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Sean Flanagan Named 2012-13 CSUN Research Fellow

Sean Flanagan

Associate Professor Sean P. Flanagan, Ph.D., A.T.C., C.S.C.S. (Kinesiology) has been named the 2012-13 CSUN Research Fellow from the College of Health and Human Development. Nine of these fellowships are awarded to faculty across campus each academic year to support research and academic development.

During this fellowship year, Flanagan will dedicate his time to his biomechanics research project, “Multi Joint Synergies” which explores the ways joints work together to perform tasks. “Because of the way joints function as small ‘teams,’ performance may be impeded or an injury can occur even though each joint technically has the capacity to accomplish its task,” Flanagan said. “It may not be the capacities of the individual joints, but the synergy, or lack of synergy, that is the root of a particular problem.”

Using a method of mechanical energy analysis that he developed, Flanagan has been able to demonstrate the interaction between joints to clearly show how failure occurs. “This methodology will serve as the crux for this project,” Flanagan said. He is also preparing a manuscript on the subject that will be informed by this research.

The paradigm uses human subjects to examine the use and conservation of energy during particular jumping tasks. “We can compare and contrast the energetics of the lower extremity joints during the propulsive (take-off) phases, which are important to performance, and the landing phases, which we look to for information on injury prevention,” Flanagan said. “Differences between take-off and landing can be attributed differences in synergy, and not the capacity of the individual joints.”

“Traditional biomechanical research designs and analyses don’t always describe the nature of movement problems adequately. The significance of this work is to better describe multi-joint synergies, both in successful movements and those that fail,” Flanagan said. Among the projected outcomes of the research is to inform performance enhancement theories and injury prevention and rehabilitation programs.

As is common with his research projects, Flanagan is involving biomechanics students from undergraduate and graduate levels. This tactic not only provides research experience to the students, but gives those who meet authorship criteria the opportunity to co-author presentations and publications. “Before receiving this award I had two undergraduate and five graduate students assisting. Thanks to this award I have the opportunity to recruit more students and give them greater supervision in the lab,” Flanagan said, “The information gleaned from this study will also be applied to future student research projects and can be used in future instruction.”

On the faculty at CSUN since 2004, Sean P. Flanagan received his Ph.D. in Biokinesiology from University of Southern California, following an M.S. in Exercise Science from University of Dayton and a B.S. in Exercise and Sport Science from The Pennsylvania State University.

The fellowship was created in 2007 and is funded collaboratively by the Office of the Provost, the Colleges and the Library.

- Jean O'Sullivan