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New "Run SMART Clinic" at Mason Will Be First on East Coast to Use Scientifically Validated 3D Motion Assessment to Predict Injury and Improve Athletic Performance

October 22, 2012

Elite runners and weekend warriors alike will soon have access to performance improvement technology previously only available to Olympic and other high performance athletes.

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An innovative 3D motion analysis system is the centerpiece of world class services that will be available from a new clinic at George Mason University called the Run SMART Clinic. (SMART is an acronym for Sports Medicine Assessment Research and Testing). The clinic, which is located at the Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center on the university’s Science and Technology Campus, will open to the public in spring 2013.

“With the Run SMART Clinic, Mason has taken a significant stride forward in becoming a focal point for athletic training, injury prevention, and sports performance in the United States,” said Mark R. Ginsberg, dean of Mason’s College of Education and Human Development. “The university will be the first on the East Coast to make this system available for clinical and research use, and one of only six worldwide.”

The Run SMART Clinic will offer runners, triathletes, joggers, walkers, and others in the Washington DC area access to the latest biomedical technology for assessing movement. The 3D motion capture technology at the heart of the clinic’s system resembles the type of motion capture used in films such as Avatar and Lord of the Rings. The difference is in the output – each client’s movement mechanics is compared to years of biomedical research data and becomes the basis for an individualized analysis scientifically validated as a predictor of lower extremity deficits that may lead to injury.

Although runners are expected to be the primary users, the Run SMART Clinic is also designed to provide assessments for individuals with arthritis, patellofemoral pain syndrome (i.e., anterior knee pain), anterior cruciate ligament injuries, knee osteoarthritis, balance problems, and other lower extremity issues. In addition, the analysis provided by the Run SMART Clinic is a valuable resource for healthy athletes who want to train and run smarter in order to increase performance and reduce the risk of injury.

The Run SMART Clinic is a multicenter worldwide collaboration with the University of Calgary (Canada), Ohio State University, the University of Illinois, Federal University of ABC (Sao Paulo, Brazil), Auckland University of Technology (New Zealand), and Oxford University (UK). The data collected by the clinic will be aggregated with the data from the other university-based clinics that are using the 3D motion assessment system. The shared data will be used to continuously refine the motion assessment system and models.

Video courtesy of Optimyz Magazine and Nova Nova Physiotherapy (Halifax, Canada).

"The Run SMART Clinic takes a scientific, neuromechanical approach to injury assessment, prevention, and improvement,” said Nelson Cortes, assistant professor in the Division of Health and Human Performance. “3D technology is the gold standard because research has shown that a single video camera, such as might be found in a running store, provides mechanics information that is usually inaccurate or unusable. The Run SMART Clinic’s 3D motion capture -- plus the aggregated biomechanical data and clinical analysis – results in a powerful assessment for individuals.”

Clients will be seen by researchers from Mason who comprise a team of biomedical engineers, biomechanists, athletic trainers, and clinical scientists dedicated to helping athletes and others prevent injuries. Research shows that more than 50 percent of runners experience a running injury each year. The majority of the injuries are caused by excessive or atypical movement patterns, the root cause of which can be detected through technology at the Run SMART Lab.

“The Washington, DC area is one of the top running locales in the United States, which makes it especially gratifying to be offering this elite technology to the public,” said Shane Caswell, associate professor and executive director of the Sports Medicine Assessment Research and Testing (SMART) Laboratory. “What we are doing with the Run SMART Clinic, and other human performance initiatives at Mason, is translating validated research from the international scientific community and making it practicable and usable by our local community.”

The initiative is part of the Sports Medicine Assessment Research and Testing Laboratory (SMART Lab) located at the Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center, which is a joint partnership among George Mason University, Prince William County, and the City of Manassas in Virginia. The SMART Lab and its Run SMART Clinic are part of the Division of Health and Human Performance of the university’s College of Education and Human Development.

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