U-M launches exercise and sport science initiative

September 29, 2016
  • umichnews@umich.edu

DNA molecules and virtuvian man. (stock image)ANN ARBOR—The University of Michigan today launched the Exercise & Sport Science Initiative, a new research program that draws on experts from a wide range of faculty and students across campus, Michigan Athletics and industry partners to optimize physical performance and health for athletes and exercisers of all ages and abilities.

“With developments in areas ranging from improved helmet designs to the analysis of sports data, science and technology are opening up a host of new opportunities to transform sports and exercise,” said S. Jack Hu, vice president for research. “With the help of industry partners, we seek not only to explore the science underlying new advances, but also to translate new ideas and insights into practice on our campus and beyond.”

ESSI builds on the work of more than 100 faculty and student researchers from such diverse disciplines as kinesiology, medicine, bioengineering, psychology, nutrition, social sciences, and data science will partner with industry and government on projects that address physical activity and human performance across the lifespan.

Research will initially focus on three key areas:

  • Performance optimization in exercise and sport for individuals and teams—Strength training; conditioning; psychology; nutrition; and rest, recovery, and regeneration, as well as understanding the role of physical activity in improved physical and mental performance, overall health, and quality of life at all ages.
  • Data science and analytics—Sport and exercise apps, big data, individual and team analytics, data underlying business development, marketing, and entrepreneurship.
  • Sport technologies—Inertial measurement units, helmets, intelligent apparel, equipment design, and rapid prototyping.

“This is a great opportunity for our coaches, trainers, and student athletes to work with faculty and industry partners to probe new approaches to optimizing both individual and team performance,” said Warde Manuel, U-M’s Donald R. Shepherd Director of Athletics.

ESSI is building on a foundation of existing and emerging partnerships with industry.

Catapult Sports, for example, which develops wearable sensors for measuring performance, began working with U-M Athletics in February when the company outfitted the men’s basketball team with wearable sensors. The sensors collect 1,000 data points per second on such metrics as biomechanical fatigue, mechanical performance output, and displacement of forces in any direction, which then can provide coaches and athletes with information to enhance player safety and overall performance.

“What’s unique about our partnership with U-M is that, a lot of times, we only work with one program within a school,” said Brian Kopp, Catapult’s president for North America. “Through ESSI, we have an opportunity to work with multiple programs at U-M, looking for ways to increase player safety and performance in a broader context. We also plan to work closely with researchers at U-M who focus their efforts on finding ways to improve physical activity and human performance.”

Ellen Arruda, professor of mechanical engineering, professor of biomedical engineering, and professor of macromolecular science and engineering, along with Ron Zernicke, professor of orthopaedic surgery, professor of kinesiology and professor of biomedical engineering are co-directors of ESSI.

“We have a great deal of interest, expertise, and experience across campus in the challenges of optimizing physical performance,” Arruda said. “With the launch of this program, we will be able to foster more productive cross-disciplinary relationships to help spur further progress.”

“Looking ahead, a key goal is to nurture and expand our relationships with industry,” Zernicke said. “Our industry partners provide perspective and expertise that are critical to the on-going process of innovation.”

The U-M Office of Research, U-M Athletics, and the U-M Office of the Provost have provided an initial $3.5 million of seed funding to support ESSI’s efforts to coordinate and expand research on exercise and sport science across campus in partnership with industry.


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