The Exercise & Sport Science Initiative (ESSI) draws on expertise from a wide range of faculty across the University of Michigan campus, Michigan Athletics and industry partners to optimize physical performance and health for people of all ages and abilities.

Areas of Focus

Ellen Arruda is developing a football helmet to better protect athletes from concussion

Sport Technology R&D

Man looks through microscope

Data Science & Analytics

Michigan Performance Research Laboratory

Optimal Performance

"Current helmets do a very good job of reducing force, and that’s important in preventing brain injuries and skull fractures, but they don’t do a very good job of mitigating impulse. That’s what our whole design strategy revolves around—mitigating force and dissipating energy. You really have to reduce both to prevent brain injury."

− Ellen Arruda, ESSI co-Director

"We've come up with a totally new concept of how to make efficient impact-mitigating structures that could dissipate energy without being damaged. And we used basic concepts of mechanics to develop a fundamental understanding of how to protect delicate structures such as the brain."

− Michael Thouless, Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Michigan Excellence: Academics & Athletics

Research Across the Lifespan

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports:

  • Obese and overweight women have an increased risk of developing complications during and after pregnancy, including postpartum weight retention, cesarean delivery, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, mellitus, and hypertension.
  • Obese and overweight women are more likely to have fetuses that are at increased risk of stillbirth, prematurity, macrosomia with possible birth injury, congenital anomalies, and childhood obesity.
  • Obesity reduces the ability to detect fetal anomalies during prenatal ultrasonography.

The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition reports:

  • On average, out of every 3 children in the U.S., only 1 is physically active every day.
  • In a 2010 study, it was discovered that children spend in excess of 7.5 hours per day in front of a screen.
  • From 2011-2012, the obesity rate in children 6-11 years old was 17.7%, and, as of 2012, only 6 states required students to attend a physical education class every year (K-12).

The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition reports:

  • On average, only 1 in 3 adults receive the recommended weekly amount of physical activity, and fewer than 5% of adults in the U.S. are engaged in 30 minutes of physical activity each day.
  • Over 80% of adults do not meet the guidelines for both muscle-strengthening and aerobic activities.
  • It is projected that by 2030, half of all adults in the U.S. will be obese; on average, medical costs for obese individuals exceed those of normal weight people by over 40%.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in regard to noninstitutionalized persons, reports:

  • For individuals who are 65+ years old, over 23% are in fair or poor health, approximately 27% have diabetes, and over 7% need assistance with personal care.
  • For individuals who are 75+ years old, over 75% of men and over 79% of women have hypertension.
  • For individuals who are 65-74 years old, over 36% of men and over 44% of women are obese.