Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Laboratory Projects

Filed in Projects by on November 12, 2015

The Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Laboratory’s research focus is on understanding how forces applied to the musculoskeletal system can influence bone and joint health and function in adult men and women in health and disease. Our approach utilizes a combination of computational modeling, medical image analysis, cadaver mechanical testing, and living human subjects in a clinical research setting.


(Left) High-resolution CT image of a distal radius; (middle) Continuum finite element model of a distal radius while leaning onto the palm of the hand, with color map indicating strain; (right) multi-scale finite element model of the distal radius showing trabecular micro-structural strain while leaning onto the palm of the hand.

Ongoing Research Projects:

  1. Bone adaptation in healthy young women
  2. Changes to bone structure and running style in first-time marathoners
  3. Bone health after spinal cord injury (multiple projects)
  4. Changes in bone structure in individuals with inflammatory arthritis
  5. Bone structure and physical activity in early hominin populations
  6. Major Qualifying Projects (MQP) completed by undergraduate teams




MQP Project: A Bone-Loading Physical Activity Survey for Upper Extremity Loading

The goal of this 2013-14 Major Qualifying Project was to determine weighting factors that were proportional to strain and strain rate applied to upper extremity bones during various functional activities. Over 54 million adults in the U.S. are diagnosed with low bone mineral density (BMD). This increases their chance of fractures, especially at the hip or wrist. Because bone adaptation is thought to be driven by strain-producing physical activities, surveys have been made to relate physical activity history to BMD. Current surveys focus on the lower body, but this study examines how physical activity in the upper extremities relates to upper body BMD. Subject testing of 5 basic upper body motions were used to calculate bone loading weighting factors in 34 activities. These weighting factors were used to develop a novel Bone Loading in the Upper Extremities (BLUE) score, but this score was not found to be a significant predictor of BMD (r=0.32, p=0.21). The final MQP report is available here.

MQP Project: Optimizing the MOLLE for the Female Soldier

As female Soldiers become more prevalent in the U.S. military, it is becoming increasingly important to address the physical differences that may limit their performance in the field. The purpose of this 2013-14 MQP project was to design a female specific hip belt for the MOLLE system that complies with the U.S. Army standards to effectively distribute the load on the body while allowing the Soldier to complete all necessary tasks. The team developed a new hip belt making various modifications to increase the comfort and ease of adjustability. To validate the design, various tests were performed, including an obstacle course and pressure film testing. The results showed that the modified hip belt was an improvement from the current model in comfort and even weight distribution across the hips. The final MQP report is available here.

About the Author ()

Associate Professor in Biomedical Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Director of the Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Laboratory.

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