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James A. Onate, Old Dominion University assistant professor of exercise science, sport, physical education and recreation and director of ODU's Sports Medicine Research Laboratory, heads a team that recently received a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study 200 student-athletes over a two-year period.

Beginning Sept. 1, Onate's group will conduct a preseason screening program for collegiate athletes (primarily soccer and basketball players) to assess the combined risk factors that may lead to acute repetitive ankle sprains and highly debilitating anterior cruciate ligament tears among this physically active population.

The $137,000 grant is funded through NIH by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

Bonnie Van Lunen, Old Dominion's graduate athletic training education program director, will serve as a co-investigator, and education students in ODU's new human movement science track doctoral program will play a role in the project. Doctoral researchers in the field of athletic training from four other universities will join Onate and Van Lunen in the study: Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Virginia, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Penn State University.

Despite intensive research efforts, the exact risk factors associated with lateral ankle sprains (LAS) and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries remain elusive, according to Onate.

"We hypothesize that these lower extremity injuries are multifactorial in nature, with a combination of structural alignment, neuromuscular strength and dynamic movement patterns playing a critical role," he said. "The risk of osteoarthritis and subsequent loss of function is inherent in any physical activity."

The goal of the study is to determine "what modifiable factors play a role in lower extremity injury with the intent of creating an intervention program aimed at reducing occurrence and intensity of injury," Onate said.

Two hundred student-athletes from the five NCAA Division I schools, ODU, VCU, UVa, UNC-Chapel Hill and Penn State, initially will undergo a baseline assessment that includes measurement of structural alignment, neuromuscular factors and dynamic movement patterns.

The participants will be followed for up to two years with prospective identification of LAS and ACL injuries. The focus of this pilot prospective study is to establish the feasibility and procedures for a large multicenter cluster group study, Onate said. Ultimately, the research is expected to make a significant contribution to understanding the causes of lower extremity injury, he added.

This article was posted on: August 2, 2006

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