By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter
The knee injuries that disrupted Katie Kitchen’s college basketball career triggered her interest in sports medicine research so the Cold Spring resident has taken part in some fascinating studies over the last two years.
As a research assistant in the Division of Sports Medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Kitchen is currently involved in a study that’s looking into preventing knee injuries in female athletes. She’s also on a research team that’s focused on reducing the devastating effects of head collisions in football and other contact sports.
“Being someone who was injured a lot, it’s nice to know I’m kind of giving back in a sense by helping prevent others from going through those types of things,” she said. “Anything I can do to support the research to help make the athletic world safer is pretty cool.”
Kitchen, 26, does not have a medical degree. She majored in communications and psychology at Thomas More College while playing on the women’s basketball team.
She was actually one of the athletes who took part in a knee injury study at Cincinnati Children’s after she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in one knee during her freshman season in college and suffered the same injury in her other knee two years later.
“Most of us on my (research) team are past athletes and several have had ACL injuries or other sports related injuries,” she said. “Everybody else on my team is a little older and I just think they wanted someone who’s been an athlete recently just to bring fresh and new ideas to our teams, especially since I was a part of what they’re still doing.”
The knee injury research is funded by the National Institutes of Health and aims to gain a better understanding of how biofeedback delivered with virtual reality technologies can improve injury prevention in competitive athletes.
“We put reflective markers on specific anatomical parts and every single movement is picked up on cameras,” Kitchen said. “So we’re looking at how computer feedback could be better than just me telling you that your technique is harmful. We want to optimize motor learning by cutting out errors in how athletes interpret instructions.”
She said they’re also evaluating the technologies developed in Cincinnati Children’s programs and how they can enhance sports biomechanics and performance, which can be just as important to athletes as injury prevention
In the study on head collisions in sports, Kitchen said she plays a part in compiling data to publish research papers on how a compression collar worn around the neck can prevent or reduce concussions and other head injuries.
“It has been fun to be a part of this innovative research, watching all aspects of the multidisciplinary project go from recruiting subjects to reporting the results,” she said. “I have even had the opportunity to co-author some of the medical papers that developed out of the research that we’ve done.”
Kitchen said the concussion study being conducted by Greg Myer, the director of sports medicine research, is the “groundbreaking front-runner of everything we’re doing right now.”
Accelerometers were placed in the helmets of two Cincinnati high school football teams to monitor every head impact sustained during the 2016 season. The players on one team wore the neck compression collar and the players on the other team did not. Before and after the season, brain scans were conducted on players from both teams to determine if the collar was effective at preserving brain health.
“Basically, we just look at the effects of the amount of blows they receive to their head over the course of the season,” Kitchen said. “We’re really hoping that the collar makes a big difference decreasing the number of concussions that athletes receive and so far it’s been pretty promising.”
Kitchen was also put in charge of an injury prevention training program for athletes. Her first client is a 12-year-old volleyball player whose parents wanted to avoid the risk factors associated with that sport.
“This is kind of a newer program that we revamped,” Kitchen said. “With the new research findings, I have recently taken it over to optimize injury prevention and performance enhancement. We now have opened it up to the public for any athlete looking for that type of training.”
For more information about the injury prevention program, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org