Jumping to Healthier Heights

Jun 01st, 2020

Jumping to Healthier Heights

This story is featured in the Spring 2020 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below HPU’s Congdon School of Health Sciences uses cutting edge technology to motivate students.

HPU’s Congdon School of Health Sciences has an app for that.

When the CEO of the Dallas Mavericks walks into HPU’s Human Biomechanics and Physiology Lab and says her team’s trainers need to see it, you know it’s a great space to study athletic performance.

That’s what Cynt Marshall, the CEO Mark Cuban recruited for his NBA team, said when she visited.

“This place is literally saving lives,” said Marshall. “Both performance enhancement studies and preventative measures are being studied here. This is amazing to me. I’m blown away, and I want our trainers to see it.”

The faculty in the lab have a strong reputation for working with professional athletes and conducting high-level research to prevent injury and improve athletic performance.

Take Dr. Brett Pexa’s research for example.

Wellness and Workload

Pexa, an assistant professor of athletic training, is working with students on an app he designed. The wellness and workload app he implemented with HPU’s men’s and women’s soccer teams can track a student athlete’s performance and physical and mental health.

“The app measures the soccer teams on their amount of sleep, stress levels and readiness on performance,” says Pexa.

During the soccer season, each student athlete received a text reminder in the morning and in the evening after practice to take a brief survey. Overall, the data can show how a specific athlete is feeling on a daily basis.

“It gives us a quick snapshot of what the athlete is thinking, and it is very usable information,” says Pexa. “The next piece is clinical. We download this data and put it into a report that’s color-coded and easy for the coaching and training staff to understand.”

“The software program he created has been a tremendous asset to our program and the overall performance of our players,” says Brandi Fontaine, head women’s soccer coach. “We utilize this information to prepare our training sessions and get the best out of our athletes.”

If an athlete is reporting more soreness than usual through the app, Pexa will consult with the team’s strength coach and encourage the team to participate in a longer warm-up stretch.

“This information is instrumental in our preparation because it allows us to help maximize our athletes throughout their entire HPU career,” says Fontaine.

And the athletes have appreciated its impact.

“Our coaches can see how sore we are, and they can gauge how we practice each day,” says Skyler Prillaman, a sophomore and women’s soccer team member. “Overall, this makes us a better program because having this information is an asset to our performance.”

Research Presented Nationally

Daniel Aube, a first-year athletic training graduate student from Long Island, New York, assists Pexa with research. Aube has taken data that he and Pexa collected and is creating an abstract to present during the National Athletic Trainers’

Association Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, in June.

“The biomechanics lab was my biggest draw to HPU,” says Aube. “The resources in injury prevention and my experience here at HPU give me a major advantage in an athletic training career.”

Pexa encourages more students to get involved in research opportunities like Aube has.

“Research provides our students opportunities to present at national conferences,” says Pexa. “After Daniel presents at this summer’s conference, it will help set him up for his coursework beginning in the fall, as the measurements we found will be a part of next semester’s optimizing athletic performance class. Getting students included in research is absolutely imperative in their educational journey.”


Taking Teamwork Further

Pexa’s research also reflects the mission of the lab to help athletes accomplish more while remaining healthy. That’s why he partners with faculty in HPU’s departments of physical therapy and exercise science.

“It was almost too easy for me to collaborate with Drs. Kevin Ford in physical therapy and Justin Waxman in the department of exercise science,” says Pexa. “They had a lot of physical measures they needed to collect, and, together, we did that in HPU’s biomechanics lab.”

Waxman’s research is focused on testing a portable force plate system to help make athletic performance more efficient.

“Dr. Pexa understands the business computing software, while Dr. Ford and I focus on the physical and biomechanical variables that help prevent injuries on the field,” says Waxman. “You usually don’t see departments of physical therapy, exercise science, and similar areas work together like this. What we’re doing is a unique model for higher education right now.”