Dr. Joan Stevenson, Ph.D. (Minnesota)

Dr. Joan Stevenson
Professor Emeritus
Area of Expertise: 
Ergonomics and Biomechanics
Contact Information
Telephone: 
613-533-6288
Facsimile: 
613-533-2009
Office: 
KHS 301H

Research summary

My research foci are centered on two main themes: reducing the prevalence of low back pain and ergonomic design of equipment. In the area low back pain, my NSERC research program is focused on an examination of strength-based and technique-based factors that combine to determine an individual’s lifting technique. By working with doctoral students, this basic work has led to the development of an on-body lift assistive device (PLAD) that is funded by a CIHR operating grant. The PLAD is attached at the shoulders, pelvis and knees and has elastic elements that are stretched as a person lowers their body in preparation for lifting. The elastic elements help the person extend in the back, and thighs during the up-phase of the lift. Current research is centered on refining the device and testing potential contra-indications to its use. Then, we propose to test injured workers who are in rehabilitation programs as a result of a back injury or subjects who are continuing to work with back pain.

The second research area is developing objective measures to assist with the design of new load carriage systems. With colleagues from the Ergonomics Research Group, we have developed mannequin-based simulators that can be used to measure pack stiffness, load distribution on the shoulders and waist, pack-person motion, skin contact pressures and forces and moments at the hips. These measures were validated against soldiers’ opinions of eleven different pack-based systems. Using these tools, we helped design and evaluate the new Canadian military load carriage system; specifically, the fragmentation vest, tactical assault vest and rucksack. We are currently working on a dynamic biomechanical model to determine the backpack pressures and forces on the body. This will be used in a load carriage limit equation that will help military commanders make better estimates of the loads soldiers can carry over certain marching conditions. In addition, we are researching backpacks for children. We are examining the appropriateness of various pack designs to minimize poor body and spinal postures, developing educational programs to teach proper mechanics to Grade 5 children and developing a backpack rating system to help parents, manufacturers and children make better backpack choices. These approaches and assessment tools use biomechanical outputs to help make design decisions.

Current funding

Grants and Contracts (last five years)

Stevenson, JM., Costigan, PA,. Reid, SM, Bryant, JT, Morin, EL. Phase 5: Purchase of hardware for LC Compliance Tester. Biomechanical Research and Development in Soldier Load Carriage Capacity. PWGSC Contract # W7711-06-7987/001/TOR, $103,769.00, 2009.

Stevenson, JM., Costigan, PA,. Reid, SM, Bryant, JT, Morin, EL. Phase 4: Construction of LC mannequins. Biomechanical Research and Development in Soldier Load Carriage Capacity. PWGSC Contract # W7711-06-7987/001/TOR, $149,926.00, 2009.

Selinger, J. Tack, D., Stevenson, JM. A Pilot Study Investigating the Effectiveness of an Accelerometer in Assessing Rifle Handling. Human Systems Inc. $15,570.09, 2008.

Selinger, J., Stevenson, JM. The Effects of Weight and Weight Distribution on Muscular Activity and Trunk Posture When Sighting a Rifle, Accelerate Ontario, 17,315. Funded: August 2008.

Pasek Z. J. , Freiheit, T., Shaw, W., Stevenson, J.M. Productivity and Safety Improvements in the Non-Structural Speed Fastening Process. Auto21 Project # EC303-ESP. $ 246,500 (JMS=$30,500/yr) 2008-2010.

Stevenson, JM, Abdoli-E M, Godwin, AA, Agnew, MJ. User-Acceptability and Effectiveness of a Personal Lift Assist Device (PLAD) in an Automotive Industrial Setting. WSIB Grant, $60,000.00.

Stevenson, JM., Reid, SM, Bryant, JT, Morin, EL, Costigan, PA,. Evaluation of new backpack designs features for Ostrom Outdoors backpacks. Ostrom Outdoors, $5,000.00 for 2 months.

