UVA Biomedical Engineering Professor’s Research Examines Elite Sprinters’ Muscles for Insight

As fans around the world marvel at the athletic feats performed in the 2016 Summer Olympics, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering Silvia Blemker is investigating how differences in musculature can help lead to Olympic gold.

In her latest publication, “Adding muscle where you need it: non-uniform hypertrophy patterns in elite sprinters,” Blemker analyzes the size differences between the muscles of elite sprinters and non-sprinters. Blemker and her co-authors, including UVA Engineering’s Craig Meyer, professor of biomedical engineering and radiology, and Katie Knaus, a graduate student in biomedical engineering, used non-Cartesian MRIs to measure muscle sizes in 15 NCAA Division I sprinters, which they then compared to the muscles of non-sprinters.

The publication found that while the elite sprinters’ muscles were notably larger than those of non-sprinters, the size difference was more notable in certain types of muscles, particularly hip- and knee-crossing muscles. These results indicate that sprinters who have large hip and knee flexors and extensors have an advantage over those who do not.