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Debski and Collaborators Receive PInCh Funds to Prevent Overuse Injury in Athletes

PITTSBURGH (October 12, 2018) … Athletes and fans alike understand the aggravation that comes with players getting benched for multiple weeks due to an injury. Athletes are often sidelined for tendon injuries that can be attributed to overuse. But thanks to a $25,000 award from the Pitt Innovation Challenge (PInCh), a team of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh hope to develop a new technology that predicts tendon overuse and prevents injury.

The research team includes Richard Debski, professor of bioengineering; Volker Musahl, chief of sports medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center; Kang Kim, associate professor of medicine; and Gerald Ferrer, a bioengineering PhD candidate. Debski and Musahl co-direct the Orthopedics Robotics Laboratory (ORL) in the Swanson School of Engineering where they created QUPTI - Quantitative Ultrasound to Prevent Tendon Injury.

“Overuse injury is a problem that occurs because of repetitive trauma to tissues without sufficient time for recovery,” said Debski. “It affects a wide range of joints in the body including the elbow, knee, ankle, and shoulder. This issue may lead to a performance reduction and a loss of playing time for the athletes.”

According to Debski, overuse injuries account for 30 percent of all collegiate athlete injuries, and 20 percent of athletes with an overuse injury were sidelined for over three weeks. 

“There are currently no predictive methods for preventing overuse injuries, only diagnostic tests after athletes complain of pain,” said Debski. “We plan to use QUPTI to track tendon health. It uses an acoustic radiation force impulse (ARFI) ultrasound technology to quantify location-specific tendon mechanical properties using remote palpation.” 

With this technology, the research team can target and evaluate the exact location where injuries normally occur in the tendon. 

“QUPTI can be used on a tendon to track the health during a season, practice, or game,” said Debski. “It provides real-time feedback of tendon health to reduce the occurrence of overuse injury by informing the coaching staff to modify training intensity and ultimately maximize the performance of athletes.” 


Contact: Leah Russell