Dr Aliah Shaheen obtained her BEng degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Birmingham in 2006 and her PhD from Imperial College London in 2010.
Her PhD focused on developing methods for accurate tracking of scapular movement in-vivo. Following her PhD, she worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the same institution investigating the efficacy of physiotherapeutic rehabilitation techniques of the shoulder in people suffering from shoulder impingement.She joined the University of Surrey in July 2011 as a lecturer in Human Movement Analysis.
In this latest interview for the SRI Talks to Series we talked to Aliah about Human Movement Science , her paper on Scapular taping (found here: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/804175/) as well as a joint project Aliah is undertaking with Khim Horton and Jennifer Jackson examining the effects of ballet and ageing on movement control. We conclude with a discussion of Aliah’s current research and we want to thank her for giving us a very interesting glimpse into her work and research.
1: You are a lecturer in “Human Movement Science” how would you describe this subject to a member of the public?
Human Movement Science is a field that encompasses all aspects of studying human movement; including how the movement is learnt, performed, improved and recovered.
The Human Movement Science has applications in many fields. From a clinical point of view, understanding how the movement is affected by pathologies or injuries that affect the brain, muscles or bones can unlock important information about the underlying causes of these conditions. Another aspect of Human Movement study is it allows us to devise effective rehabilitation plans, to evaluate treatments and surgical procedures and to design joint implants and artificial limbs that best mimic the natural human movement. In sports, understanding how the body moves allows you to improve training and technique as well as to reduce the risks of developing injuries. It is due to advancements in our understanding of the human body and its movement that modern athletes are able to run faster, jump higher and set new records.
But these are not the only applications; analysing human movement is also used in other fields such as ergonomics, arts and animations.
2: You have written an article on Scapular taping “Scapular taping alters kinematics in asymptomatic subjects”. Could you tell us what Scapular taping is and what is the impact of your findings for people who perform repetitive movements with their shoulders, e.g. swimmers, tennis players, and for professionals who are involved in their medical well-being?
Taping of joints and muscles has been gaining popularity in recent years; this trend is more than likely helped by the many athletes who have been seen with various applications of the coloured tape in recent years. Serena Williams, David Beckham Novak Djokovic and Mario Balotelli have all joined in on the trend. The use of taping, however, is not recent. Non-stretch (rigid) tape has been used for years in the clinic in combination with other rehabilitation techniques.
Interestingly, despite the extensive use of taping in the clinic and in sports, little is known about its effect on movement and there is a general lack of evidence for its effectiveness in relation to the shoulder joint. There are a number of reasons for this; one reason is because, despite the long list of claims of the tape manufacturing bodies, we still do not fully understand what taping actually does. Secondly, because we do not have a complete understanding of how the healthy shoulder moves due to the complexity of its anatomy.
Scapular taping simply refers to taping that is applied on the shoulder with the aim of correcting the shoulder blade (scapula) movement. The study investigated the effect of taping on shoulder movement and in particular shoulder blade movement in a group of subjects that had healthy shoulders. The results showed that taping did alter the movement of the scapula in a direction that would be of benefit for patients that suffer from a shoulder condition called shoulder impingement syndrome. The condition is particularly prevalent in athletes that use their shoulders repeatedly in an overhead position, such as tennis players, swimmers and baseball players. Interestingly, these athletes often use taping as part of an injury prevention strategy and the results provide some evidence for its use for that purpose. However, a lot of research still needs to be done to allow us to fully evaluate the effectiveness of taping in prevention or treatment.
3: You are currently involved in a joint project with Khim Horton and Jennifer Jackson examining the effects of ballet and aging on movement control, can you tell us your aims and initial findings?
The MILES-funded project was a result of discussions with Khim Horton in Social Care and Jennifer Jackson in Arts about the use of ballet principles in an exercise programme for older people in a similar way that tai chi is used in exercise programmes for older people to reduce incidence of falls.
The aims of the project were to look at the effects ballet practice on balance and risk of falling in older people, and to look at the effect of ageing on balance and movement in ballet dancers. We conducted two parallel studies where we looked at differences in balance and movement parameters between older ballet dancers and older non-dancers and a second study looked at the differences between young and older ballet dancers.
The results showed that older ballet dancers performed much better than older non-dancers in movement activities, such as walking across the room. But they did worse on measurements of balance. Interestingly, older dancers performed to the same level of young dancers in most of the measured parameters. The results of this study will form the basis for a future collaboration with Khim Horton and Jennifer Jackson that will look into the feasibility and effectiveness of using an exercise programme based on ballet principles for older people to improve their movement control and subsequently reduce their risk of falling.
4: Finally could you tell us about your current research?
In general terms, my research employs experimental and computational methods in biomechanics to address clinical questions. I work closely with clinical partners to identify the underlying causes of pathologies, improve the efficacy of treatments and provide clinical tools for the assessment, diagnosis and classification of musculoskeletal problems. My current research is mainly focussed on application of these tools in upper-limb and shoulder problems, amputee gait and the ageing population.
More specifically, I am interested in the concept of movement variability and coordination of body joints and what role they play in musculoskeletal function. I am interested in using our understanding of this biomechanical concept in optimising and restoring function.
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