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Sports Medicine and Movement Laboratory


This section includes descriptions of several different projects we have taken on this semester. From polo projects to understanding different pitching mechanics, we've had a successful semester. We've also had one undergraduate and two doctoral students working on their final projects before moving on to the real world.

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The Sports Medicine and Movement Lab will be saying good-bye to Undergraduate Research Fellow, Gabrielle Gilmer, in May this year. Gabrielle is a chemical engineering major and began working in the lab in November of 2015. Since joining, she has published three first authored manuscripts, presented at 11 conferences, and completed an honors thesis. Gabrielle’s research initially focused on using clinical tests to identify lumbopelvic-hip complex instability and determine the effects on throwing mechanics in female athletes. Her thesis was focused on determining the relationship between biomechanical, neuromuscular, and hormonal risk factors for ACL injury. Because of her engineering background, Gabrielle developed several MATLAB codes to significantly speed up the processing of data in our lab. Through her coding and local expertise in lower extremities, she has been involved and assisted with many other projects including polo, posture cueing garments, and softball pitching. She has also been honored through several awards and nominations including First Place for Undergraduates at the Southeastern Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine, First place in Oral Presentations in STEM at the Auburn Student Symposium, 100 Women Strong Leadership Award, Southeastern Medical Scientist Symposium Travel Award, and a nomination for the Goldwater Scholarship. After graduating, Gabrielle will move back to Washington, D.C. to complete a post-baccalaureate at the NIH under the mentorship of Dr. Mark Knepper and complete the project she started there this past summer. While in D.C., she is planning on applying for MD/PhD programs and hopes to start in August of 2019. We wish Gabrielle the best and will miss her around the lab!



Jessica Washington is a senior doctoral student who is preparing to defend her dissertation this summer. Jessica’s research is primarily focused on softball hitting. Softball hitting is one of the most difficult skills in sport.  Previous literature states that the swing is a sequential movement, and in other sequential tasks, such as kicking, throwing, the tennis tennis serve, and the golf swing, the lumbopelvic-hip complex (LHPC) was found to be extremely influential in providing a stable base of support to create the best possible circumstances for distal segments to move efficiently.  Additionally, a common performance indicator in hitting is hand and bat velocity.  An increase in velocity often elicits characteristics of better performance, because it allows a hitter to have more time in preparing for a pitch, and it can assist in increasing the distance the batted ball travels.  Previous studies have investigated the characteristics of the LPHC in hitting, including range of motion, segmental angular velocities, and the timing of these variables.  However, no study to date has investigated the relationship of LPHC characteristics to hand velocity.  Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine potential relationships of the LPHC to performance indicators. Results from this study indicated that pelvis and torso separation, as well as, the timing of maximum rotation velocity of the pelvis do have significant influences on hand velocity. The correlation of hand velocity to pelvis and torso separation was negative, meaning that an increase in degree of separation led to decreased hand velocity. This notion contradicts what has been found in previous studies, and it was determined that participants in this study reached their maximum degree of separation much earlier in the swing, rather than at ball contact. Therefore, the timing of maximum separation may be more indicative of increases in hand velocity instead of degree of separation alone. There was also a significant, negative relationship between timing of maximum pelvis rotation velocity and ball contact. This relationship indicated that reaching maximum rotation velocity of the proximal segments earlier in the swing will elicit greater hand velocity at ball contact. Overall, it was determined that the timing of LPHC characteristics during the swing is of most importance to increase hand velocity, and therefore performance.

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Matthew Hanks is a senior doctoral student who is preparing to defend his dissertation this summer. Matthew’s research focus is on lacrosse. Lacrosse is one of the most rapidly growing sports in the United States. Due to increased participation by athletes of all ages and skill levels, research is necessary to better understand the biomechanics of lacrosse shooting. Foot orientation has been investigated in overhead throwing sports, such as baseball, and is a point of emphasis in coaching to maximize performance and decrease injury in these sports. The purpose of the study was to investigate the effect of stride foot orientation on the kinematics, kinetics, and performance outcomes in overhand lacrosse shooting. Results of the study have several implications for lacrosse players and coaches. First, the results suggest that landing with the stride foot pointing in toward the body maximizes rotational velocity of the pelvis, trunk, and arms, as well as ball velocity when shooting. Next, it was found that accuracy is maximized when the player shoots at 87% of their maximal shooting velocity, indicating the presence of a tradeoff between the speed and accuracy of the shot. Lastly, results suggest that forces imposed on the ankle and knee of the stride leg do not differ under different foot orientations. These findings may prove beneficial for coaches when instructing athletes to utilize proper mechanics for optimal performance and prevention of injury.



