In 2013, a 50,000 square-foot East Memorial Stadium expansion brought together researchers from the Nebraska Athletic Performance Laboratory (NAPL) and UNL’s Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior (CB3). Each research center is more than 20,000 square feet. Both are connected by a bridge located inside Nebraska’s football stadium. The NAPL is believed to be the first in-stadium, on-campus research center directed by a collegiate department of athletics. Both research centers work collaboratively to expand understanding of performance, safety, brain function, health and long-term well-being that benefits student-athletes, the military and society.
The East Stadium Nebraska Athletic Performance Lab comprises approximately 23,000 square feet on the second and third floors of East Memorial Stadium. This cutting-edge facility allows the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to establish a center for excellence in sports science that provides a unique link between UNL's prestigious Athletics program, various academic departments within the University, and private partners with a shared interest in improving the health, safety and welfare of our student athletes and the general community.
Under the direction of Judith M. Burnfield, PhD, PT the Nebraska Athletic Performance Lab will allows researchers space to conduct advanced research on everything from the biomechanics of elite athletes to athletic and nutrition supplements to biomarkers that measure saliva and recovery time to cardiovascular research to athletic equipment issues such as helmet and footwear design. This research will allow for innovative solutions that will benefit athletes in terms of their safety and athletic performance which will also scale to the benefit of the general public.
Nebraska Athletic Performance Laboratory Student-Athlete Support Services:
- The Nebraska Athletic Performance Laboratory (NAPL) is located in the East side of Memorial Stadium and is led by a director, five post-doctorate fellows and a research analyst.
- Focused on student-athlete health, safety and welfare, the Nebraska Athletic Performance Laboratory houses cutting-edge technology, including a motion-analysis system, force plates, metabolic testing, IDXA scanner (considered the “gold standard” in body composition testing), research-grade ultrasound and an endocrinology laboratory.
- Collaborative research projects are conducted in conjunction with the University of Nebraska’s Center for Brain, Biology, and Behavior (CB3). These projects focus on immediate and long-term student-athlete performance, health and well-being, including projects that focus on concussion prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
Operations in the facility can be best understood by the different types of activities which take place on each respective floor. The lower level can be considered the "Dynamic Space" whereas the upper level can be considered the "Collaboration Space."
Athletic Performance Lab - Dynamic Space
The surfaces in the Dynamc Space will represent the conditions experienced by athletes and researchers in an applied setting. Multiple surfaces including synthetic field turf, rubberized athletic flooring, and hardwood flooring flow openly from one region of the zone to another, complemented by various pieces of auxiliary equipment to enhance the sport-spefic context for each layer of research. Twelve force plates will integrate seamlessly with an 18-camera motion analysis system, enabling researchers to dynamically reconfigure the environmnet for indepth analysis of athletes' biomechanical form and function during critical activities of interest. The open turf area houses a variety of features for various types of athletic testing including a batting cage and golf swing area. A half-court basketball court is available which includes a retractable ceiling-mounted basketball goal and removable volleyball net. Running lanes with embedded force plates will enable study of form and acceleration patterns for select track events. A rubber coated surface space is also available with power lifting racks and a retractable throws cage for track and field throwing activities. A dedicated cardiovascular zone will enable indepth assessment of cardiac function and efficiency.
The dynamic space is provided with locker, shower and restroom facilities as well as a large storage area for dynamic space equipment to be housed when not in use.
Athletic Performance Lab - Collaboration Space
The Collaborative Space, located directly above the Dynamic Space, will contain additional technology to enhance researchers' capacity to study and influence athletic performance and safety. A pioneering biomarkers laboratory complete with instrumentation to support traditional measures of urine and serum contents along with tools to analyze saliva, will capitalize on the rapidly growing field of interdisciplinary salivary biosciences research. The facility will also house a bone density scanner, the gold-standard for body composition analyses, and ultrasound to evaluate structural integrity of muscle and tendon tissue. In addition, a transcranial Doppler systemw ill enable assessment of blood flow changes in response to training and injury. An interactive visual tracking system will assess the speed of optical tracking for athletic and training activities. Treatment rooms of various sizes are also available for blood dras and other testing procedures.
Beyond containing state-of-the-art technology, the Collaboration Space will also provide an environment for researchers, athletic trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, clinicians and industry partners with a broad array of expertise to network, collaborate and contribute meaningfully to the advancement of understanding athletic human performance and safety. The open office area that takes up the majority of the north end of the Collaborative Space is designed for maximum flexibility. A moveable wall system allows for a variety of configurations for office and meeting space. A key component of the research facility is the opportunity for the open exchange of ideas between affiliates and members of the University. The work space configuration allows for open and flexible collaboration areas for casual interaction and brainstorming. An extensive office area will allow for modular meeting and work space fitted to support standard conferencing, teleconferencing, classroom/seminar presentation, and video conference seating arrangements.
For more information on opportunities with the Nebraska Performance Lab please contact Judy Burnfield below.
Judith M. Burnfield, PhD, PT
Director of the Nebraska Athletic Performance Lab