A Leg Up
Ask most people what a professional athlete is and they likely will point to people like Tiger Woods or Peyton Manning. Ask Johnathan Hill, exercise science, ’10, and he says, “A soldier.”

The Army sergeant’s viewpoint is based not only what he has experienced in eight years in the National Guard, but also on the research he assists with in the Ball State Biomechanics Lab. He and the other members of the research team are studying how the inner bone of the lower leg is stressed during exercise.

The Department of Defense wants to reduce or eliminate leg fractures in new recruits by altering basic training.

Being mobilized to Iraq and Afghanistan temporarily halted Hill’s class work, but his experience has helped the research team to improve the study’s realism and results. Test subjects are monitored as they run on a treadmill, perform other exercises, and carry the most recent rucksack strapped on as they would in field. Hill provided important insight to the research team about these and other in-field activities as well as other seemingly unimportant factors, such as the type of socks and boots soldiers wear.

An athlete himself, Hill met the Biomechanics Lab manager in a campus fitness room. Their conversation about mountain biking led to Hill’s practicum at the lab and later to his being asked to become a research assistant. As a research assistant, he collects data and helps research participants during test sessions.

“Ball State professors and departments are amazingly open to providing opportunities,” says Hill. “This study is so cool for me; I get to work with state-of-the-art software and hardware. I’m learning the research process, trying to get a leg up on my graduate career.”

Hill is also the strength and conditioning coach for the women’s cross country team and is interested in how training develops efficient and powerful athletes. He is conducting an independent research study of his own and hopes to someday work at the U.S. Army Research Institute in Boston.

“This study is so cool for me; I get to work with state-of-the-art software and hardware. I’m learning the research process, trying to get a leg up on my graduate career.”

—Johnathan Hill, '10