While equestrian polo is a popular sport, it is fundamentally misunderstood. The Sports Medicine and Movement Lab have partnered with the United States Polo Association (USPA) to establish normative data on the kinematics and kinetics of polo in professional athletes. This is being accomplished through a series of studies. The first of which identifies the relationship between shoulder horizontal abduction and elbow kinetics in male polo athletes. This study showed increased shoulder horizontal abduction during the offside forehand is associated with increased anterior, distraction, and valgus force on the elbow. In order to prevent injury, polo players are advised to keep the mallet on the proper swing plane or limit the shoulder horizontal abduction during the countermovement phase of the swing. The next study examined the relationship between hand velocity with various kinematic and demographic parameters in female athletes. The kinematics observed suggest optimal energy transfer along the kinetic chain. The significant relationships imply the more extended the elbow is throughout the course of the swing, the faster the hand will ultimately move thus propelling the mallet faster for ball contact. Both of these studies are published in peer reviewed journals and can be found at , and The third study in this series examines the differences between kinematics and segmental speeds in male and female polo athletes. Because polo is not segregated by sex and there are large differences in the injury rates of males and females, this study is of interest. Our findings revealed there are significant gender differences in the examination of the offside forehand polo swing. Particularly, the male polo athletes’ trunk position could allow for optimal energy transfer to the upper extremity. The upper extremity differences could be a result of the trunk position since the body acts as a kinetic chain in a proximal to distal fashion. The differences in segmental speeds may offer an explanation for the vast differences in injury rates seen between males and females. These findings could assist in the development of more advanced training and conditioning protocols for polo athletes. This study is being considered for publication at the Journal of Sports Sciences.

While conducting these studies, Abigail Brittain has presented at the Southeastern Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine and the Auburn Student Symposium. She was awarded Top Poster in the College of Education at the Student Symposium. We are proud of Abigail and look forward to her continued success in the lab!



Over the past three years, the Sports Medicine and Movement Lab has collected data on softball pitchers as they travel to Auburn for away games, and we have begun to compile this data in preparation for publication. The goal of these studies is to identify biomechanics that are associated with pain in attempt to correct these mechanics and ultimately prevent athletes from getting injured. The first study in this series compares the differences in kinematics and kinetics between athletes who reported upper extremity pain and those who reported pain free. In this cross-sectional study, the group exhibiting upper extremity pain illustrated greater shoulder horizontal abduction, less trunk lateral flexion towards the throwing side, and greater shoulder distraction than the pain free group. In combination, the authors speculate pathomechanics and forces about the shoulder are a result of improper energy transfer along the kinetic chain. The findings of both kinematic and kinetic differences between the cohorts allows for insight into further studies examining injury pervasiveness in softball pitching as well as gives insight into the preventative strategies for this population. Another study examined the differences in functional characteristics such as rang of motion and isometric strength. These parameters are of interest because they are more practical for coaches and athletic trainers to measure on the field. This study revealed that those with range of motion and strength deficits were at greater risk of upper extremity pain. During the softball pitch, adequate postural control of the lower extremity, lumbopelvic-hip complex, and upper extremity is required for efficient utilization of the kinetic chain. The correlations suggest that both the upper and lower extremities should be taken into account when treating athletes with upper extremity pain. Both of these studies are being considered for publication with the International Journal of Sports Medicine and Sports Health.



Pitch counts do not exist for softball, and pitchers may throw between 1200 and 1500 pitches over short 3-day events.  High biceps muscle activation and shoulder forces have been reported during the windmill softball pitching. A common symptom among softball pitchers is anterior shoulder pain. The purpose of this study was to examine acute changes in the long head of the biceps tendon (LHBT) in youth softball pitchers following an acute bout of pitching. Nineteen softball pitchers (11.89 ± 1.2 years; 158.23 ± 9.71 cm; 61.59 ± 14.76 kg) participated. Images of the LHBT were obtained with a NextGen LOGIQe Ultrasound (GE Healthcare, Milwaukee, WI) prior to and immediately following a simulated game protocol. Repeated measures MANOVA with α priori level set at 0.05 was used to determine if there was a difference in long-head biceps tendon size before and after the simulated game protocol. There were significant increases in both transverse thickness (t 18=-2.76, p = 0.013, 95% confidence interval = -0.050 to -0.007) and longitudinal thickness (t 18 = -2.64, p = 0.016, 95% confidence interval = -0.060 to -0.007) of the biceps tendon following an acute bout of pitching. Examining the biceps tendon after an acute bout of softball pitching adds to the knowledge of injury mechanisms in these athletes which may help prevent injury in these athletes. A thorough examination of youth softball pitchers is needed to identify injury propensity. Specifically, examination of those youth pitchers with and without anterior shoulder pain is needed to better explain injury susceptibility.

Want to learn more about our research projects?

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