University launches exercise and sport science initiative


The University of Michigan on Thursday launched the Exercise & Sport Science Initiative, a new research program that draws on experts from a wide range of faculty and students across campus, Michigan Athletics and industry partners to optimize physical performance and health for athletes and exercisers of all ages and abilities.

“With developments in areas ranging from improved helmet designs to the analysis of sports data, science and technology are opening up a host of new opportunities to transform sports and exercise,” said S. Jack Hu, vice president for research. “With the help of industry partners, we seek not only to explore the science underlying new advances, but also to translate new ideas and insights into practice on our campus and beyond.”

ESSI builds on the work of more than 100 faculty and student researchers from such diverse disciplines as kinesiology, medicine, bioengineering, psychology, nutrition, social sciences and data science, and will partner with industry and government on projects that address physical activity and human performance across the lifespan.

Research will initially focus on three key areas:

• Performance optimization in exercise and sport for individuals and teams — Strength training, conditioning, psychology, nutrition, and rest, recovery and regeneration, as well as understanding the role of physical activity in improved physical and mental performance, overall health, and quality of life at all ages.

• Data science and analytics — Sport and exercise apps, big data, individual and team analytics, data underlying business development, marketing and entrepreneurship.

• Sport technologies — Inertial measurement units, helmets, intelligent apparel, equipment design and rapid prototyping.

“This is a great opportunity for our coaches, trainers and student athletes to work with faculty and industry partners to probe new approaches to optimizing both individual and team performance,” said Warde Manuel, Donald R. Shepherd Director of Athletics.

ESSI is building on a foundation of existing and emerging partnerships with industry.

Catapult Sports, for example, which develops wearable sensors for measuring performance, began working with the athletic department in February when the company outfitted the men’s basketball team with wearable sensors.

The sensors collect 1,000 data points per second on such metrics as biomechanical fatigue, mechanical performance output and displacement of forces in any direction, which then can provide coaches and athletes with information to enhance player safety and overall performance.

“What’s unique about our partnership with U-M is that, a lot of times, we only work with one program within a school,” said Brian Kopp, Catapult’s president for North America. “Through ESSI, we have an opportunity to work with multiple programs at U-M, looking for ways to increase player safety and performance in a broader context.

“We also plan to work closely with researchers at U-M who focus their efforts on finding ways to improve physical activity and human performance.”

ESSI’s co-directors are Ellen Arruda, professor of mechanical engineering, biomedical engineering, and macromolecular science and engineering, along with Ron Zernicke, professor of orthopaedic surgery, kinesiology, and engineering.

“We have a great deal of interest, expertise, and experience across campus in the challenges of optimizing physical performance,” Arruda said. “With the launch of this program, we will be able to foster more productive cross-disciplinary relationships to help spur further progress.”

“Looking ahead, a key goal is to nurture and expand our relationships with industry,” Zernicke said. “Our industry partners provide perspective and expertise that are critical to the ongoing process of innovation.”

The Office of Research, Athletics, and the Office of the Provost have provided an initial $3.5 million of seed funding to support ESSI’s efforts to coordinate and expand research on exercise and sport science across campus in partnership with industry.



  1. Patricia Pooley
    on September 30, 2016 at 6:47 am

    I would be interested in any research studies for older adults.

    • Amy Horvath
      on October 11, 2016 at 1:25 pm

      I would be interested in participating in a study on exercise for middle-aged adults.

  2. Patricia Pooley
    on September 30, 2016 at 6:47 am

    I would be interested in any research studies for older adults.

  3. Patricia Pooley
    on September 30, 2016 at 6:47 am

    I would be interested in any research studies for older adults.

  4. Charles Koopmann
    on September 30, 2016 at 9:18 am

    I am interested in studies for older adults .

  5. Adam Paulsen
    on September 30, 2016 at 8:51 pm

    I would be interested in programs for middle aged adults.

  6. Shirlee Kipp
    on October 1, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    Interested in excercise studies for older adults.

  7. Luminita Labaran
    on October 2, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    Interested in performance/outcome improvements for active adults over 50.

  8. Chanin Kelly
    on October 3, 2016 at 6:57 am

    I would be interest in programs for middle aged adults.

  9. Lori Lathers
    on October 3, 2016 at 10:46 am

    I am interested in research studies for age 50 and older.

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