The laboratory's goal is to improve the physical interaction between workers, their work, and the work environment through the study of the musculoskeletal system's response to work activities. In so doing our focus continues to be the study of body's biomechanical response to a variety of occupational tasks, potential workplace interventions, and the development of models predictive of back injury development and recovery. This is achieved through the measurement of body movements, joint loads, and muscle recruitment patterns as different types of activities are performed. While much of the work relates to furthering our understanding of how to better optimize the interface between people and their work environments, the same measurement capabilities and techniques are applicable to addressing sports biomechanics research questions.
The laboratory consists of approximately 600 ft2 of research space and the supporting computer facilities. The laboratory is equipped with 6 degree of freedom motion measurement systems, force platforms for obtaining ground reaction forces, strain gauges for measuring the forces exerted as activities are performed, and surface electromyographic (EMG) recording equipment.
The LiftTrainer Study
The LiftTrainer is a behaviorally oriented approach to training lifting techniques. By using a combination of biofeedback, biomechanical analysis tools, and one on one coaching, the LiftTrainer protocol guide individuals towards lifting behaviors that lower the forward bending, lateral bending, and twisting moments ("stresses") acting on the spine while maintaining desired productively levels.
Nursing Bed Transfers
Currently, we are working to measure the stresses exerted on the nurse's spine during patient transfers from hospital bed to wheelchair. Without reengineering the task itself, we hope additionally to train current nursing students to perform this routine task in a way that mimimizes their own risk of back injuries.
Low Back Disorder Risk In Manufacturing Environments
Our efforts with the United Auto Workers and General Motors have been focused on evaluating the recovery process from occupationally related low back disorders. In so doing we have evaluated measures of health outcomes and alternative approaches to classifying job low back disorder risk. We are currently performing a longitudinal study of over 300 employees who have experienced work-related back injury.
Trunk Muscle Activation & Coactivation: The trunk response to asymmetric loading
Understanding how the co-contraction of the trunk muscles changes as a function of posture, and variations in the direction and magnitude of applied bending moments is necessary when attempting to quantify and understand the spine loading that occurs during asymmetric lifting activities.
Can Lifting Belts Help Prevent Back Injury?
We have tested several hypotheses regarding the biomechanical effectiveness of lifting belts. These include changes in psychophysically determined lifting strength, trunk motions, and trunk stiffness during pulling tasks and sudden loading events.
Studies have been performed looking into the ergonomic issues encountered in the performance of emergency rescue tasks, the use of handtools in underground mines, and modifications in beverage delivery processes.
We have performed studies aimed at furthering our understanding of the loads on the spine during lifting and how they change with variations of the lifting tasks performed.
The body's response to a sudden loading event, especially when unanticipated, may be key to understanding the injury initiation process and how such injuries can be prevented.
Steve Lavender, Ph.D., CPE
Associate Professor of Orthopaedics
Associate Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering
Director, Orthopaedic Ergonomics Laboratory