by Ashley Mooney

One Duke football player is making an impact, both on and off the field, on the health of his teammates.

Senior Conor Irwin, an evolutionary anthropology major who is also an offensive lineman on the varsity football team, has done research regarding joint replacements and athletic injuries during his time at Duke.

In summer 2011, Irwin worked at the K-Lab, which focuses on understanding and preventing athletic injuries. There, he studied pressure distribution on the foot during unanticipated cutting—a maneuver where the person changes directions quickly.

To test this, subjects wore pressure sensor insoles in their shoes to show the distribution of stress in their feet during the task, which involved running in a straight line and then planting and cutting in the direction of a flashing light.

Irwin also collected data on hip, knee and ankle replacement patients who came into the lab for evaluations.

“As I understood it, Duke is one of few institutions to perform ankle replacements, and this [data] was being used to evaluate the different surgical techniques for ankle replacement,” Irwin said.

Beyond his work in the K-Lab, Irwin conducted an independent study with the advice of Dr. Claude Moorman III, director of the Duke Sports Medicine Center and head team physician, and John Anderson, a sports medicine fellow. He reviewed different surgical techniques for repairing a ruptured medial collateral ligament in the knee.

“The frequency of MCL injuries in football players—particularly offensive linemen, which is what I play—made me interested in a project dealing with the MCL,” he said.

MCL ruptures do not often require surgical interventions, however, there are certain cases where it is necessary. Irwin studied the progression of MCL treatments as well as current techniques.

Although the paper is still in the editing stage, Irwin noted that they plan to submit it to the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. They will also submit a video of an MCL operation on a cadaver as a separate publication.