HPU prepares for new biomechanics lab, set to open late September

By Kaitlyn Aiello, News and Layout/Design Editor

September 5, 2012

By the end of September, majors associated with the School of Health Sciences will have a new building to call home, the former Circuit City.

Driving past the Oak Hollow Mall on Eastchester Drive and looking toward the back of the mall, one will still find Circuit City. However, the activity going on inside goes much further than stocking shelves for new electronics. Two years ago, that Circuit City went out of business, leaving a huge, vacant space.

In August, HPU announced the addition of a new biomechanics lab in that space. Many students are finding that although the term sounds appealing, they are not particularly sure what biomechanics actually means.

“Biomechanics is basically combining physics with biology,” says Dr. Kevin Ford, associate professor of physical therapy. “What we do is study the way the human body moves by looking at the forces involved. We can actually measure the force and the motions, and the goal is to prevent injuries.”

The programs at the new building are designed to prevent injury in middle, high school and college level athletes. There will be screening tests to measure movements and strengths in order to determine weaker areas. This will pave a way for improvements in how each athlete performs.

After modification and identification of specific problems, the goal is to help make athletes safer. Often times when you change something, the added benefit is improving performance.

Ford says, “We can work directly with orthopedic surgeons to give objective opinions on their patients.”

This new facility is not just for HPU though, for it is expected to improve the health of both the students and potentially the surrounding community.

Walking in, you can expect to see a basketball court, turf, a large open area and a 12-foot wide video screen. This high-tech screen allows for interaction with the subject. It is a different virtual reality and a chance for the subject to see their bodies in a character or skeleton view. The screen will display their biomechanics with the hope of modifying their movements.

“We have high aspirations, this will be a facility unique to not only North Carolina but the East Coast. It will be a state-of-the-art facility where students will be able to experience what it is like to see and to use the equipment that they have just been reading about,” says Ford.

The facility will ultimately apply for research grants. Faculty will have the opportunity to publish work out of the lab and are hoping to make an impact on various areas and bring new injury prevention methods into the local community.

This new location will integrate biomechanics, physiology and performance. The 24 cameras around the 13,150 square feet of space will measure things as little as hand gestures or as great as full body movements.

“Instead of just learning through lectures and a textbook, we’re now able to take what we learn in class and apply it to real life situations and hands-on learning,” says Karly Wehrman, junior and exercise science major.

Aside from athletics, the lab will set out to improve the health of different types of patients as well. Children that have difficulty walking, stroke victims and people with multiple sclerosis are just a few who will also benefit.

“Students will be here learning the equipment and will actually be able to see what we are teaching them,” says Ford.

The main teaching goal is studying different movements on similar realistic surfaces. There will be three different floor types: a basketball court, synthetic turf and a composite rubber type floor to allow a realistic feel. The motion cameras will be able to pick up movements from reflective markers placed on the athletes and patients.

For now, the new facility will welcome physical therapy, exercise science and athletic training majors. It is expected to open for classes by the end of September, offering new and exciting opportunities for students and faculty alike