The University of Wisconsin-Madison is considered one of the premier research institutions in the country, and the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program is proud to contribute to this reputation. Faculty within the program conduct research on a variety of topics and their work spans from basic science to applied clinical research. Faculty are well-respected in their research and clinical fields, and give numerous presentations nationwide and internationally.

Students not only have the opportunity to learn from accomplished clinicians but from individuals who are striving to expand the knowledge base of physical therapy, health and science in general.

An important component of the Doctor of Physical Therapy curriculum is the research track. Students receive instruction in research design and statistics germane to rehabilitation medicine and become good "consumers" of published research through a review of articles relevant to physical therapy practice. They also have the opportunity to work with research mentors within or external to the program. Many students coauthor journal publications and present research findings at national and state meetings.

Active projects

The Effect of Mesenchymal Stem Cells on Skeletal Muscle Injury

Current trends in muscle injury research are aimed at discovering the optimal pro- and anti-inflammatory balance in order to facilitate early regeneration and limit fibrosis, thereby improving functional recovery and decreasing reinjury rates. The aim of this study is to determine the effect of mouse mesenchymal stem cells on immune-cell regulated healing following a single stretch injury in the calf muscle of mice.

Funding: UW Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation

Longitudinal Evaluation of Aerobic Capacity and the Relationship to Injury and Illness in Elite Collegiate Athletes

Aerobic capacity, or VO2max, is an indicator of cardiorespiratory fitness and emerging evidence suggest that it may also be a predictor of injury risk. The aim of this study is to identify the relationship between pre-season fitness and in-season training load and injury.

Utilization of Force and Power in a Vertical and Lateral Jump to Determine Fatigue in Male Basketball and Hockey Players

The aim of the pilot work is to determine how to best utilize findings from a jump analysis to guide strength training dosage in basketball and hockey players.

Evaluating a Patient-centered, Web-based Intervention to Improve Work Ability of Breast Cancer Survivors

The purpose of this project is to evaluate the effects of a novel health information technology that incorporates symptom management and ergonomic strategies to improve work ability in breast cancer survivors. This project targets both symptom management of breast cancer survivors and modifiable workplace risk factors to minimize work disability.

Factors Affecting Work Limitations in Women with Advanced Breast Cancer

The purpose of this project is to identify factors that influence work limitations and employment in those with advanced breast cancer. This information will be used to develop resources to help women address employment challenges that they may encounter.

Optimizing Survivorship Care Coordination: A Sociotechnical Systems Approach

The overall goal of this proposal is to improve the fragmented and uncoordinated care experienced by cancer survivors. Human factors engineers, in conjunction with oncology and primary care clinicians, will re-engineer a survivorship care plan and surrounding work system in order to improve survivorship care.

Assessment of an Electronic Health Record Generated Cancer Care Plan to Improve Health Outcomes in Cancer Survivors

The objective of this project is to evaluate the effect of an electronic health record-generated care plan on survivor health outcomes and clinical workflow in oncology and primary care.

Designing Usable and Accessible Health Information Technologies

The purpose of this project is to research and develop innovative technological solutions for, and promote universal access to, current and emerging health information technologies and technology interfaces that promote a seamless integration of multiple technologies used by individuals with chronic illnesses or disabilities in the home, the community and the workplace.

A Virtual Reality Rehabilitation System for Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain

The purpose of this project is to evaluate a virtual reality rehabilitation system to minimize fear avoidance behaviors in individuals with chronic pain.

Development and Validation of the University of Wisconsin Running Injury and Recovery Index

The objective of this project is to develop the first running specific patient-reported outcome measure enabling clinicians and researchers to quantify limitations in running resulting from an injury. This project involves a multi-stage, iterative process to develop the outcome measure and evaluate the psychometric properties.

Establishing a Clinical Database for Spinal Muscular Atrophy: A Multidisciplinary Approach to a Complex Pediatric Population

This study will develop a basis for establishing a standard of clinical care for children with spinal muscular atrophy based on the current care from multiple centers. The study will initially collect retrospective data but will move to collecting prospective data to establish long term outcomes of clinical care.

