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Activities: NIOSH Funded Research Grants

NIOSH sponsors research and training through its extramural programs, which complement the Institute's intramural programs. The following list includes MSD-related extramural projects that were funded in 2005. More information is available from the  NIOSH Office of Extramural Programs . Projects receiving funds in 2006 includes the following grants and cooperative agreements:

Surveillance and Epidemiology
Back Disorders in Union Carpenters

The purpose is to study back disorders among 20,000 high-risk carpenters over a 15-year period, building upon prior research using a historical cohort of union carpenters in Washington State. The project will also evaluate incidence and recurrent work-related back disorders.

Contact: Hester Lipscomb
Duke University
Project period: 6/1/2004-5/30/2007

Etiological Research
Skin Temperature in the Hands of Office Workers

This study will provide a new investigator (an epidemiologist and electrical engineer) with the opportunity to work with experienced researchers in the fields of epidemiology, ergonomics, occupational health medicine, bioengineering, and electrical engineering in developing an objective technique for detection of upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders (UEMSDs). Training components will include image processing and biophysical modeling. The long-term objective of this study is to evaluate the efficacy of infrared thermography in the dorsal hand for detection of sub clinical distal UEMSDs. The goal of the proposed study is to expand a prior pilot study, in which office workers were subjected to a typing challenge in conjunction with thermography. New elements will include improved ambient temperature control, blood flow measurements, and detailed clinical evaluation in order to improve case characterization. The specific aims seek to evaluate the suitability of thermography for evaluation of UEMSDs and for improved understanding of UEMSD pathophysiology. These include assessing the reproducibility of dorsum mean temperature thermography (DMMT), determining the relationship between skin temperature and subcutaneous blood volume as measured by near-infrared spectroscopy, and using DMMT to investigate differences between symptomatic and asymptomatic office workers.

Contact: Judith Gold
Temple University
Project period: 9/1/2005-8/31/2008

Understanding Vibration Injury

Our long-term goal is to understand the mechanism of vibration injury at the cellular and molecular levels in order to define strategies for monitoring and preventing hand arm vibration syndrome. These studies help to improve the health, safety and welfare of workers exposed to hazardous vibration.

Contact: Danny Riley
Medical College of Wisconsin
Project period: 9/30/2004-6/30/2009

Vibration, Proprioception, and Low Back Stability

The aims of this research are to begin to investigate the effects of vibration on proprioception in the low back and spinal stability. It is hypothesized that reposition sense error (one measure of proprioception) will increase with exposure to vibration. Further, it is expected that this increase will be different with different frequencies of vibration exposure. The temporal properties of these changes will be investigated. It is hypothesized that after removal of the vibration, the increased error will persist for some time before eventually returning to baseline. Finally, these changes in proprioception will be compared to changes in sudden load dynamics using a model of spinal dynamics in order to assess the effect of proprioception on spinal stability. This work will provide the ground work for future research examining how proprioception is altered by occupational vibration exposure and how it affects the overall spinal stabilization.

Contact: Sara Wilson
University of Kansas
Project period: 09/30/2003-09/29/2006

Mechanisms of Vascular Dysfunction in Vibration Injury

Three specific aims are proposed to analyze the effects of acute and chronic exposure of cutaneous arteries to differing intensities of vibration exposure: (1) will determine mechanisms underlying the vibration-induced increase in sympathetic vasoconstriction, (2) will determine mechanisms underlying the vibration-induced increase in cold sensitivity of cutaneous arteries, and (3) will determine the effects of vibration on endothelial cell function and vascular structure.

Contact: Nicholas Flavahan
Ohio State University
Project period: 08/01/2005-07/31/2010

Physiology of Cumulative Low Back Disorders

The aim of this project is to further the understanding of the physiology of low back disorders by exploring the biomechanical and neurophysiological responses to a series of static and cyclic loads simulating a wide range of load-recovery schemes.

