WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --
The United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine is the first research facility in the Department of Defense to use new Dynamic Athletic Research Institute 3D biomarkerless technology to predict injuries before they happen, allowing for intervention to prevent injuries and improve recovery rates.
The DARI system looks at how a person is able to move their body while performing functional tasks and can predict where an injury might occur up to two weeks before it might happen.
Far from having the ability to see into the future, the equipment uses eight high-speed cameras placed around a person to track 21 bone segments and nine joints with six-degrees of freedom, measuring range of motion, joint torque and a host of other biomechanics, all without markers - those reflective sticker-like objects put on a person to track motion such as used in the movies, according to the manufacturer’s website.
“The DARI identifies musculoskeletal limitations to elite performance and provides researchers with the capability to then identify biomechanical and physiological interventions that could maximize muscular strength and reduce injury,” said Lead Principle Investigator Dr. Reginald B. O’Hara, USAFSAM Operational Health and Performance Division.
While DARI is currently being used by professional and college basketball and football teams, U.S. Olympic Boxing and many others to enhance performance, Wright-Patt is the only base in the DOD to use the system in regard to researching the many capabilities of the system and assessing Airmen who may be prone to musculoskeletal injury, according to O’Hara.
“The plan going forward is to conduct research on Airmen who have incurred some type of musculoskeletal injury or who may be prone to injury based on certain movement patterns,” O’Hara said. “This is especially important for those on active duty seeking help to improve overall fitness and to participate in important human performance studies for the Air Force.”
One way this kind of research is facilitated is through a cooperative relationship between USAFSAM (as part of the 711th Human Performance Wing) and the 88th Force Support Squadron; a relationship now nearly three years running. The USAFSAM Aeromedical Research Department provides researchers to assist 88 FSS staff and enjoy a greater research participation as a result. In a complementary fashion, the 88 FSS provides shared space for offices, exercise science-related equipment and schedules locations in their facility for research studies to occur.
The two entities also work together by providing various injury prevention running clinics and specific individualized physical training programs for active duty.
“I learned about proper shoe fitting, form, technique and warm-up for runners,” said Amy Szwerluga, 88 FSS Recreation Assistant and Assistant Programs Manager. “I have been able to apply this knowledge to my own running, but more importantly, I've been able to pass it along to my personal training clients.”
Szwerluga says the joint venture can be considered a win-win for many of the participants: researchers, staff members and the clients they serve.
“For the fitness staff, we are able to observe and learn about the studies they are conducting in real time instead of reading about it afterward. This gives our staff and the exercise science interns who work here the opportunity to learn and grow,” Szwerluga said. “For [researchers], they are able to conduct their studies and run clinics in the fitness setting rather than in a lab.”
For Mikayla Sharpshair, 88 FSS Recreation Aid and Pathways intern, being part of the joint effort isn’t just about what she’s doing today, but maybe what she’s doing in the future as well.
“I think the collaboration is amazing! I have loved the unique opportunity to learn from and watch the USAFSAM crew do research and present the results through clinics and classes they’ve done,” Sharpshair said. “Being a part of that team would be my dream job, and so I look forward to any opportunity there is to watch or be a part of the programs they offer, or to sit and learn from the professionals in this field.”
The installation of DARI was completed in January with researchers scheduled to start assessing Airmen in the spring.