Orthopedics & Sports Medicine

Center for Human Performance Unites Two Research Powerhouses for Cutting-Edge Sports Medicine Studies

Jan. 26, 2024 - Eden McCleskey

Houston Methodist and Rice University have joined forces to create a new center that focuses on exercise physiology, injury prevention and rehabilitation to advance research and education in human performance.

The Center for Human Performance, which celebrated its grand opening in October 2023, is a collaboration between the Houston Methodist Department of Orthopedics & Sports Medicine and multiple Rice departments, including Kinesiology, Athletics and Engineering.

Encompassing a 6,000-square-foot facility in Rice's Tudor Fieldhouse, the lab is next door to Houston Methodist Hospital.

"Researchers at the center work together to develop novel techniques to prevent, treat and recover from musculoskeletal injuries and diseases," said Dr. Patrick McCulloch, the John S. Dunn Chair of Orthopedic Surgery at Houston Methodist Hospital.

The research space is equipped for state-of-the-art studies with advanced 3D motion capture, force-plate measurement, region-by-region quantification of bone density and muscle mass, isokinetic testing platforms, human tissue collection for blood and muscle sampling, metabolic analysis, cardiovascular screening and aerobic performance testing. Physicians, researchers and students work side by side with athletes, trainers and coaches.

"Ultimately, these efforts will greatly benefit our patients at Houston Methodist," Dr. McCulloch said. "High-performance athletes, older adults and everyone in between will have access to treatment that is informed by the research undertaken at the center."

To improve patient progress and better predict outcomes, scientists at the center are analyzing individuals' gait and biomechanics during daily activities following total knee and hip replacement.

Physician researchers at the Center for Human Performance are also studying joint mechanics and forces expended during batting and pitching in amateur and professional baseball players to improve rehabilitation and post-injury safety for athletes.

As part of a grant from Major League Baseball, the center has added technology to help researchers track and analyze pitching and hitting performance during live play.

The lab's grant-funded studies leverage Houston Methodist's relationships with the Houston Astros, Houston Ballet and Rice University, among others, and employ an advanced Vicon motion capture system integrated with force plates and electromyography for precision data that can be translated for clinical applications.

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