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UK And U.S. Defense Department Team Up For Sports Medicine Research

The University of Kentucky has unveiled its new Sports Medicine Research Institute, which came about – in part – through a major grant from the U.S. Department of Defense.

Some of the equipment could be straight out of a video game development lab or an action movie set.

Wednesday, following a press conference, reporters lined the perimeter of a biomechanics area where researchers will conduct motion analysis studies. At the center is a jockey riding a horse-racing simulator, which sends a digital projection of her actions onto a monitor. Standing just outside the circle, institute director John Abt explains the setup.

Think “bullet time” from the Matrix films. 

"[The cameras] are identical to those that are used for video games and special effects in the movies. So you're not too far off for the Matrix," Abt says. "We just use them for the science."

That’s the science of preventing and healing sports injuries, which, it turns out, bear a close resemblance to physical wounds sustained by soldiers.

"It's high intensity, high velocity activities. Risk levels are very high. Injuries are inevitable," UK College of Health Sciences Dean Scott Lephart says, "but we also know that we have the potential to reduce those injuries through systematic research, and that's really the focus of what we do." 

That overlap helped secure the Institute a $4.2 million grant from the Defense Department.

The result is a facility outfitted with sophisticated treadmills that measure oxygen consumption and stress, and a virtual reality room dedicated to balance and reaction times – making the center, according to school officials, unlike any other within a 400-mile radius.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.