Force plates provide data for sports medicine team | LMH Health

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

It’s unlikely that Sir Isaac Newton ever imagined how his third law of motion would be applied in modern-day athletic training. It’s now integral in force plate technology from VALD Performance offered at OrthoKansas and LMH Health Therapy Services – the only location in the region boasting this technology for everyday athletes and orthopedic patients.

VALD force plates

Force plates are used in testing and training to help you achieve your performance goals while avoiding injury. They use sensors to detect differences in forces exerted onto the ground that therapists may not be able to see with the naked eye.

“Our team can look at a patient’s body weight squat, especially for those who have issues offloading — or not bearing weight — on their extremities,” said Danny Larson, a physical therapist at the LMH Health West Campus. “This technology allows us to get objective feedback to inform our rehabilitation plan. The feedback shows the therapist what a patient needs to work on and how to target their training.”

Benefits for rehab and training

Athletes using the VALD force plates at OrthoKansas benefit from understanding how well they’re loading weight on their extremities following an injury or surgery. Larson shared that research demonstrates that people unconsciously offload or favor a limb after injury for extended periods of time, even after they feel like recovery is complete.

“The problem with this unconscious offloading is that it has the potential to increase the risk of re-injury, causing you to spend more time off the field or court,” he said. “Knowing how you’re loading your limbs helps to guide your training program so you’re doing the best things possible to get you back on the field and keep you there.”

Force plate readout

Feedback on loading patterns

Patients can also use the plate technology to see a live feed of how they’re loading their extremities. This helps the patient and therapist ensure they’re performing quality reps during training, allowing them to make the most of their time and effort.

It’s not just athletes who benefit from the use of the force plates. Luis Salazar, MD, a sports medicine physician at OrthoKansas, shared that many patients with lower extremity injuries can benefit from this technology.

“Force plates are a great tool to assess discrepancies between loading, jumping, force development and symmetry between the left and right sides of the body,” he said. “I’ve referred a number of patients to our sports physical therapy providers and incorporated the technology into their rehab.”

Dr. Salazar emphasized that getting feedback from the plates doesn’t increase the length of an individual therapy appointment, as getting feedback only takes a few minutes.

“Patients who use the force plates are able to get immediate feedback, awareness and understanding about their progress. It helps us provide an accurate timeline for their recovery,” he said.

Knee replacement patients reap the benefits

Danny Larson stands on force plates

Data collection

A current study underway by OrthoKansas and the physical therapists at the West Campus looks at the loading patterns (or amount of weight placed on one side of the body vs the other) over time for patients undergoing knee replacement, both pre-and post-surgery .

“The force plates can really benefit knee replacement patients by helping them understand how they’re loading their new knee over time. If they place a higher load on either knee, it may play a role in accelerating pain and arthritis in other joints,” Larson explained. “The results from their testing help to design training programs to facilitate appropriate loading and weight distribution of their legs.”

The study has currently collected data from about 75 patients and plans to reassess their progress at regular intervals.

“With nearly 400 total knee replacements completed last year by the three primary joint replacement surgeons at OrthoKansas, the opportunity to increase the number of participants can really help provide a stronger analysis of the data. In turn, this will help identify common trends that our patients exhibit following total knee replacements, helping to optimize their outcomes,” Larson said.

Cutting-edge technology

Incorporating technology into patient rehab isn’t new to the team at LMH Health, it’s something that’s commonly used. Therapists at the West Campus have access to state-of-the-art technology to help provide feedback on strength, stability and gait.

Isokinetic testing machine

Isokinetic testing machine

LMH Health boasts an isokinetic testing machine, one of only a few in the state of Kansas. The machine provides the most objective measure of joint function following injury or surgery, both for upper and lower extremities.

“Isokinetic testing allows us to assess movement, strength and stability discrepancies,” Dr. Salazar said. “This technology allows us to know what level our patients are at and what needs further attention, allowing us to personalize their training and rehab exercises.”

When runners are looking for expertise about their running mechanics, they can also turn to LMH Health for answers. The RunStrong team performs an exam to make objective assessments and uses video analysis to measure cadence, foot strike and highlight gaps in a runner’s form and technique.

Though OrthoKansas and LMH Health have the providers, facilities and cutting-edge technology, to raise the bar for patients through treatment and recovery, Dr. Salazar emphasize that communication is key.

“It’s vital that the patient communicate with their physical therapist to understand what their treatment plan entails,” he said. “We want you to be actively involved so you’re on your feet and safely return to your pre-injury performance as soon as possible.”

To take advantage of cutting-edge technology in your own backyard, turn to LMH Health and OrthoKansas for care. We treat patients of all ages and abilities, providing expert care that’s exceptional for a community hospital – it’s among the best anywhere.


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