The Department of Physical Therapy conducts study on how COVID-19 impacts balance in college students

Madison Carter, News reporter

The Department of Physical Therapy is conducting a research study on the effects COVID-19 has on dynamic balance in young adults.

“We know that COVID impacts multiple body systems, and what we are finding in the literature is that COVID is impacting the neurologic system,” Dr. Sonia Young, associate professor and physical therapist, said.

Balance is a major part of the neurologic system and falls are a result of having poor balance, Young said. 

The idea for this study was introduced by Young, the principal investigator in the study, who will be working with four co-investigator graduate students including Noah Burns, Allie Fuller, Brilyn Garrett and Corbin Suratt. 

To discover the impact COVID-19 has on college-aged students, research will be conducted using a test called the Modified Clinical Test of Sensory Interaction on Balance using the VirtuSense VSTBalance system.

According to the VirtuSense site, “VirtuSense accelerates predictive insights allowing physicians, caregivers, and families to be proactive and patient-centric with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and innovative sensors.” 

The VSTBalance system uses artificial intelligence and machine vision “to objectively conduct evidence-based assessments and compare the results to population norms to reliably measure fall-risk,” according to the site. 

Students participating in the study will first complete a screening form that will decide if they are eligible to take part in the study, Young said.

Once the participant is screened, they will be asked to perform a test that has four conditions. Each condition will be tested three times, 30 seconds each. 

The participant will begin the test standing without shoes within a square marked on the floor. The first condition requires the participant to keep their feet together with eyes open for 30 seconds in the direction of the VSTBalance system which records movement. 

The second condition requires the same process, but with the participants eyes closed. 

The third condition requires the participant to stand on a piece of foam within the square with their feet together and eyes open for 30 seconds. 

The fourth condition requires participants to repeat the third condition, but with eyes closed. 

Participants should expect to spend approximately 30 minutes on the test. The participant only needs to be tested once. 

Participants in the study will receive a $25 Amazon gift card after completing the study. The researchers received a CHHS Quick Turn-Around Grant to purchase gift cards. 

The study recruited 60 total participants, 30 who had COVID-19 and 30 who have not. The study has already begun and will continue into the next few weeks. 

The graduate students participating said that they hope the study will help them learn how to better interact with patients and teach people. 

“In conducting the study, we are having to interact with people and explain the procedure to people,” Garrett said. “We are going to be doing that everyday as physical therapists, so just the interactions in general are helping us.”

Suratt said he believes the study will help him learn to address patients who have had COVID-19 better and to know the best ways to help them now and in the future. 

“Any extra knowledge we can get on this new disease and how it affects patients is going to better our quality outcomes with patients in the future,” Burns said. 

For more information regarding the study, contact Young at [email protected].

News reporter Madison Carter can be reached at madison.carter312@