McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member Clifford Brubaker, Ph.D., Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center Co-Director, School of Health and Rehabilitation Science (SHRS) at the University of Pittsburgh, along with Captain Chaz Heron, commander of Naval Special Warfare Group TWO, East Coast-based Navy SEALs, and Scott Lephart, Ph.D., A.T.C., founding director of the Neuromuscular Research Laboratory at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s (UPMC) Center for Sports Medicine, recently announced the grand opening of the Pittsburgh-designed Human Performance Research Laboratory for Naval Special Warfare, the first of its kind within the U.S. Navy. The new lab is located at the Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek in Norfolk, Va.
Designed by sports medicine researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC, the new Human Performance Research Laboratory will study injuries and training techniques of the SEALs to optimize their tactical readiness. Researchers aim to reduce the incidence of preventable musculoskeletal injuries during training, combat, and recreation; enhance force readiness by maximizing the effects of training to reduce fatigue and optimize performance; and prolong the operational life as well as enhance quality of life after service. The lab uniquely combines important advances in sports medicine science with the traditional excellence of the Navy’s most elite warriors.
With a $2.1 million U.S. Department of Defense grant, awarded to the University of Pittsburgh research team over 2.5 years, the 2,200-square-foot laboratory employs state-of-the-art biomechanical and physiological instrumentation and techniques currently used for elite athletes. The new laboratory is modeled after the University of Pittsburgh’s Neuromuscular Research Laboratory, a world-renowned facility for sports injury prevention and performance enhancement, located at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine in Pittsburgh. Since 1990, the center’s scientists have studied and published research findings involving athletes’ body positioning and neuromuscular control as they relate to injury and performance.
“The operator himself is the most important weapons system of Naval Special Warfare,” said Captain Chaz Heron. “We are always seeking ways to improve our operators’ success on the battlefield. The last thing I want as a leader is for my men to be engaged in a fair fight. I want every advantage possible to give my operators a better chance for success on the battlefield. We’re optimistic the research and practical applications from our Human Performance Research Laboratory will achieve just that, while improving the quality of life for our SEALs after their service.”
The Human Performance Research Laboratory is housed on base in Little Creek’s Naval Special Warfare compound. Using sophisticated biomechanical modeling techniques and physiological testing equipment, researchers can study precise physical movement patterns, forces, cardiovascular response, strength, and range of motion on test subjects while they perform task simulations. Based on the data compiled, intervention exercises will be designed to improve specific muscle strength, flexibility, neuromuscular control, and cardiovascular efficiency to prevent injury and optimize performance.
The Naval Special Warfare Command was commissioned on 16 April 1987 at the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, CA, and is the Naval component to the United States Special Operations Command headquartered in Tampa, FL. Naval Special Warfare units are organized, trained, and equipped to conduct special operations in maritime and riverine environments. They are deployed in small units worldwide in support of fleet and national operations. NSW provides an effective means to apply counterforce in conjunction with national policy and objectives in peacetime and across the spectrum of hostilities from peacetime operations to limited war to general war.
The major operational components of Naval Special Warfare Command include Naval Special Warfare Group ONE and Special Boat Squadron ONE in San Diego, CA, and Naval Special Warfare Group TWO and Special Boat Squadron TWO in Norfolk, VA. These components deploy SEAL Teams, SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams, and Special Boat Units worldwide to meet the training, exercise, contingency, and wartime requirements of theater commanders. With approximately 5,000 total active-duty personnel--including 2,200 SEALs and 600 Special Warfare Combat Crewmembers--it comprises less than one-tenth of one percent of U.S. Navy personnel.
Dr. Brubaker is also Dean and Professor within the SHRS at the University of Pittsburgh, Professor in Neurological Surgery within the School of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, and a Professor in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie-Mellon University.
Dr. Lephart is also the grant’s principal investigator and director of the new lab, an associate professor in the Department of Sports Medicine and Nutrition at Pitt’s SHRS, and an associate professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Pitt’s School of Medicine.
Illustration: McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences Media Release (04/16/08)
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (04/16/08)
University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
Naval Special Warfare Group TWO