Contact: Moshe Solomonow
University of Colorado Denver
Project period: 8/1/2003-7/31/2008

In Vivo Rabbit Model of Finger Musculoskeletal Disorders

The long term goals of this study are to (1) determine the relative contributions of individual biomechanical characteristics of finger joint loading, namely repetition, force level, and duration of exposure and (2) demonstrate causality between these biomechanical risk factors, cellular response, tissue damage, and injury. The results of this mechanobiology project will lead to guidelines for effective interventions of MSDs of the hand joints such as osteoarthritis (OA) or degenerative joint disease (DJD). This project addresses the RFA in (1) developing a quantitative dose-response model identifying dose-response relationships, (2) determining whether the injury response of the tissue has more to do with repetition of loading or level of peak load, and (3) identifying the ultrastructural injury and biochemical alterations associated with physical loading.

Contact: Karen King
University of California San Francisco
Project period: 9/30/2003-8/31/2007

Collaborative Study: Workplace Musculoskeletal Disorders

This study aims to determine the dose-response relationships between exposure to biomechanics factors and the development of hand, wrist, and elbow MSDs.

Contact: David Rempel
University of California San Francisco
Project period: 9/1/2003-8/31/2007

Macaque Model for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) Due to Overuse

The long-term objectives of this line of research are to (1) characterize dose-response relationships between various physical exposures (force, repetition, etc) and development of CTS due to chronic overuse, (2) study the injury, recovery, and reinjury cycle, and (3) characterize effects of modification of physical exposures to initial development of CTS and recurrence, for the purposes of establishing a direct link between chronic overuse and development of CTS, identifying threshold levels of physical exposures that can be considered low risk, characterizing the change in those threshold levels when physical exposures occur in combinations, and determining how these thresholds are altered if the interest is in prevention of recurrence of CTS.

Contact: Carolyn Sommerich
Ohio State University
Project period: 4/1/2005-3/31/2007

Effect of Repetition in Aged Rats with WMSD

In this 3-year study, we will extend our model to consider the effects of aging. We will use qualitative and quantitative histological and immunochemical techniques, and behavioral tests of motor and psychosocial function to address the following specific aims related to exposure of aged rats to repetitive, low force reaching and grasping. The specific airms are to (1) determine the extent to which exposure to two task regimens, high repetition-low force (HRLF) and low repetition-low force (LRLF) causes tissue injury, inflammation, fibrosis and degeneration in musculoskeletal and neural tissues of the upper extremity in aged rats, (2) determine the extent to which exposure to the two task regimens (HRLF, LRLF) causes declines in motor performance in aged rats, and (3) determine the extent to which exposure to the two task regimens (HRLF, LRLF) causes psychosocial behavior dysfunction in aged rats. Examination of localized tissue and humoral responses in aged rats following exposure to repetitive tasks will make important contributions to occupational health practice. Our previous work shows that tissue pathophysiology in early WMSD development is inflammatory and dose-dependent. We hypothesize that tissue tolerance declines over time if task exposures are sufficient to overload tissues and cause repeated injury/inflammation leading to tissue fibrosis, degeneration and long-term disability. We also hypothesize that age-related tissue changes will further affect tissue tolerance, thus amplifying declines in tissue tolerance leading to greater motor and behavioral dysfunctions. Through the use of our animal model, we have an opportunity to test our hypothesis regarding the effects of risk factors on tissue and function in aged rats in order to provide insight into effective prevention and management of WMSD in older adults.

Contact: Mary Barbe
Temple University
Project period: 9/1/2005-8/31/2008

Exposure Assessment
Post-Offer Screening and Risk Factors for CTS

The purpose of this research is to (1) assess the effectiveness of pre-employment screening nerve conduction studies on the prevention of CTS, and (2) compare the cumulative incidence of CTS in workers with and without baseline abnormalities of median nerve conduction, in order to test the predictive validity of pre-placement nerve conduction studies.

Contact: Bradley Evanoff
Washington University, St. Louis
Project period: 6/1/2004-5/31/2009

Developing an Instrument to Measure Keyboarding Style

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders of the upper extremity remain a serious concern in many work environments. Keyboarding work is one kind of work wherein the relationship between work activities and risk of developing upper extremity MSDs has been contentious. This research can help clarify the relationship between specific keyboarding activities and the risk of developing a work-related upper extremity MSD.

