Faculty Profile: David Bell Brings Knee Injury Expertise to Campus
Many people don’t know what an ACL is until they, or someone they know, tears one.
Asst. Professor David Bell, who joined the faculty this year, makes it his business to know and to find ways to help athletic trainers prevent them, especially among female athletes, who have an eight times greater chance of tearing an Anterior Cruciate Ligament than males do.
“Anybody who works with female athletes should be aware and concerned about this… (athletic trainers and therapists) recognize that women athletes are dropping like flies,” Bell said.
Growing up in a small town in North Carolina, Bell didn’t even know what an athletic trainer was until after starting college at the University of North Carolina.
“I was searching for a major – I had tried chemistry, biology and a chem-bio double major,” he said. “(But) I remembered that when I broke my foot in high school, I saw an orthopedic surgeon with a sports medicine insignia on his shirt and always wondered about it.”
Bell combined his interest in science and sports and found his place in the athletic training program at UNC. “It worked out really well,” he said.
Bell completed a one-year master’s in athletic training at the University of Virginia where he worked with his advisor on female ACL injuries, opening the door for the work he does now.
Bell's research team in the Wisconsin Injury in Sport Laboratory focuses on non-contact ACL injury prevention. He studies the relationship between joint laxity and knee injury and other risk factors associated with ACL injuries and how the double-legged squat can be used as a screening tool in clinical settings. His team is also working to develop evidence-based injury prevention programs and to validate corrective exercises used in injury prevention and performance enhancement programs.
“(My research focus) really got driven home when I went out on my own,” said Bell, who did his clinical training at Longwood University and then worked as an AT doing outreach and clinical work in northern Kentucky. “I went to work… in a high school with athletes who had ACL tear after ACL tear.”
Bell returned to UNC for the PhD program after two years of experience helping primarily female athletes with ACL tears. “I thought, ‘Man, we’ve got to do something about this.’ Research is something I knew I always wanted to do anyway.”
He figured he could have a bigger impact on this epidemic as a researcher because it matches both his passions and his skills, he said.
Bell's own interests include golf, racquetball, basketball and running, he said. “When I play basketball, I pay attention to how I stop or how I cut and think 'maybe I shouldn't do that'.”
Bell loves Madison, where so many people lead healthy and athletic lifestyles, he said, adding that he sees himself being involved in public health concerns both on and off campus.
"I see myself fitting into the larger public health realm of physical activity," he said.