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Scott Lephart, Ph.D., A.T.C.
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Freddie Fu, M.D.
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Cyclists’ Core Fatigue May Lead To Knee Injury; Exercise Program For Golfers May Help Improve Performance

University of Pittsburgh Studies Presented at American College of Sports Medicine

NASHVILLE, June 1, 2005 – Studies that could help cyclists minimize injury risk and help golfers maximize performance are being presented this week by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh ’s Neuromuscular Research Laboratory at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Nashville, June 1-3.

In one study, the University of Pittsburgh researchers proved the importance of core stability endurance by showing exactly how cyclists’ core fatigue could increase the risk of knee injury. Another study proved that a specific eight-week exercise program developed in the Neuromuscular Research Laboratory could help improve golfers’ performance.

Cyclists’ Core Fatigue May Lead to Knee Injury

It has been well-reported that core stability can influence lower extremity alignment during functional activities, such as cycling. As a result of the fixed pelvis and feet in relation to the bicycle, lower extremity alignment during cycling is critical. However, limited research has described the influence of core fatigue on cycling mechanics and pedaling forces.

The University of Pittsburgh team, led by John Abt, Ph.D., A.T.C., demonstrated how core fatigue could result in altered cycling mechanics and misalignment of the lower extremity in 15 competitive cyclists who participated in the study. The cyclists underwent a previously validated core fatigue workout to diminish core stability just prior to undergoing the cycling mechanics test in the Neuromuscular Research Laboratory. Researchers used a three-dimensional motion analysis system to collect kinematic data while the fatigued study subjects performed an incremental ramp cycling task on a high-speed treadmill until exhaustion. Pedal forces were collected with custom-designed testing pedals. While researchers saw effects of core fatigue on knee positioning, no significant differences were demonstrated in the pedal force data, indicating the subjects were able to maintain the same performance while sacrificing their mechanics, reports Dr. Abt.

“Improved core stability endurance may promote greater alignment of the lower extremities when riding for extended time periods as the core is more resistant to fatigue,” he said.

The University of Pittsburgh research team also is presenting its study that validated the exercise protocol to fatigue the core stabilizer muscles. James Smoliga, D.V.M, led that project.

Other investigators include Matthew Brick, M.D.; John Jolly; Scott Lephart, Ph.D., A.T.C.; and Freddie Fu, M.D.

Specific Exercise Program May Help Golfers Improve Performance

Most golfers who want to improve their performance use the expertise of teaching professionals to modify swing mechanics. Yet, sports medicine professionals also may have the ability to help maximize performance through a golf-specific exercise program, as proven by a University of Pittsburgh Neuromuscular Research Laboratory study.

In the study, 15 average recreational golfers completed the eight-week golf conditioning and training program, designed and scientifically validated by the University of Pittsburgh team to improve physical characteristics. Pre- and post-training testing of participants included assessments of hip, torso and shoulder strength, flexibility and balance, swing mechanics and golf performance. Strength was measured with an isokinetic dynamometer. A clinician used a standard goniometer to look at flexibility. Single-leg standing balance was assessed using a force plate. Swing mechanics were studied with a three-dimensional motion analysis system, and golf performance was evaluated with a launch monitor system.

After eight weeks, shoulder, hip and trunk flexibility improved significantly in 22 of the 26 flexibility measurements taken. Hip and torso rotational strength also were improved. Golf performance improved, including an average carry distance increase of about 18.5 yards, and an average total driving distance increase of about 17.5 yards. Average ball speed increased about 6.5 miles per hour with average club head speed improving about 4.5 miles per hour. Upper rotational velocity at acceleration point of the golf swing increased by about 31.7 degrees per second.

“A clinician-prescribed, golf-specific exercise program like the one we’ve validated in our current study would complement the instruction provided by a teaching professional in order to more effectively improve performance in golfers,” said Yung-Shen Tsai, Ph.D., P.T., who led the study.

Other investigators include James Smoliga, D.V.M.; Timothy Sell, Ph.D., P.T.; Joseph Myers, Ph.D., A.T.C.; and Scott Lephart, Ph.D., A.T.C.

The University of Pittsburgh Neuromuscular Research Laboratory is housed within the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Sports Performance Complex, in the Center for Sports Medicine. Laboratory faculty includes those from the sports medicine program at the university’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and the orthopaedic surgery department at the university’s School of Medicine.

Expansions to the laboratory in the past year have included Cycling Services and the Golf Fitness Laboratory. To learn more, go to http://www.pitt.edu/~neurolab/ .

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