In Vail, celebrate National Biomechanics Day like few others can |

In Vail, celebrate National Biomechanics Day like few others can

Steadman Philippon Research Institute’s Biomotion Lab scientists to host open house

Wearable sensors allow researchers to measure human movement outside of a laboratory setting. These sensors open the door for a whole new area of biomechanics research as they allow researchers to collect data while athletes perform in their regular sporting environment.

VAIL — Few towns can celebrate National Biomechanics Day like we can.

And there’s reason to celebrate. The studies being undertaken in the Steadman Philippon Research Institute’s Biomotion Lab in Vail may soon impact your life in the field of injury prevention.

You can learn all about what the scientists at the local institute have been up to by visiting their open house in celebration of National Biomechanics Day on Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., but we’ll also give you a sneak preview.

Involves humans, not robots

While they’re located on the floor, force plates are the cornerstone of any modern biomotion lab. Force plates help quantify balance as people stand on them, mimicking the motions they make in sport.

The data gleaned from the advancements in force plate technology has led to a wealth of knowledge in the field of biomechanics.

But force plates have their limits, and that’s where the researchers at the Steadman Philippon institute have been turning their attention over the last year. With the best potential research field imaginable right out their front door on Vail Mountain, Sarah Wilson, Kimi Dahl and other research scientists yearned for a way to take the force plate mobile.

As it happens, the advancements in mobile foot sensor technology has come a long way in recent years, driven by the study of diabetes and the way it affects nerve conduction and sensory feedback through the foot.

One of the Steadman Philippon Research Institute Biomotion Lab’s new systems is a pressure sensor placed inside of ski boots. These sensors showed how much pressure was being distributed throughout the ski boot while participants skied down Vail Mountain.

This, coupled with a shin sensor and a pair of shorts which can measure the activation of the hamstring muscle in relation to the quad, has taught researchers a lot, Dahl said.

In getting people in the lab to look at their findings, Dahl said she hopes to celebrate the fact that the research is thanks in part to a helpful community of volunteers here in Vail.

Wednesday’s open house will be the second in what researchers are hoping becomes a long tradition of annual events.

Last year, visitors “were seeing our fliers looking for volunteers, but they might have been hesitant to participate because they thought we were going to turn them into bionic robots,” Dahl said with a laugh. “By letting people come in and see it, it makes it more accessible.”

This year, “we only have one study that we’re actively recruiting participants for,” Dahl added.

Equipment mods vs. injury risk

Using those community volunteers, coupled with the new mobile sensors, the research institute’s field studies will be of particular interest to boot fitters and equipment wonks.

“We think small changes in how someone balances could be related to injury risk,” Wilson said. “We’re trying to figure out if there’s simple equipment-based modifications that people can make … that might help reduce injury. We’ve primarily been looking at changes to canting and heel lift, which are things that you typically do to the ski boot, that can change how much pressure you have on the tip of the ski or how much pressure you have on your medial or lateral edge of the ski.”

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