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Mechanical & Materials Engineering

HMRL Research

Our long-term goal is to provide effective treatments for musculoskeletal disorders and help people maintain active lives longer.

The state-of-the-art facility offers a unique means to measure the mechanical factors of joint loading, orientation, and neuromuscular function during activities of daily living including high demand recreational and occupational tasks.

The core technology for this analysis is the motion capture system. Optoelectronic cameras are used to measure the three-dimensional location of targets fastened to palpable bony landmarks of the skin.

By tracking targets on each limb segment of the lower limb, joint angles at the knee, hip and ankle can be measured.

 

Scott walking with sensors attached
Computer generated image of the joint loading on Scott's skeleton

 

An instrumented force platform is used to measure the magnitude, direction, and location of the ground reaction force.

Combining the ground reaction forces, with the limb segment motion data provides the basis for calculating joint loading (net reaction moments and forces). These data are used to quantify the gait pattern.

 

Series of charts illustrating joint loading

 

To extend testing to high performance activity, the lab also includes a secondary motion capture system surrounding an instrumented treadmill. the equipment is capable of measuring ground reaction forces over multiple gait cycles and even during uphill or downhill inclines. An instrumented stairway allows collection of motion and force data during stair climb and decent.

 

The HMRL treadmill

 

Clinical Research

Osteoarthritis is a common age-related impairment that can cause pain and physical disability.

Diagram of the knee joint

The factors that influence the initiation and progression of OA are not well understood. There is a lack of data on the pathomechanics of this disease as well as causes for this disease to progress more rapidly in some individuals than others.

Biomechanics studies have demonstrated the profound changes associated with severe OA, including differences in stride characteristics, joint kinematics, kinetics and neuromuscular function. More recent studies of moderate knee OA reveal the importance of joint kinetics in understanding the pathomechanics of OA and in the design and evaluation of treatment options.

Non-surgical treatments aimed at improving the mechanical environment of the knee such as bracing, heel wedges, gait modifications and therapeutic techniques have shown promise in the management of the symptoms of OA.