Improving the understanding of cognitive- motor function and lower-extremity biomechanics
Fischer, Patrick David
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Anterior cruciate ligament injuries present a considerable problem for athletic populations, especially those that engage in sports with open-skill movement demands like rapid changes of direction. These injuries typically occur in a non-contact setting, that is, the forces generated by the athlete's own movement overburden the ligaments in the knee and cause partial or total rupture of the tissue. Considerable effort has been devoted to researching and, by extension, counteracting the physical contributions to injury risk; for example, athletes are encouraged to develop better balance and lower-extremity strength to counteract the adverse effects of poor movement performance. However, anterior cruciate ligament injury risk is also tied to cognitive factors as well as physiological factors. This athlete-specific cognitive-motor relationship interacts with external distractions in the sporting environment to compromise an athlete's ability to move safely and effectively. The purpose of this research was to investigate contributions of different cognitive domains to movement performance in distracted, sport-relevant scenarios, to develop a better understanding of the cognitive-motor relationships that underpin injury rates in these athletic populations. A series of studies involving biomechanical and cognitive outcome measures demonstrated that cognitive function has an important, if not fully understood, role to play in mitigating an athlete's susceptibility to distractions during open-skill movement performance. This research adds to a critically underdeveloped body of work explaining the subject-specificity of dual-task movement performance in a lab setting and provides a foundation for developing new injury risk assessment and mitigation efforts for clinicians and coaches.