Stevenson, JM., Reid, SM, Bryant, JT, Morin, EL, Costigan, PA. A biomechanical evaluation of helmet pad designs using the LC Simulator. Pacific Safety Products. 19,000.00 for 3 months.

Stevenson J.M., Costigan, P, Reid, S.A., Morin , E.L. Bryant, JT. Phase 1: Objective biomechanical assessment of extended soft body armour. (Part of PWGSC W7711-06-7987-03 Standing Orders), $ 59,670.00 1yr, 2008.

Stevenson, J.M., Reid, S.A., Morin , E.L. Bryant, JT. Phase 3a: Construction of the Basic LC Simulator (Part of PWGSC W7711-06-7987-02 Standing Orders), $ 148,706.00 1 year, 2006-2007.

Stevenson J.M., Ostrom, B, Bryant, J.T. Development of a Mover's Pack: A Specialized Backpack for the Moving Industry, Workers' Safety and Insurance Board, 2006-07, $40,000.

Stevenson, JM, Costigan PA., Troje N, Morin EL, Bryant JT, Validation of a new strategy to acquire cumulative loading for manual materials handling tasks in industry. WSIB #05027. 2006-08 (extended for 1 year) $272,320.00

Montelpare, W., Pelland, L., Stevenson, JM. Construction and Calibration of a Neck Strength Testing Device. Part of the Play-it-Cool program. The Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, Oct 2007 -08. $ 10,000.00.

Pelland, L., Montelpare, W., Stevenson, JM. Reliability of a Neck Strength Testing Device. Part of the Play-it-cool Program. The Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, Oct 2007 -08. $ 15,000.00.

Stevenson, JM, Abdoli-E M. Design Modifications to an on-body Personal Lift Assistive Device (PLAD). Ontario Commercialization of Research Program: Proof of Principle (Phase 2), 2007, $25,000.00

Stevenson, JM. Factors affecting Children's Health while Working/Playing at Computers. Funded by the CIHR group called Injury Prevention across the Life Span (IPALS). 1 year for $18,000 to support a masters student, 2006

Stevenson, J.M., Reid, S.A., Morin , E.L. Biomechanics research and development to support advancements in soldier load carriage capability W7711-06-7987 Standing Orders, 960,000.00, 2006

Stevenson, J.M. Finalize Prototype and collect baseline data on women wearing an on-body Personal Lift Assistive Device. CRE-MSD Seed Grant, $ 10,000, 2006

Stevenson, J.M. Effect of reduced force requirements on neuromuscular inputs and movement patterns in manual handling tasks. Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, 2006-2011, $ 175,000.00 for 5 years.

Stevenson J.M. Funding Requests for Ontario Biomechanics Conference $ 5000.00, 2006

Stevenson, J.M., Reid, S.A., Morin , E.L., and Bryant, J.T. Upgrading of The Load Carriage System Suite of Tools W7711-03-7863-06/07, 1 year $ 164,567.00, 2006.

Stevenson J.M., Ostrom, B, Bryant, J.T. Dev elopement of a Mover's Pack: A Specialized Backpack for the Moving Industry, Workers' Safety and Insurance Board, 1 year, $40,000, in 2005.

Stevenson, J.M., Reid, S.A. Biomechanical Evaluation of HFE Body Armor Vest and Belt. Med-Eng Systems Inc. 13,357.25. in 2005.

Stevenson, J.M., Morin , E.L., Reid, S.A., and Bryant, J.T. Revisiting the CTS System resulting from a different suspension system and armourment, $ 24,512.00 in 2005.

Stevenson, JM, Troje N, Norin EL, Bryant JT, Costigan PA. Validation of a new strategy to acquire cumulative loading for manual materials handling tasks in industry. WSIB #05027 2 yrs $272,320.00, 2005.

