as the mechanism of this injury. However, there is not a quantitative methodology for detecting risk factors that are associated with ITBS. The purpose of this experiment was to observe runners in a controlled environment and determine if differences exist between ankle, knee, and hip kinematics for runners with and without symptoms of ITBS. For this research project, we are studying individuals as they run on a treadmill to fatigue. The objectives of this project are (1) to compare symptomatic and asymptomatic runners and (2) to measure changes that result from fatigue. One hypothesized result is that symptomatic runners will show more dramatic kinematic changes due to fatigue.

Collaborative Research

The biomechanics lab has collaborated on numerous projects with colleagues from industry, other disciplines, and other universities. We are working with Dr. Michael Conzemius in the College of Veterinary Medicine and the University of Iowa to develop an Emu model for the study of human hip disease. We are working with Dr. Pat Patterson in the Department of Industrial Engineering, Dr. Chris Nester at the University of Salford in the UK and Dr. Erin Ward of Central Iowa Foot Clinic to establish the kinematics of foot bones during human gait and to develop a gait simulator. We have established close ties with the University of Kentucky to perform a biomechanical analysis of an electrical stimulation-controlled leg press machine to be used by individuals with spinal cord injuries.