Research offers insight into the biomechanics that allow athletes to return to sport following ACL injury

According to research from 2021 in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, 35 percent of athletes who have recovered from anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries will injure it after returning to their sport.

For Jenna Mesisca, that number is too high.

The fourth-year biomedical engineering undergraduate student has conducted research to better understand the biomechanics of returning to sports after an ACL injury, as well as improved methods of measuring the mechanics of landing to improve clinical recommendations for injured athletes.

Queen is looking forward to Mesisca’s two-year collaboration as a senior and final year as masters student. She is participating in the department’s accelerated undergraduate/graduate degree program, which will enable her to graduate with a master’s degree in biomedical engineering after a fifth year of study.

Mesisca is also part of the first cohort of students in Virginia Tech’s newest and unique biomedical engineering degree program.

As an ex- Virginia Tech lacrosse player and as an athlete, I have always been interested in sports rehabilitation and injury prevention. I was so excited to be part of this very first group of biomedical engineers. This is a major that combines my love of helping injured athletes, my love of medical and mechanical mechanics, as well as my knowledge and skills as a science and math student. It couldn’t have been better.

Janna Mesisca is a student in biomedical engineering at Virginia Tech.

After graduating, Mesisca wants to work in the field of sports rehabilitation. Her goal is to do research and apply it to clinical settings to help athletes get better. She said that she is passionate about helping others heal and improve, regardless of whether it’s working with devices such as knee braces or understanding biomechanics of movements like landing from a hop.

In a study that was published in Clinical Biomechanics, Mesisca worked alongside Alex Peebles, a recent alumnus earning his Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, and Robin Queen, professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics at the College of Engineering. The team found that athletes who have suffered an ACL injury should take into consideration their weight and height when determining whether they are able to return to their sport.

New insights for analysis of ACL injury recovery

The study included data collection from more than 20 female athletes who had recovered from an ACL injury or had completed rehabilitation after an ACL reconstruction. The athletes participated in various hops to measure their recovered limbs and non-injured limbs. These hop tests are typically performed using the body weight of an athlete to determine when they are able to return to their sport.

To compare the results to the usual results, Mesisca and Peebles analysed the load on the limbs during hop tests by using different methods of normalization. They examined their hop tests focusing on potential energy rather than weight, and discovered significant variations in the results.

They examined the leg that was recovered as well as the strain it had to endure throughout the various hops. When they normalized the results using body weight the results were not the same as when they normalized the loading results with potential energy.

Potential energy can be utilized to normalize the weight and jump height. These factors can have an impact on the load carried by the limb. In some instances, opposite results were observed when using body weight versus potential energy to normalize the results of the load. These results can be used to encourage athletes to return to their sport, and to suggest that they do so, especially considering the possibility of getting injured again in the limb that was injured.

“This is a significant finding,” said Mesisca, who served as first author of the study. “This research shows how important it is to ask more questions and analyze the results. Overall, more than one third of athletes are tearing their ACL again after recovering. If we could understand this and give better advice, we could help more athletes return to their sports in a safe and healthy manner.”

Undergraduate research and real-world problem-solving

Mesisca joined Queen’s research group The Kevin P. Granata Biomechanics Lab, in January 2020. She recalls receiving immediate guidance from fellow graduate students as well as Queen. The lab’s members are all committed to applying their research to clinical settings to provide useful information for patients recovering from injuries.

Queen said that the lab is fortunate to have undergraduates who are able to pursue independent research and study each semester. Queen is also an adjunct faculty member at Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine and a faculty member of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. “We hope that our students will be able to take the knowledge they’ve gained in class and apply it to solve real-world problems through their lab work. These experiences will allow students to connect their classwork at Virginia Tech with their future career through hands-on, interactive projects.

Mesisca credits the hands-on work she was able to do in the lab for increasing her knowledge in the classroom and allowing her to apply what she has learned. She has acquired skills she can apply to her future career as a biomedical engineer.

Journal reference:

Mesisca J. K., , et al. (2021) The directionality of the results can be affected by including jump height when normalizing one jumps can impact the kinetics. Clinical Biomechanics.

Content Source:

Gemma Wilson

Gemma is a journalism graduate with keen interest in covering business news – specifically startups. She has as a keen eye for technologies and has predicted quite a few successful startups over the last couple of years.

Related Articles