Stevenson, J.M., Morin , E.L., Reid, S.A., and Bryant, J.T. Testing of the U.S Marines Assault Vests. Battelle, Washington, $35,000 US, 2005.

Stevenson, JM, Bryant, JT, Morin, LM, Reid SA. Enhancement to Signal Processing and Neck Modeling Capabilities. PWGSC W7711-03-7863/04. $ 100,000.00 , 2004

Stevenson, J.M., Morin , E.L., Reid, S.A., and Bryant, J.T. Development of the Dynamic Biomechanical Model by means of the Portable Measurement System, Phase 6. PWGSC# W7711-0-7863-02 $80,000.00, 2004

Stevenson, J.M., Bryant, J.T., McLean, L. Proof of principle for an on-body lift augmentation device (PLAD). Canadian Institutes of Health Research Operating Grant, $100,000, 2004.

Stevenson, J.M., Morin , E.L., Reid, S.A., and Bryant, J.T. Testing of the U.S Marines ILBE load carriage system. Battelle, Washington, $28,600.00 US, 2004.

Stevenson, J.M. Bryant, J.T. Cote, J. McLean, L. Shuhla L. Stothart, P. Guidelines for Pack Design and Use for Children: A Multidisciplinary Approach, Ontario Chiropractic Association, 30,000.00, 2004

Recent publications

Last five years

Hare, C., Morin, E.L., Costigan, P.A., Stevenson, J.M. (2008) The use of upper body accelerometry to determine postural and gait changes during backpack load carriage. Submitted to Journal of Biomechanics,(submitted Dec 2008).

Godwin, AA, Takahara, G, Agnew, MJ, Stevenson, JM. Comparison of gender differences using both peak and waveform analysis of kinematic variables gathered during a fatiguing lifting task." (submitted to Theoretical Issues in Ergonomic Science, August, 2008).

Graham, RB, Agnew MJ., Abdoli-E M, Stevenson JM. An-body ergonomic lifting aid is effective at reducing erector spinae demand and low back compression has high user acceptability in an automotive assembly task. (In Press: Applied Ergonomics, December, 2008).

Abdoli, ME, Stevenson, JM, Agnew M. Three dimensional estimation of the moments about L4/L5 joint to evaluate a personal lift augmentation device. (Re-submitted to Applied Ergonomics, July 2008).

Godwin, AA, Agnew, MJ, Stevenson, JM. "Accuracy of Inertial Motion Sensors in Static, Quasi-static and Complex, Dynamic Motion" (in press Ref. No.: JEK-D-08-00164) Journal of Biomechanical Engineering. December 2008.

Frost, DM, Abdoli-E, M, Stevenson, JM. PLAD (personal lift assistive device) stiffness affects the lumbar flexion/extension moment and the posterior chain EMG during symmetrical lifting tasks (in press Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology (Dec 2008).

Godwin, A, Takahara, G., Agnew, M., Stevenson, JM. Inertial Motion Sensors Provide Accurate Kinematic Data for Human Kinetic Analysis. (in press BIO-08-1295 Journal of Applied Biomechanics, 2008).

Abdoli-E, M, Stevenson, JM, Agnew, MJ, Kamalzadeh A. "Comparison of 3D dynamic virtual model to link segment model for estimation for estimation of net L4/L5 reaction moments during lifting", File No.: C0355 Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering. (In Press - August 2008).

Brackley H. and Stevenson J.M. Effect of backpack placement on posture and spinal curvature in prepubescent children. WORK, Issue 1 (32(3)) 2009.

Mngoma, N, Stevenson, JM Symes, A, Hopman W. Quality Of Life In Patients With Subacute Work-Related Low Back Pain (In press - Physiotherapy Canada, July, 2008)

Godwin, AA., Stevenson JM,. Agnew MJ, Twiddy AL, Abdoli-E M, Lotz, CA. (2009). Testing the efficacy of an ergonomic lifting aid at diminishing muscular fatigue in women over a prolonged period of lifting. International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics, 3:121-126.

