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Faculty members' research on physical therapy ball pits published

Ball pits
Dr. Mary Ellen Oesterle, physical therapy department head, and Dr. Dobrusia Bialonska, assistant professor of environmental biology, wrote an article about germs found in ball pits of physical therapy clinics that was published by the American Journal of Infection Control.

A pair of UNG faculty members' research was published by the American Journal of Infection Control.

Dr. Mary Ellen Oesterle, physical therapy department head, and Dr. Dobrusia Bialonska, assistant professor of environmental biology, wrote an article about germs found in ball pits of physical therapy clinics. Two former undergraduate UNG biology students, Kimberly Wright and Marissa Fidler, also co-authored the paper.

"Clinical, therapeutic ball pits commonly used by physical therapists to provide sensory stimulation to children were investigated for microbial colonization," according to the article. "Due to the permissive and hospitable environment provided by these ball pits, microorganisms can accumulate to levels that increase the ease of transmission to exposed individuals."

Oesterle was the lead author for the article, which was then reported on by the American Physical Therapy Association's PT in Motion News blog.

"Clinics should be concerned about these findings," Oesterle told PT in Motion News. "I would not recommend using a ball pit in a clinic until proper cleaning has occurred — and until the clinic verifies that the cleaning procedure effectively cleans the balls."

Oesterle also has a possible solution.

"I don't think it would be that difficult for clinics to reduce risk significantly," Oesterle told PT in Motion News. "There are several approaches that may work well — for example, one clinic hangs balls in a mesh bag and disinfects them that way. We would like to do a follow-up study on the best cleaning method."

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