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Hayden Giuliani ‘17 (MS), a Ph.D. student in the Human Movement Science Curriculum (HMSC), is the 2021 recipient of the Donald and Alvene Buckley Summer Research Fellowship, which provides her an opportunity to research injury prevention among law enforcement officers.

Hayden Giuliani
Hayden Giuliani

Giuliani joined the HMSC program, a joint initiative between the Department of Exercise and Sport Science and the Division of Physical Therapy, following completion of her master’s degree. As a Ph.D. student, she saw an opportunity to combine her love for athletics and training with research.

A former women’s club basketball coach at Carolina, Giuliani began to apply her expertise in athletics, including risk of injury and performance, to those who serve our state.

“This project allows me to integrate those worlds,” Giuliani said. “I started to work with public safety—and look at function and strength—but in a more unique population. … This hasn’t really been adapted to public safety populations, like firefighters or police, but they do present with a really high risk of injury.”

The Summer Research Fellowship allows Giuliani the time to conduct research at a local police department in Burlington, North Carolina, to better understand officers’ workload, including physical demands, and perceptions of how their work affects their bodies, especially as they routinely work long shifts.

Giuliani implemented a brief survey of the department’s police officers to determine a health profile and whether they would like to opt into an eight-week training program to assess their body movements, its composition, strength, power, and reaction time. The results of these assessments could highlight potential risks for injury and influence job performance. Giuliani hopes the results of the assessments might lead to guidance for police force training and for staying safe on the job.

“If this has worked in team sports,” Giuliani said, “Could we adapt this to those who are at risk for injury or worse job performance? … The research I’m doing now allows me to take the lab setting and bring it to the community.”

Giuliani, served as a human performance intern at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with the United States Army Special Operations Command in 2016. Her time at the military base sparked an interest in how research in human movement might be applied in across settings.

“My time at Fort Bragg really opened my eyes for needs in research in other realms and how it could be applied to other populations,” Giuliani said. “Public safety is one that’s untapped and really could use some of these practical studies; the community setting is what I really like about this opportunity.”

She said the Summer Research Fellowship gives her the chance to meet officers in person and create contacts for future research instead of assuming teaching duties during the summer months. The fellowships provide support to doctoral students so they may focus exclusively on their dissertation research.

“It gives me time to put all my energy to this project, and it allows me to apply for other grants in the meantime,” Giuliani said.

By the end of summer, Giuliani hopes to have completed assessments of 50 officers and pilot new measures to keep public officials safer on the job.

“We want to leave them armed with information and pilot initiatives,” Giuliani said.

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