Lotz, CA, Agnew, MJ, Godwin, AA, Stevenson, JM. (2008). The effect of an on-body personal lift assist device (PLAD) on fatigue during a repetitive lifting task. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology: (on-line corrected proof published).

Mngoma N, Corbiere M, Stevenson J. 2008. Pain profiles and psychosocial distress symptoms in workers with low back pain. Physiotherapy Canada. 60:236-242.

Abdoli-E, M., Stevenson, JM. (2008). The effect of on-body lift assistive device on the lumbar 3D dynamic moments and EMG during asymmetric freestyle lifting. Clinical Biomechanics, 23: 372-380.

Eger, T., Stevenson, J., Boileau, P., Salmoni, A. and VibRG. (2008). Predictions of health risks associated with the operation of load-haul-dump mining vehicles: Part 1- Analysis of whole-body-vibration exposure using ISO 2631-1 and ISO-2631-5 standards. International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics 38(9-10):726-738.

Eger, T., Stevenson, J., Callaghan, J.P., Grenier, S., and VibRG (2008) Predictions of health risks associated with the operation of load-haul-dump mining vehicles: Part 2- evaluation of operator driving postures and associated postural loading. International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics. 38(9-10): 801-815.

Abdoli ME, Stevenson JM, Bryant JT, Reid, SA.(2007) Mathematical and Empirical Proof of Principle for an On-Body Personal Lift Augmentation Device (PLAD). Journal of Biomechanics, 40:1694-1700.

Abdoli-E M. Stevenson, JM. The effect of on-body lift assistive device on the lumbar 3D dynamic moments and EMG during asymmetric freestyle lifting. 5th World Congress of Biomechanics, Medimond International Proceedings, 201-206, 2006.

Abdoli ME, Stevenson JM, Agnew, M. (2006) An on-body personal lift augmentation device (PLAD) reduces EMG amplitude of erector spinae during lifting tasks. Clinical Biomechanics, 21(5), 456-465.

Wrigley AT. Albert WJ. Deluzio KJ. Stevenson JM. (2006). Principal Component Analysis of Lifting Waveforms. Clinical Biomechanics 21(6) 567-578.

Mackie WH, Stevenson, JM, Reid SA, Legg SJ. (2005) The effect of simulated school load carriage configurations on shoulder strap tension forces and shoulder interface pressure. Applied Ergonomics: 36,188-206.

Wrigley AT. Albert WJ. Deluzio KJ. Stevenson JM. (2005). Differentiating lifting technique between those who develop low back pain and those who do not. Clinical Biomechanics. 20(3):254-63.

Bryant JT, Stevenson JM,Bossi, LL, Reid SA, Pelot RP, & Morin EL (2004). Optimizing Load Carriage Systems, Ergonomics in Design, 12(1):12-17. (* Winner of HFES Award for best article in 2004*)

Eger, T., Stevenson, J.M. (2004). Estimation of load transfer force to hands during sagittal plane box lifting. Occupational Ergonomics 4 (1) 27-39.

Brackley H.M., Stevenson, J.M, (2004) Are children's backpacks Weight Limits Enough? A critical review of relevant literature Spine 29(19):2184-2190.

Stevenson, JM, Bossi L, Bryant, JT, Reid, SA, Pelot RP, Morin, EL. (2004). A suite of objective biomechanical measurement tools for personal load carriage system assessment. Ergonomics, 47(11):1160-1179.

Reid SA, Stevenson, JM, Whiteside, W. (2004) Biomechanical assessment of lateral stiffness elements in the suspension system of a rucksack. Ergonomics, 47(12): 1255-1271.

Stevenson, JM, Bryant JT, Reid, SA, Pelot, RP, Morin, EL, Bossi LL. (2004). Development and Assessment of the Canadian personal load carriage system using objective biomechanical measures. Ergonomics, 47(12): 1272-1281.