Sports tech to prevent knee injuries in Queensland’s female athletes

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) ruptures are devastating knee injuries. They are endemic among Queensland’s female athletes and have long-term performance, health and economic consequences. 

Dr Matthew Bourne from Griffith University is a recent Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowship recipient who is applying sports technology to prevent knee injuries in Queensland’s female athletes. 

Dr Bourne will work with his industry partner, VALD Performance, and apply VALD’s world-leading suite of human measurement technology to predict which female athletes are most at risk of ACL injury, monitor rehabilitation outcomes, and revolutionise training for injury prevention. 

Why did you choose to research this? 

ACL ruptures are among the most catastrophic injuries sustained in sport and occur 3-6 times more frequently in female than male athletes, even after accounting for differences in exposure.  

Current treatments involve invasive knee re-construction procedures. However, even after surgical repair and rehabilitation, two in three female athletes will not return to their sport within 12 months, one in four experience a second ACL injury in that same period, and 50-90% will develop knee osteoarthritis in the subsequent 10-15 years, which is a leading cause of long-term disability.  

Decades of laboratory-based research has identified distinct biomechanical movement patterns and training strategies that can significantly reduce ACL injury risk. However, translation of research recommendations to clinical practice has been poor due to the inability to measure people outside the laboratory.  

VALD’s suite of human measurement devices directly addresses this market need by offering high-fidelity, rapid, reliable, and cost-effective tools to measure athletes/patients in the field.  

Who are you partnering with and why? 

VALD is a global leader in sports technology and has a strong track record in the development, marketing and sale of systems which provide actionable information for applied sport professionals to make data-driven decisions.  

Since 2015, VALD has developed and commercialised numerous human measurement technologies, which are used in over 60 countries by lots of different professional sports, as well as international Olympic teams, military and defence organisations, hospitals and allied health clinics.

I’m co-located at VALD, which means I’ll have a plethora of resources to support my research and translate the findings into practical benefits.

How will the funding from Advance Queensland support you on your research journey? 

The Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowship will provide me with unparalleled industry experience that will be critical for my ongoing development as a global leader in sport and exercise science and sports technology. The results generated from this project will inform the design of world-first targeted injury prevention programs for female athletes, which is expected have significant social, health and economic impact for Queensland.  

What are you wanting to achieve in your research? 

I’ve developed a good partnership with VALD, which means there will be a direct pathway for the translation and commercialisation of university research. Through current and future collaborations, a rapid pathway will be created for researchers and sport/health/engineering graduates to enter the sports technology industry in Queensland. It will also build strong local capability in the sector, enabling VALD and other locally grown companies to remain in Queensland, and to expand and be globally competitive.  

This will significantly strengthen research capacity in Queensland and position the sports technology sector at the forefront of the innovation economy in the lead up to the 2032 Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games.  

How will your research benefit and assist Queenslanders? 

This project will generate significant social, health and economic benefits for Queenslanders. In recent years, the success of Queensland’s female athletes on the world-stage has fuelled an extraordinary rise in the professionalism and profile of female sports. However, female athletes still face many barriers to sports participation and high-performance, including high rates of musculoskeletal injury. Our female athletes are facing a knee injury epidemic (i.e., highest rates of ACL reconstruction in the world) that is showing no evidence of a decline.   

Despite this, female athletes remain underrepresented in sports science literature, which limits the ability of coaches and practitioners to implement an evidence-based approach to their training and rehabilitation. Consequently, it is likely we are failing to identify and retain talent and maximise the performance potential of our female athletes.  

This project aims to address these gaps and contribute towards developing a high quality, tech-driven evidence-base to guide training for performance and knee injury prevention in Queensland’s female athletes. 

What does it mean to you to be a recipient of the 2022 Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowships program?  

I am honoured to have received a prestigious 2022 Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowship. The fellowship will consolidate the longstanding partnership between Griffith University and VALD and will support me and my team in conducting world-class, multidisciplinary research, which has direct implications for improving clinical practice. 

Last updated 19 Apr, 2023
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