Doctoral student wins athletic training research grant
Alan Needle


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8:57 a.m., Jan. 28, 2011----Alan Needle, a second-year doctoral student in athletic training at the University of Delaware, recently won a research scholarship from the Eastern Athletic Trainers Association (EATA).

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Advised by Charles “Buz” Swanik, associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Applied Physiology, Needle is conducting research aimed at determining the causes and potential treatment options for the management of joint injuries.

“Ankle sprains are the most common injury seen in athletic populations and physically active people,” Needle says. “About 50 percent of patients who suffer an ankle sprain will have a repeated sprain or develop ankle instability. This occurs when patients have frequent sensations of the ankle 'giving way' or 'rolling' during activity.”

The goal of Needle's work is to identify physiological factors that may cause these sensations of instability to develop. Specifically, he is looking at the relationship between the amount of extra motion the ankle has (laxity), the ability for the joint to sense changes in position and force (proprioception), and the strategies people use to optimize joint stiffness and react to sudden twisting motion at the ankle.

One unique component of the project is that Needle will be comparing patients who have ankle instability not only with people who have healthy ankles but also with those who have suffered an ankle sprain but have not developed any sensations of instability.

“We hope that the results of this study will assist researchers and clinicians in determining important intervention strategies in both prevention and rehabilitation programs,” he says.

Needle, who plans to plans to pursue a career in academia, received his bachelor's degree in athletic training from Boston University in 2007 and his master's degree in exercise science with a sports medicine concentration from UD in 2009. He has worked as a graduate assistant athletic trainer for several sports at Delaware State University and at UD.

According to Swanik, the EATA includes some of the most competitive schools for athletic training/sports medicine as well as a high concentration of AT students and professionals relative to the rest of the nation.

Article by Diane Kukich