School of Education News

UW's Bell awarded research grant to improve rehabilitation after knee surgery

November 30, 2015

Each year approximately 250,000 people in the United States suffer injuries to their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which can rupture during popular sports like soccer and basketball.

Those who suffer such injuries often undergo surgery and then face a rehabilitation regiment that can last up to a year. Unfortunately, some patients have a difficult time recovering after surgery, especially as it relates to the muscles on the front of the leg. Such deficits can affect activities that people perform every day ­–- like walking, squatting and balancing.

To make matters worse, about a quarter of these patients suffer another ACL injury after they return to competing in their sport.

David Bell in his lab
David Bell (right), a faculty member with the
Department of Kinesiology, was recently awarded a
New Investigator Grant from the National Athletic
Trainers' Association Research and Education
Foundation to further examine ACL knee injuries.
The work will take place in Bell's Wisconsin Injury
in Sport Laboratory (WISL).
Thanks to a recent award from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Research and Education Foundation, UW-Madison’s David Bell will be examining ways to improve these rehabilitation outcomes.

Bell is the recipient of a 2015-16 New Investigator Grant, which he will use to further his research on knee injuries and improving rehabilitation following injury.

“Our goal is to create information that can be utilized by rehabilitation professionals on patients of all ages,” says Bell, an assistant professor with the Department of Kinesiology’s Athletic Training Program and the director of the Wisconsin Injury in Sport Laboratory (WISL).  “We are trying to create ways to identify patients that are not responding to rehabilitation early in the process, so appropriate interventions can be applied in order to improve outcomes and enhance quality of life.”

Bell explains that in this research project, patients will be tested, repeatedly, throughout rehabilitation. The goal is to identify factors early on during the ACL rehabilitation process that predict later success and help mitigate the risk of a second ACL injury.

For example, if a patient’s ability to balance is tested four months after ACL surgery –- and that person performs well -– Bell is hoping to determine whether that’s a good indicator of whether or not the patient will be able to return to his or her previous activity. Similarly, Bell and his team will look at whether passing particular evaluations help predict how a patient will perform on tests that rehabilitation specialists use to ‘clear” a patient to return to activity.

“Identifying these tests early in the rehabilitation process is essential, because there is still time to correct their deficits,” says Bell.

Bell adds that this research will also aim to address a substantial gap in knowledge in clinical and translational effectiveness of rehabilitation related to active lifestyles and quality of life.

The grant will allow Bell and is team to work with 40 patients, with all the testing to be done at WISL. This research will combine both advanced motion analysis and common equipment that’s available in most rehabilitation settings.

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