UNC professor receives national honor for ACL research, prevention

Darin Padua

An exercise and sport science professor and his former Ph.D. student have won major awards from the National Athletic Trainers Association.

Darin A. Padua, professor and chair of the department of exercise and sport science in UNC’s College of Arts & Sciences and co-director of the Sports Medicine Research Laboratory, was honored with the Medal for Distinguished Athletic Training Research. This is the highest form of recognition for research in this field.

The award from NATA is given to someone who has a prolific and sustained body of research in athletic training and sports medicine, and who has had a significant impact on the athletic training profession.

Padua’s primary research interests focus on identifying risk factors and developing evidence-based prevention strategies for musculoskeletal injuries, such as injury to the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament).

“Professor Padua is not only one of the College’s most innovative academic leaders, he is regarded as an international leader in researching the prevention of ACL tears, one of the most debilitating injuries in sports,” said Dean Kevin M. Guskiewicz. “There is no one more deserving in sports medicine for this outstanding recognition.”

The award citation commended Padua for “his strong focus on clinical applications — providing tools and methods for athletic trainers to prevent and screen athletes for lower extremity musculoskeletal injuries and to return them to play only after any biomechanical deficits have been corrected.”

David R. Bell, now assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, received the New Investigator Award.

Padua was Bell’s Ph.D. adviser. According to the award citation, “Padua was instrumental in helping him to develop a progressive and focused line of research with the ultimate goal of aiding athletic trainers and their patients in the clinical setting.”

Both Bell and Padua have UNC alumni connections. Bell earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise and sport science in 2001 and a Ph.D. in human movement science in 2010 from UNC-Chapel Hill. Padua earned an M.A. in exercise and sport science (athletic training specialization) from UNC in 1998.

The Journal of Athletic Training featured the awards in its June special issue. The awards will be presented June 27 at the National Athletic Trainers’ Association annual meeting in Houston.