Contact: Nancy Baker
University of Pittsburgh
Project period: 5/1/2004-4/30/2007

Tools for Exposure Assessment of Physical Risk Factors in VDT Work

We will develop and validate a task-based exposure assessment tool that integrates individual duration and frequency of the exposure and that accounts for subject variability through measuring the subject's specific intensities of the force and postural exposures. Usage monitors can record the frequency and duration of computer work; however, they record input device activities only and do not directly measure non-input device activities such as viewing the monitor. Most interactions with the computer are bounded by input device use allowing for indirect measurements of non-input device activities by assuming that small input device idle times are periods of non-input device activities. Therefore we will complete a pilot field study to determine the size of these small idles and validate that a computer usage monitor accurately records the complete user interaction. To identify and determine optimal sampling strategies for subject-specific exposure intensities, we will measure forces applied to the mouse and keyboard and wrist posture continuously on the same set of subjects in three scenarios: (1) while completing standardized tasks at a simulated workstation, (2) while completing the same standardized tasks at their own workstation, and (3) while completing their day-to-day work tasks at their own workstation across 3 days. Combined with a larger scale epidemiology study, these tools will be a critical development in the determination of the dose-response relationship for computer-associated MSDs. Technology transfers include potential software products for computer users to monitor their own work patterns.

Contact: Jack Dennerlein
Harvard University
Project period: 9/1/2005-8/31/2008

Prospective Study of Upper Extremity Musculoskeletal Disorders (UEMSDs) and Physical Job Stressors

Workers will record information of musculoskeletal exposures of the extremities in order to document exposure. Two primary aims will be addressed: (1) the incidence of specific UEMSDs will be estimated among manufacturing workers and (2) multivariate analyses that incorporate time-varying independent variables will be performed to test the hypothesis that incident UEMSDs are associated with physical job stressors after controlling for potential confounding variables.

Contact: Frederic Gerr
University of Iowa
Project period: 9/1/2003-8/31/2007

Intervention Effectiveness
Evaluation of an Ergonomically Improved Apple Bag

The proposed research is designed to: A. develop and preliminarily evaluate three ergonomic modifications to the apple harvest bag, and select the superior modification for B, a fully randomized orchard trial measuring self-reported back, neck and shoulder pain and strain outcomes.

Contact: John May
Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital
Project period: 5/1/2004-4/30/2007

Effectiveness of Patient Lift Equipment

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of lift equipment in the prevention of patient-handling injuries at a large tertiary care medical center.

Contact: Hester Lipscomb
Duke University
Project period: 8/1/2005-7/31/2009

Midwest Nursery Grower Intervention

The purpose of this study is to (1) develop or identify existing control technologies for work performed on nursery operations engaged in bedding and garden plants and nursery crops production in the U.S. Midwest, (2) conduct field research to evaluate the control technologies, (3) conduct and evaluate a large, region-wide intervention to promote the best control technologies, (4) disseminate information about the improved work practices through the sources that growers are already known to rely on for information about new production methods (i.e. other growers, trade publication, public events, university Extension and other private and public sector resource people, the Internet, etc.), and (5) evaluate the interventions.

Contact: Larry Chapman
University of Wisconsin Madison
Project period: 9/30/2003-9/29/2007

Effectiveness of Computer-Based Safety Training in Vineyards

The purpose of this project is to (1) evaluate whether effective and cost-efficient computer-based training coupled with supervisor feedback and contingent reinforcement can produce safe work practices and (2) determine if the information received through this method can be maintained in the work practice throughout the year.

Contact: W. Kent Anger
Oregon Health and Sciences University
Project period: 9/30/2003-9/29/2007

Ergonomic Partnership to Address Treefruit Worker Injury

The purpose of this project is to (1) scientifically document and describe ergonomics risk factors involved in hand harvest of treefruit, (2) to develop and evaluate field practical applications of known controls that eliminate or significantly reduce targeted hand harvest risk factors, (3) scientifically test the impact of selected interventions combined together on targeted hand harvest risk factors, and (4) improve community-based understanding of ergonomics methods and improve intervention practices in hand harvest of treefruit.

Contact: John Miles
University of California Davis
Project period: 9/30/2003-9/29/2007


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  • Page last updated: December 18, 2012 The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
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