Double Win

May 4, 2018

At the University of Alabama, Lizzie Hibberd, PhD, LAT, ATC, Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Science, conducts research on how to prevent injuries among developing athletes. An article from the Alabama NewsCenter explains that while working on her doctorate, Dr. Hibberd noticed many college student-athletes had developed bad physical adaptations over the years.

“I’ve been putting more emphasis on finding characteristics in youth athletes and how those relate to injuries,” Dr. Hibberd said. “When do they develop certain physical characteristics? How does their participation in training influence those characteristics, and how and when can we intervene?” 

To help answer those questions, Dr. Hibberd created the Athletic Training Research Lab at Alabama. Its equipment includes a diagnostic ultrasound, inclinometers to measure range of motion, dynamometers to assess a strength test number, high-speed video cameras, and GoPro cameras. The best part about these tools is Dr. Hibberd can take them anywhere.

“In setting up the lab, it was important that all the equipment be portable,” she said. “The work is a lot easier if you can take your equipment to a field rather than bringing the whole team into the lab. In order for research to be clinically applicable, someone has to have those tools both in the clinic and on the field.”

One of Dr. Hibberd’s goals for the lab is to work with young athletes to assess traits that may be linked with injury. She hopes to partner with the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority to measure Little League baseball players through preseason screenings.

“Often, dads will coach their children’s baseball teams … but they’re trying to teach kids how to throw a baseball,” Dr. Hibberd said. “They don’t know about teaching skill acquisition relative to fundamental physical characteristics, such as how to squat, or balance, or do a lunge. That’s not part of their skill set or thought process. But if no one teaches that to the kids, they figure it out on their own, often incorrectly, which can predispose them to injury.”

Along with learning more about these traits, Dr. Hibberd’s research aims to build bridges. This allows her to both boost the evidence-based literature and reach those who will directly benefit from her efforts.

“Every step is about building relationships with people—the athletes, athletic trainers, the parents—so they understand that you’re there to improve their health care,” Dr. Hibberd said. “I’m trying to build relationships with people to become part of the community, so the research has more impact.”

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