Kersh awarded NBA grant to study tibia stress


Taylor Tucker, MechSE Communications


Last summer, Assistant Professor Mariana Kersh was awarded a grant from the NBA—yes, that NBA, the National Basketball Association—in partnership with General Electric, to study how the tibia bone is loaded during different basketball maneuvers.

“Bone stress injuries of the tibia are a prominent concern in basketball,” Kersh said. “They not only cause pain that impairs athlete performance and limits their playing time but can also progress to a catastrophic complete bone fracture.”

Kersh has been collaborating with physical therapist Stu Warden of Indiana University. She hopes to determine how muscle fatigue might influence fracture risk.

Assistant Professor Mariana Kersh.
Assistant Professor Mariana Kersh.
“We use a combination of experimental data and computational models based on computed tomography data of the players’ bones,” Kersh said. “This pipeline allows us to predict and apply mechanical loads during different activities to bone to then predict the strain distribution.”

The experimental data is collected by taking motion capture of college basketball players doing exercises that replicate moves they will perform during game time. The study’s results could help identify specific training exercises that basketball players can use to improve bone health with respect to stress fractures.

“We can help coaches to understand the effect of fatigue in their players and provide them with guidelines that can keep their players safe in the short- and long-term,” Kersh said.

The three-year project involves both graduate and undergraduate student researchers. Mechanical engineering master’s student Chenxi Yan works alongside physical therapy graduate student Ryan Bice from Indiana University.

“One of the best parts of this study is the collaboration between the graduate students from different disciplines,” Kersh said. “I am also happy to work on an applied project that could have immediate impact.”

On the left: PT model, graduate student Ryan Bice. Right: The accompanying computational model.
On the left: PT model, graduate student Ryan Bice. Right: The accompanying computational model.