Midwest Regional Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine Awards Kent State Student for Research | e-Inside | Kent State University

Midwest Regional Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine Awards Kent State Student for Research

Sara Harper, exercise physiology graduate student at Kent State University, won the inaugural 2015 Midwest President’s Cup Award at the Midwest American College of Sports Medicine Conference for her research on the comparison of strength and aerobic capacity imbalances in lower limbs.

This was the first year for the President’s Cup Award, created for the Midwest American College of Sports Medicine Conference. This award is given to the top graduate student presentation, poster or oral at each regional conference.

Harper started her research as a side project that stemmed off the dissertation of Morgan Cooper-Bagley, Ph.D., director of athletic training at Mount Union and former Kent State exercise physiology graduate student. Harper, along with John McDaniel, assistant professor of exercise science at Kent State, decided to take the research in a different direction.  

McDaniel says he took an interest in this particular research because of his background as a competitive cyclist and triathlete.

“I originally presented this idea to Morgan for her dissertation,” McDaniel says. “I was co-director on her project along with Dr. Lisa Chinn. This project focused on the recovery process from ACL injuries.”

McDaniel says Harper collected data on Cooper-Bagley’s dissertation, and then Harper formed her own questions using the healthy control subjects.

“Sara is the type of student who loves to get involved and take on as much as she can,” McDaniel says.

Harper’s research focused on limb imbalance and which side of one’s body is more aerobically fit.

“In terms of strengths, a lot of people tend to have limb imbalances: right, left, dominant and non-dominant,” Harper says. “We can measure this in the upper and lower body. In terms of implication, it can be a pretty big deal. Whether you’re an athlete and looking at it from an injury prevention standpoint or you’re a young child who is developing, these imbalances could hold you back.”

Harper says she decided to take her research and look at it in a different mode involving aerobic capacity, which is the maximal amount of physiological work that an individual can do measured by oxygen consumption. 

“To measure aerobic capacity in cycling, we attached a counterweight to one pedal,” Harper says. “We had each person cycle one limb at a time. While this is going on, we measured aerobic capacity by having each cyclist wear a mask to breathe into. This allowed us to measure the level of oxygen and carbon dioxide so we could see how hard they were working.”

Harper says she hopes this research will help people find their imbalances early on so then they can correct it. Harper says that she would like to continue this research and find out if there is any correlation between imbalances in strength and imbalances in aerobic capacity.

“Winning the President’s Cup Award gave me confirmation that my research was worth continuing,” Harper says. “This is just the first step. After doing this research, I have five other studies I want to do now that we’ve discovered this pretty basic idea.”

Angela Ridgel, Ph.D., C.P.T., EP-C, exercise science and physiology associate professor, says she hopes other Kent State students see how strong the university’s research program is.

“All undergraduate and graduate students are encouraged to start research through individual investigation,” Ridgel says. “We are proud of the research opportunities at our school. Sara winning this award is great for our program and university.”

Harper will present her research on May 31 at the National American College of Sports Medicine Conference along with the President’s Cup winner from each of the 12 regions.

Learn more about the Midwest Regional Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine

Learn more about research labs and opportunities in the Exercise Science/Physiology Program