Troy Blackburn

Troy Blackburn, PhD, ATC
Co-Director, NMRL

Troy Blackburn, PhD, ATC is an Associate Professor of Exercise and Sport Science and an Adjunct Associate Professor of Orthopaedics and Allied Health Sciences. Prior to joining the faculty in 2006, he received a B.A. in Exercise and Sport Science (Athletic Training Concentration) from UNC-Chapel Hill (1998), a M.S. in Sports Medicine from the University of Pittsburgh (2000), and a Ph.D. in Human Movement Science (Biomechanics Concentration) from UNC-Chapel Hill (2004). Dr. Blackburn directs the Neuromuscular Research Laboratory, and his primary research interests are in neuromuscular and biomechanical contributions to orthopaedic injury and disease, particularly in the lower extremity. His current research focus is on neuromechanical factors that influence knee joint stability and development of knee osteoarthritis. He was the recipient of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Research and Education Foundation David H. Perrin Outstanding Dissertation Award (2007) and Freddie H. Fu New Investigator Award (2009).
Darin Padua 2013-resize

Darin A. Padua, PhD, ATC
Co-Director, SMRL

Dr. Padua serves as a Professor and Chair of Exercise and Sport Science and Director of the Sports Medicine Research Laboratory. He is an adjunct faculty member in the following Departments at UNC: Orthopaedics, Biomedical Engineering, and Allied Health Sciences. Over the past 14 years, Dr. Padua’s research has focused on the prevention of sport-related musculoskeletal injuries. He has served as a lead investigator on the largest study ever conducted to investigate biomechanical, postural alignment, and strength related risk factors for ACL injury, stress fractures, and patello-femoral pain. As a result of this work, Dr. Padua has identified specific movement patterns that increase an athlete’s risk for musculoskeletal injury during sport. More recently he has focused his research on better understanding the underlying causes of high-risk movement patterns, which has led to his development of exercise programs to improve movement quality and ultimately reduce sport-related musculoskeletal injury rates. In support of this research, Dr. Padua has been the recipient of multiple research grants, and has published over 100 journal articles and given over 200 presentations related to the prevention of sport-related musculoskeletal injury. He was recognized as Most Distinguished Athletic Trainer in 2015 and awarded Fellowship in the American Academy of Kinesiology in 2013. In 2008 he was awarded the O’Donoghue Sports Injury Research Award for the most outstanding sport injury related research paper by the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. In 2006, Darin was awarded the Young Investigator Award by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association.



Brian Pietrosimone, PhD, ATC
Co-Director, NMRL

Brian Pietrosimone is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Exercise and Sports Science. Prior to joining the UNC faculty in 2013, he was and Assistant Professor of Kinesiology and Director of the Joint Injury and Muscle Activation Laboratory at the University of Toledo in Toledo Ohio (2009-2013). Dr. Pietrosimone is a native of Hamden, CT and graduated with his B.S. in Athletic Training from Springfield College in 2005. He completed his Masters in Athletic Training and his Doctorate in Sports Medicine at the University of Virginia in 2006 and 2009, respectively.

Dr. Pietrosimone’s research seeks to decrease disability related to knee injury with a focus on maximizing long-term joint health following traumatic joint injury. Much of his previous and current research has evaluated the neuromuscular mechanisms related to disability following lower extremity joint injury. Additionally, he has sought to develop novel intervention strategies to treat neuromuscular impairments and improve clinical outcomes. His future projects look to evaluate how measures of joint metabolism interact with early biomechanical changes following traumatic knee injury for the purpose of minimizing the risk of posttraumatic osteoarthritis development.


Eric Ryan, PhD, CSCS*D
Co-Director, NMRL

Dr. Ryan, joined the Department of Exercise and Sport Science as the Stallings Fellow Assistant Professor in 2011. He completed his undergraduate work in Exercise Science at Tulane University (2003) and earned his Masters and Doctoral degree in Exercise Physiology from Florida Atlantic University (2005) and the University of Oklahoma (2009), respectively. Dr. Ryan’s primary research interest includes examining the influence of acute (i.e. passive stretching, vibration, fatigue, and eccentric exercise) and chronic (i.e. aging, occupational demands, training, and nutritional supplementation) stressors on neuromuscular function. In 2011, he was named the Terry J. Housh Young Investigator of the Year by the NSCA.



Erik Wikstrom, PhD, ATC
Co-Director, SMRL
Dr. Erik Wikstrom is an Assistant Professor and the Katherine Smith Gunter Fellow in the Department of Exercise and Sports Science. Dr. Wikstrom graduated with his B.S. in Athletic Training from Roanoke College in 2001. He completed his Masters in Exercise Science and his Doctorate in Health & Human Performance, both with specializations in Athletic Training, from the University of Florida in 2003 and 2007, respectively.

Dr. Wikstrom’s primary research interest is on the impact of musculoskeletal injury on sensorimotor control of the lower extremity with particular emphasis on the coordination of balance following ankle joint injury. His current research focuses on developing sensory-targeted interventions for ankle joint injury and evaluating how lower extremity injury alters sensory- and somatosensory reweighting during the maintenance of balance. Dr. Wikstrom’s research has been funded by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Research and Education Foundation and the National Institute of Health among others.



Barnett Frank
Postdoctoral Research Associate

Barnett Frank PhD, ATC is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research interests include lower extremity injury prevention, athletic performance enhancement, and recovery optimization. Specifically, Barnett is focused on understanding the interaction between biomechanics, training load, and the physiological response to exercise exposure to mitigate injury risk and performance decrements in the physically active.