ECHOWS: Reliability and Validity of a Physical Therapy Student Patient-Interview

This study utilizes clinicians and student standardized patient tapes from Australia and the U.S. to establish inter-rater and intra-rater reliability, as well as construct validity of the student patient-interview assessment tool named ECHOWS.

Funding: UW Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation

The Impact on Pregnancy-Related Lumbopelvic Pain in Different Countries

This is a multi-national study, involving four countries, that is examining the impact and care received for pelvic girdle and low back pain in pregnant women.

Reliability of the ECHOWS Assessment Tool When Utilized in Live Patient-interviews

Collaborative study with the Medical University of South Carolina to study implementation of the ECHOWS tools for assessment of student history taking in a live setting.

Survey on Inappropriate Patient Sexual Behavior Directed Towards United States Physical Therapists; Prevalence, Risk and Reaction

This project assesses type and frequency and response to inappropriate patient sexual behavior amongst physical therapists, physical therapists assistants, and students in the United States, and ascertains if particular patient populations or practice settings place physical therapists at greater risk of inappropriate patient sexual behavior.

Funding: Section on Women's Health research grant

Functional Testing as Additional Criteria for Return to Play following an ACL Sprain

The objective of this study is to investigate changes in body composition and dynamic force measures following an acute ACL sprain with the goal of improving return to play criteria.

Funding: UW Sports Medicine Research Foundation

Does Abdominal Muscle Retraining Post-pregnancy Stabilize the Pelvis during Running?

The objective of this study is to determine the relationship between abdominal muscle recruitment patterns and pelvic motion during running and to determine if abnormal recruitment patterns can be improved with a retraining program and subsequently alter pelvic motion during running.

Funding: UW Sports Medicine Research Foundation

Once 'Stepping On' Ends: Continuing a Group Falls Prevention Program via the Internet

The proposed study will develop and test a real-time online video program to facilitate long-term falls prevention behavioral maintenance.

Funding: UW PERC Collaborative Health Sciences Program

Physical Therapy vs. Internet-Based Exercise Training for Patients with Knee Osteoarthritis

The proposed study will compare the effectiveness of standard physical therapy management and a novel, tailored internet-based exercise training program on physical activity levels and associated patient-centered outcomes among patients with knee osteoarthritis.

Funding: PCORI

Change of Running Form as an Adjunct Treatment for Running-related Injuries

The objective of this study is to investigate if prescribing a higher running cadence in addition to standard physical therapy care is more effective at reducing pain and improving function in runners with anterior knee pain compared to standard physical therapy care alone.

Funding: UW Sports Medicine Research Foundation

Using a Performance Testing Battery to Track Injury-risk and Athletic Performance in Student-Athletes

Performed in collaboration with  the UW Badger Athletic Performance program, this research area involves several individual projects encompassing neuromuscular, musculoskeletal, cardiopulmonary, nutrition and sleep behaviors.

Observing the Impact of Manual Therapy Fellowship Education on Clinical Decision-Making Abilities

Patient vignettes were developed and incorporated into a survey. The survey was sent to orthopaedic manual physical therapy fellows and to licensed non-specialist physical therapists. Responders were asked to make clinical decisions based on the provided patient vignette.

Comparing Patient Demographics and Health Histories Between Physical Therapy Direct Access and Physician Referred Patient Populations

Secondary aim-investigate the impact of patient demographics and health histories on outcomes to physical therapy management. Patient medical record data will be accessed to document patient demographics and health histories, provided physical therapy care and patient outcomes.

Applying Cross-Age Mentoring to Empower Disadvantaged Youth in School and Community Settings

Cross-age mentoring is an evidence-based, little-used technique that empowers both mentees and mentors to engage in activity. Mentees gain interest in activity through role models to whom they can relate, and mentors gain self-confidence through admiration of the mentees, motivating them to continue their engagement.