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$2 Million Gift Will Advance Research at UHealth Sports Performance and Wellness Institute

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    By Robert C. Jones Jr.
    UM News

    A guest at the UHealth Sports Performance and Wellness Institute exposition tries on a pair of high-tech goggles designed for the early and accurate detection of concussions.

    A guest at the UHealth Sports Performance and Wellness Institute exposition tries on a pair of high-tech goggles designed for the early and accurate detection of concussions.

    CORAL GABLES, Fla. (November 14, 2014) – Call it a preemptive strike—a biomechanical analysis designed to prevent ligament and cartilage tears. That’s the basis of a School of Education and Human Development study conducted on members of the University of Miami women’s and men’s basketball teams that attached electrodes to players’ knees, ankles, and hip flexors, resulting in a 3-D computerized  readout of their movements.

    “We looked at certain high-risk movements, and identified those players who would be at greater risk for injury,” explained Christopher Kuenze, assistant professor of kinesiology and sport sciences, who spearheaded the research. With the data, coaches and athletic trainers have integrated what Kuenze called “pre-rehabilitation” techniques into the practice sessions of their players, in effect, ensuring that serious injuries on the court won’t occur.

    Pretty high-tech stuff, you say? Indeed.

    But don’t think that such treatment is reserved for only college-level and professional athletes. From Pop Warner football players to the weekend warrior, just about everyone in South Florida can benefit from the computerized motion analyses, advanced concussion testing, and other sophisticated performance evaluations and therapies that are major components of the Miller School of Medicine’s UHealth Sports Performance and Wellness Institute.

    “Whether it’s a world-class triathlete or someone exercising to keep heart disease and diabetes away, the Institute enables people to optimize their own health and wellness,” said Lee Kaplan, director of the Institute, chief of the UHealth Sports Medicine Division, and medical director and head team physician for UM Athletics and the Miami Marlins.

    Lee Kaplan

    Lee Kaplan, holder of the first Petra and Stephen A. Levin Endowed Chair for UHealth Sports Performance and Wellness, talks about some of the Institute’s initiatives.

    On Friday, members of the University community gathered at the Newman Alumni Center on the Coral Gables campus to celebrate the recent $2 million gift from longtime philanthropists Petra and Stephen A. Levin that will help Kaplan advance the Institute’s research in a multitude of sports medicine areas.

    “Stephen and I have the greatest confidence in Dr. Kaplan and enthusiastically support his vision to build UHealth Sports Medicine and the UHealth Sports Performance and Wellness Institute into a globally recognized leader in research that enhances patient care and athletic performance,” said Petra Levin.

    Their gift, part of Momentum2: The Breakthrough Campaign for the University of Miami,  designates Kaplan as the first holder of the Petra and Stephen A. Levin Endowed Chair for UHealth Sports Performance and Wellness.

    Kaplan, who was recruited to UM by President Donna E. Shalala, said the Levin gift “comes at a critical point in the growth of the UHealth Sports Medicine Division and the UHealth Sports Performance and Wellness Institute.”

    “It will help us build momentum toward our goal of transforming the sports medicine and sports science landscape at the University of Miami, throughout South Florida, and beyond,” he said. “I am extremely grateful for their support.”

    Created in 2013, the Institute is a collaborative effort between the medical school’s Sports Medicine Division and other UM departments, including biomedical engineering, kinesiology and sport sciences, physical therapy, and other entities such as the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute and the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics. The Institute’s holistic approach to wellness focuses on three areas: emphasizing the importance of exercise as a vital component of a healthy lifestyle; preventing, treating, and recovering from activity-related illness or injury; and accurately measuring and enhancing athletic performance.

    At Friday’s event, Kaplan and other members of his team showcased some of the collaborative research being conducted as part of the Institute. Among the innovations: a pair of goggles designed for the early and accurate detection of concussions. Michael Hoffer, professor of otolaryngology at the Miller School, and others have been awarded a $500,000 grant from the NFL to test the effectiveness of the goggles, which use imbedded eye tracking and stimulus displays to determine whether someone has suffered a head injury.

    Developed by medical device manufacturer Neuro Kinetics, the goggles can be easily used following a possible concussion-causing incident on the athletic field, as well as on a battlefield. “Head injuries aren’t confined only to athletes at the collegiate and professional level,” said Hoffer, who recently retired from a 20-year career with the U.S. Navy. “Someone’s daughter playing a youth soccer game is just as likely to sustain a concussion.

    “It is urgent that we develop new and improved techniques for quick and accurate detection of potentially life-changing concussions,” he said.

    Gillian Hotz, research professor and director of both the KiDZ Neuroscience Center and Concussion Program, outlined her team’s efforts in neurocognitive testing and screening to assess mental status following a concussion, while Wesley Smith, clinical assistant professor and undergraduate program director for exercise physiology at the School of Education and Human Development, gave a presentation on Guardrails, which is aimed at reducing the incidence of chronic diseases through healthy habits.

    And Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, which already provides tinted contact lenses to help athletes shield their eyes from the sun’s glare, is experimenting with training devices that could help improve the athletic performance of golfers and baseball players, according to optometrist Natalie Townsend.

    Miller School of Medicine Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt compared the state-of-the-art work being done at the Institute to the training routine followed by the fictional character Ivan Drago in the movie Rock IV. “Well, that’s nothing compared to what Dr. Kaplan is putting together,” Goldschmidt said.

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