my capstone experience

John Bosse '08

John Bosse '08, an Exercise and Sport Sciences major with a specialization in Exercise Science from Lewiston, Maine, was an active member of the Community-Sawyer community as a student. He was the Exercise Science Representative in the Exercise and Sport Sciences Majors' Club, a peer tutor at the Student Learning Collaborative, and a monitor at the Van Cise Fitness Center. Here, he discusses his Capstone project, entitled Shoulder External/Internal Rotation Imbalances: Forward Shoulder Posture in CSC Students.

The Capstone project, which involves extensive research and presentation, is the culmination of each student's academic experience and part of the Liberal Education Program at Colby-Sawyer College. Bosse will continue his studies at the University of Utah in the Coordinated Masters Program (CMP) with a Sports Dietetics Emphasis.

Describe the subject of your Capstone project and why you chose to focus on this subject.

My group's Capstone Project was entitled Shoulder External/Internal Rotation Imbalances: Forward Shoulder Posture in CSC Students. I worked on the project with Daniel Gay, Keisuke Hiruta and Andrew Sullivan. Essentially, the study divided the participants according to the way their shoulders were oriented (forward or not) and then looked for differences between the forward and non-forward participants.

During the preliminary stages of deciding upon a research topic, we knew we wanted to study something with muscular imbalances. Forward shoulder posture is a type of muscular imbalance that is fairly common. The imbalance comes from muscles in front of the shoulder that are too strong and/or tight and muscles behind the shoulder that are too weak and/or too lax. Last summer I experienced an injury to muscles behind my shoulder that were weak. Before this injury most people would have considered me to have forward shoulder posture. Despite being aware of this tendency, I did not think it was a problem until the injury. I realized that many people who participate in regular upper body physical activity neglect small, seemingly unimportant muscles around their shoulders and thus are predisposed to an overuse injury like mine. I wanted to increase awareness about forward shoulder posture to prevent others from having to go through what I did.

I also noticed the forward predisposition in some of my personal training clients, as well as other fellow students and individuals. Certain athletes are predisposed to forward shoulder posture, as are others who overuse and underuse certain muscles. I think that forward shoulder posture in non-athletes is largely due to the amount of time we spend at computers. Many workers and students are not taught how to set up a work station that is ergonomically correct and thus tend to hunch over a computer for extended periods of time. The body responds and adapts to the activities it participates in, and the position it is put into while hunched over a computer can certainly increase one's risk for forward shoulder posture, among other possible problems, particularly with the spine. With this in mind, my team concurred that forward shoulder posture was indeed a worthwhile area to investigate.

What research did you conduct for this project?

After reviewing the literature, we realized that very little research had been done on forward shoulder posture, so we decided to try to take a very comprehensive approach to our study by investigating how forward shoulder posture could be assessed and how the condition affects certain aspects of shoulder strength, movement capabilities, and muscle use. We had so many things we wanted to test - we even wanted to conduct interventions to try and help participants whom we found to have the most forward shoulder posture. We did not want them to learn about their condition and not give them options to help correct it.

With much enthusiasm we embarked upon a project that was essentially five or six studies in one and quickly realized that managing such an enormous project along with our other commitments would be too much. We decided to concentrate our Capstone research on the differences between our participants with and without forward shoulder posture (i.e. the initial testing). Daniel Gay and I decided to take on the intervention part along with follow-up testing to examine the intervention effectiveness as an independent study. Again, since there were so many things we wanted to research, Daniel and I decided to compare two intervention protocols rather than just one. Even though only two of us took on the independent study, Andrew and Keisuke agreed to help Daniel and me with the follow-up testing. This was great because we have all really enjoyed the testing and the things we learned. Having all four of us involved in the follow-up testing will allow us to control which researchers are involved in administering certain tests, so things will be consistent between initial and follow-up testing in that respect.

What did you learn through your Capstone project, and in what ways is it a culmination of your learning experience at Colby-Sawyer?

We all learned about the intricacies of conducting experimental research. There are so many things that one must try to control for, and so many details to pay attention to when conducting a near comprehensive study like this. This Capstone project was certainly a culmination of our learning experiences. We were all able to apply things that we learned from our classes, internships, and practical experience hours to tackle a problem on our own. Our previous experiences gave us what we needed to take on something new. Andrew and I contributed certain skills and knowledge given our Exercise Science background while Daniel and Keisuke were instrumental in contributing their skills and knowledge from the Athletic Training program. I think the combination of skills and knowledge complemented each other nicely and helped make this research a success.

What was most fun and rewarding for you in the process of creating your Capstone?

We all really enjoyed getting to take the equipment we had used for general learning in our labs and using it for more specific means. It was cool to use a variety of equipment and technology that we would not normally have. We definitely enhanced our skills with the equipment we used much more so than we would have without the Capstone. Daniel and I also found it rewarding to conduct our interventions knowing that our efforts might benefit our participants (We have not conducted follow-up testing yet since this is not part of the Capstone, but we are optimistic about the results we will find!). In general the group enjoyed educating others around campus about forward shoulder posture and increasing awareness about the condition. I particularly found it rewarding to know that my efforts might prevent others from having to deal with an overuse injury.

What did you find most challenging and difficult about the project?

The Capstone was challenging in a variety of ways largely due to the size of our study. We wanted to do so much that it was challenging to organize it into a manageable study. The Capstone experience was challenging both in terms of how much we did, but also in terms of how much else we wanted to do. We had to tug the reins on ourselves. The learning process also brought forth challenges. As we did the research we realized things we would have differently, but we had some great results and were pleased with the work we did and we hope that our work will help others with future research.

What do you hope will be the lasting value of your Capstone project, both for you and others?

One of my main objectives for this research was to increase awareness about muscular imbalances and forward shoulder posture and to hopefully help reduce the chance of overuse injury in some participants. I also hope that this research will increase awareness about the importance of ergonomic correctness at work stations, particularly computer stations. Many minor and overuse injuries could be prevented if people were more aware of various aspects of their lifestyles that predispose them to these conditions. At one of my internships a supervisor was involved in regular ergonomic evaluations of work stations both for the safety of fellow employees and to reduce the employer's costs of having to deal with things such as carpal tunnel syndrome and neck pain due to poor work station setups. Having experienced the consequences of forward shoulder posture, I will forever be on the lookout to help prevent and aid in correcting this condition in clients that I work with. My research partners and I hope that we have set the stage for other researchers to further investigate forward shoulder posture and its implications. As some of us move on to graduate school we may even be the ones conducting this research. We certainly all found the Capstone experience to be very rewarding.