James A. Ashton-Miller, PhD—Biomechanics Research

Member Highlight—June 2015

  • James Ashton-Miller, PhD (jaam@umich.edu)
    • Director, Biomechanics Research Laboratory, University of Michigan
    • Albert Schultz Collegiate Research Professor and Distinguished Research Scientist, Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering
    • Research Professor, Internal Medicine and Institute of Gerontology
    • Research Professor, School of Kinesiology
    • Associate Vice President for Research

​​Background and Interest in Injury Prevention

A nationally and internationally recognized researcher in the field of biomechanics, Dr. Ashton-Miller joined the university in 1983 and directs the Biomechanics Research Laboratory.  He, his students, and colleagues across the university are interested in injury prevention due to the enormous socioeconomic toll unintentional injuries take. They use theoretical and experimental approaches to gain insights into the biomechanics of unintentional injuries across the life span including spine and head injuries, ACL injuries, maternal birth-related injuries, and how they relate to incontinence and prolapse, and balance and falls in the elderly.  Better understanding of injury mechanisms often leads to improvements in prevention.  

Current Focus of Balance, Falls, and Concussion Research

In the area of balance and falls, Dr. Ashton-Miller and his colleagues are working to better understand how the brain controls the dynamics of balance, whether on a bicycle or one foot while standing or walking.  They use shoes they have invented, with actuators in their soles, to test people’s ability to walk safely on what seems like a flat surface with an occasional pebble that randomly may appear under one foot or the other, with and without attentional distractions. These help them discover how, when, and why certain diseases, such as diabetic peripheral neuropathy, are associated with falls and fall-related injuries, so more can be done to prevent them. 

In the area of concussion, they are studying the role of neck strength in children and have invented and validated a simple practical and portable test to evaluate recovery from concussion in and outside the clinic.

In the area of ACL injuries, they have uncovered the 3-D knee loading that causes the greatest ACL strain during a cut or pivot landing and gathered the first evidence that these injuries can result from tissue fatigue failure associated with an excessive number of large loading cycles, especially if the individual has restricted hip motion.  This has implications for improving athlete screening and training regimens.  

Dr. Ashton-Miller is a pro bono consultant to the NCAA Baseball Research Panel and an ASTM panel working to improve the specifications for building skylights so they better resist the impact of a worker should (s)he inadvertently trip or fall onto one while working on the roof of a commercial building.  His work is funded by NIH as well as Fortune 100 companies.

Click here to view Dr. Ashton-Miller’s Michigan Experts profile. 

Publication Date: 
Thursday, June 4, 2015
Article Type: