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The Neuromuscular Research Laboratory (NMRL) is the applied research facility of the Department of Sports Medicine and Nutrition. The NMRL is staffed by multidisciplinary research faculty and graduate students including athletic trainers, physical therapists, exercise physiologists, bioengineers, biomechanists, registered dietitians, medical doctors and epidemiologists. Our scientists and clinicians focus on optimizing human performance and mitigating musculoskeletal injuries to improve both the quality of life and resiliency in athletic, military and active populations. We assess individuals through sports-simulated environments to determine specific variables including investigating the influence of weight distribution, muscle function, balance, flexibility, proprioception, gender, aging and fatigue, as well as the effects of injury, surgery and rehabilitation on joint stability. Deficiencies in body mechanics and muscle function are used to develop programs to improve performance and minimize potential for injury.

The NMRL serves as the preferred laboratory for all of the performance testing needs of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Pitt Athletics.

Performance testing serves to:

  • reduce the number and severity of athletic injuries
  • maximize performance and readiness for sport 
  • enhance and enable the athlete’s capabilities 
  • maximize the efforts of their sports participation on their short-  term and long-term quality of life

We have also applied this extensive sports injury prevention and performance enhancement model to the Department of Defense (DoD) and its tactical athletes in the U.S. military through our Warrior Human Performance Research Center.

Based on the findings that unintentional injuries pose the greatest incidence of morbidity in the US military, the Warrior Human Performance Research Center (WHPRC) was created to study our military elite and the unique injury mitigation and performance optimization needs of these select tactical athletes. Our experts study physiological demands and associated injuries and establish mission-specific human performance protocols to reduce the incidence and severity of injuries, maximize human capital and combat readiness, and enhance the tactical life cycle and quality of life outlook after service.

The WHPRC in Pittsburgh provides administrative and technical oversight of DoD research. Technical responsibilities include data processing and management; database entry of laboratory, injury, and nutrition data; analysis of food records; development of testing protocols; piloting of new testing protocols, and collection of athletic model data. The WHPRC established seven remote laboratories at military and Special Forces bases across the country, including a remote laboratory in Fort Bragg, NC – the largest military base in the world.

Another central focus of the department’s research is related to the role of exercise and nutrition strategies to enhance wellness while preventing and managing disease.

One specific focus area is behavioral intervention for the prevention and treatment of overweight and obesity—more specifically, investigating what individuals can do behaviorally to effect motivation to be physically active and consume a healthy diet, and to this end, relying on the most powerful technologies available for self-motivation and the measurement of one’s own performance.