Under this CAREER Award, methods in computational mechanics will be developed to study the function of healthy and diseased human feet and ankles. Though injuries and musculoskeletal disorders outnumber those seen at any other joint, especially among the elderly, the foot and ankle are two of the least well-understood areas of the human musculoskeletal system. Mechanical analysis has lagged behind that of other joints due to difficulty in defining axes of joint rotation and significant inter-subject variability. The research plan focuses on refining computational tools that will be used to locate the two major joint axes of the ankle noninvasively in individual subjects through mathematical optimization techniques. Subject specific models, which can be used by orthopaedic surgeons to study the effects of an untested variation in a surgical procedure while minimizing the risks to patients, will be based on MR scans of the lower legs of fifteen subjects.
The educational component of the plan focuses on fostering interest in biomechanics in general and the foot and ankle problem in particular among undergraduate kinesiology and engineering students, with an emphasis on reaching underrepresented groups Two new laboratories will be developed and a seminar series to bring together basic scientists and clinicians and to expose students to career possibilities in biomechanics and related fields will be introduced.