UK Sports Medicine Research Institute Awarded $4 Million from U.S. Department of Defense

 The University of Kentucky Sports Medicine Research Institute (SMRI) received a $4 million research contract from the United States Department of Defense (DOD) and Office of Naval Research to expand research focused on determining optimal physical and mental fitness among elite U.S. military members.

For the last three years, the SMRI has worked with the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) human performance program at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, to study injury prevention and create new ways to optimize physical performance in its personnel.

“I have been amazed by the SMRI at the University of Kentucky. Whether it is their work with active duty military and veterans, UK’s stellar student athletes, or on critical women’s health issues, the results their team has delivered have been nothing short of astounding,” said Congressman Hal Rogers (KY-5). “I am confident that the SRMI will continue this record of excellence with the Department of Defense. We owe our men and women in uniform the best, and I know that this research partnership will enable MARSOC operators to always be able to perform at the highest level—whether training here at home, or in harm’s way around the world.”

“In the rich, evolving history of the University of Kentucky, one constant remains – the University’s close ties to training and supporting members of the United States Armed Forces,” said University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto. “Today, researchers at UK are confronting the most complex questions and profound challenges facing our military. The SMRI is a powerful example of interdisciplinary collaboration leading to vital discoveries benefiting our warriors, our Commonwealth and beyond.”

Optimal preparation for tactical training and deployment requires high levels of physical and mental performance.“This award will support the development of a tool that can be used by special operations forces command to determine this overall preparedness of their personnel and respond with earlier interventions for injury prevention,” said John Abt, PhD, director of the SMRI and principal investigator of the research.

Nick Heebner, PhD, associate director for research of the SMRI, added that this project will be different from past MARSOC studies. “Our research up to this point was primarily related to musculoskeletal health in the form of recovery time and injury prevention,” he said. “As we worked with MARSOC and the Special Operations Command in developing this protocol, we were asked to study a broadly-based system that incorporates physical performance, musculoskeletal health, cognitive performance (mental sharpness), and psychosocial (mental) health.”

“We want to present a final product that integrates with current data analytics and provides a holistic view of preparedness in operator health,” Heebner continued.  “We hope this tool can be used broadly by command and specifically with team leaders to better prepare for their work and deployments, physically and mentally.”

“This award represents 15 years of continuous research with the Department of Defense and special operations forces that has been successfully transferred from SMRI faculty at the University of Pittsburgh to the University of Kentucky College of Health Sciences,” said Scott Lephart, Ph.D., dean of the College of Health Sciences. “The SMRI has received more than $10 million in funding from the DOD since 2015.”

“As a military veteran, I personally value the work being done at the Sports Medicine Research Institute,” said Dr. Mark F. Newman, UK vice president for health affairs. “I commend Dean Lephart and the team at SMRI for their commitment to working with the Department of Defense to further expand and advance research that focuses on injury prevention and performance optimization for the men and women of the U.S. military.”