Luke Baumgartner, a trained physiologist and exercise, sport and movement sciences instructor at the University of Memphis, has spent his career searching for ways to improve patient health and client performance outcomes.
After purchasing KINVENT biometric measurement devices, Baumgartner and his students found a much better way to measure progress than the MacGyver-like setups they had been using.
A Better Way to Capture Biometric Data Needed
As an undergraduate professor, Baumgartner leverages his background as a researcher and former athletic director to educate aspiring physical and occupational therapists and strength and conditioning coaches about exercise physiology theory. That theoretical knowledge is then put to practical use in Baumgartner’s hands-on lab classes.
In Baumgartner’s lab, students set up and run assessments on one another, collect data, and interpret the results. The goal is to prepare students for their senior internships and give them a feel for the work done in professional clinics and training facilities.
To train them as thoroughly as possible, Baumgartner encourages students to think beyond the confines of traditional tools and tests and come up with custom applications and solutions. “I have my students do a really wide variety of tests,” said Baumgartner. “We end up having to branch well beyond the handheld and isometric tests.”
Baumgartner was recently on day two of helping a student set up one such custom test. The assessment, which would calculate Dynamic Strength Index (DSI), had to be conducted on a modified weightlifting rack and a Vertec.
Some trial and error was involved in the long setup – which was just the beginning of the process. After testing commenced, it would take additional time to collect all of the data needed to run the numbers and make a final computation.
While the exercise served as a valuable learning experience, Baumgartner knew a more efficient and precise solution must exist.
Luckily, one would be delivered to the lab before the class was through.
The Problems Posed by Analog & Manual Testing
The “MacGyvered” design of the student’s DSI test wasn’t an anomaly. According to Baumgartner, most of the classroom lab tests are “still very much analog.” That means some amount of customization and experimentation is usually needed to run more niche assessments.
The analog (and sometimes wholly manual) nature of labs poses two primary problems: it can waste time – particularly in educational settings – and the results produced can be subjective.
Some tests conducted in Baumgartner’s lab use traditional analog tools, like dynamometers and goniometers. Others are done manually.
One such assessment, the “empty can test,” is widely practiced in the physiotherapy world. The test – taught in Baumgartner’s class and used in clinics to identify rotator cuff injuries – is based primarily on “feel” and perception. During the test, a therapist presses on a patient’s outstretched arm and gauges the symmetry of the resistance they meet.
While experienced therapists obviously develop a good “feel” for the level of resistance met, interpreting “findings” is an imprecise art. Further, because improvement generally arrives in small waves, it can be difficult to accurately determine how much progress has been made, Baumgartner said.
The lack of objectivity and standardization is, according to Baumgartner, one of the biggest gripes in the field – and can present challenges when teaching students about the importance of accuracy and precision.
To improve the scientific rigor of some tests, Baumgartner periodically uses high-end equipment – like Vicon motion capture systems, Humac isokinetic dynamometer, instrumented treadmills, and 3-dimentional force plates – in his lab classes.
While the systems and machines generate excellent data, they are still imperfect. They can be very complicated to learn to use and, like homegrown tests, become a time-suck – especially when it comes to gathering and interpreting data.
Because the high-end machines in his lab have such a high learning curve – and aren’t Bluetooth-enabled – Baumgartner is generally left to do all of the back-end data gathering and processing on his own.
And, any time spent collecting and crunching numbers, is time Baumgartner could spend training students.
The Solution: User-Friendly, Bluetooth-Enabled Physiotherapy Devices
Earlier this year, Baumgartner started searching for Bluetooth-enabled force plates that would allow students to easily run tests and interpret the results without having to process and log vast amounts of data.
To his pleasant surprise, he found not just force plates, but an entire line of Bluetooth-enabled tools that fit the bill. The suite of devices, manufactured by KINVENT, was the out-of-the-box solution he was looking for.
He placed an order from KINVENT’s U.S. distributor, JLW Instruments. In a serendipitous turn, the kit arrived early – just as his student trying to test DSI was in the middle of modifying the weightlifting rack.
Within half an hour of opening the box and setting up the devices’ connected KFORCE app, the student had abandoned the modified machine, completed the DSI test and collected the data he needed.
The Results: Greater Accuracy & Efficiency
The results from the assessments are sent directly to the KFORCE app so students can track the progress of tests in real time on the lab’s iPads.
Students can watch the results of the assessments they conduct on KINVENT devices in real time thanks to the KFORCE app.
Now, Baumgartner’s students learn how to do assessments with traditional tools and KINVENT devices – an approach he likens to teaching someone to navigate with both a paper map and GPS.
Students set up and run tests manually and with analog tools to build foundational knowledge and learn about anatomical landmarks and measurements.
But, when students want to run tests that call for greater sensitivity and accuracy, they can use the KINVENT devices and KFORCE app.
For example, instead of relying on the empty can test to assess rotator cuff function, students can now run tests on a number of KINVENT devices that allow them to measure tiny, incremental changes in resistance.
In addition to gathering more precise data, KINVENT devices allow the students to gather data more efficiently. Now, instead of getting bogged down in the minutiae of data collection, students can focus on understanding the science behind assessments and interpreting the results.
Beyond giving students greater insight, the devices have helped Baumgartner in his instruction, too. Now he and his students can do more advanced assessments. KINVENT, he said, “was a game-changer, for me and my students.”