Associate Professor, School of Exercise Science, Physical and Health Education
Research interests: Biomechanics and motor control of human movement in sport exercise and rehabilitation
The precise movements behind the perfectly executed performance of an elite athlete, the characteristic reflexive behaviour of an individual’s recovery from a walking disturbance, and the intricate interactions that occur between an aging brain and body just before a fall – these are some of the complex aspects of human movement that Dr. Marc Klimstra is studying in order to better understand the biomechanics and motor control of human movement in elite sport, and in rehabilitation.
Dr. Klimstra, an assistant professor with the University of Victoria’s Department of Exercise Science, Physical and Health Education, studies biomechanics – the forces that act on and within the human body during motion – and motor control – the neural processes that underlie the organization and execution of movement.
Specifically, Klimstra is looking at a vast array of modern technologies and how they can be used to help diagnose and rehabilitate the injured and aging, as well as improve athletic performance. His lab is host to a diverse group of individuals from both the elite sport population and the aging population, allowing him to study human movement when performance is at its best and as it begins to deteriorate.
Along with key collaborator Dr. Sandra Hundza, Klimstra is currently conducting research into the neuromechanics of aging gait – or more simply put, the changes that are occurring in the brain and body that affect the way we walk as we get older. By studying the nervous system and the mechanical responses involved in movement, they aim to find unique ways of determining how exactly the human body deteriorates as it ages. In doing so, Dr. Klimstra and Dr. Hundza hope to find pre-clinical markers that might serve to predict an individual’s risk for a potentially debilitating fall before it happens. This could lead to significant advances in the diagnosis, prevention, and rehabilitation of those most at-risk of falling.
Klimstra’s other major area of interest is high performance sport analysis and technique enhancement in elite athletes. Working closely with Dr. Trent Stellingwerff, and other valued collaborators Dr. Ben Sporer and Dr. Allen Wrigley, Klimstra is involved in a number of studies that include athletes from organizations such as: Rowing Canada, Rugby Canada, Canadian Track and Field, and Swimming Canada, as well as elite and recreational cyclists in BC. Looking at everything from rhythmic movement analyses, to nutritional augmentation strategies, to developing ongoing monitoring and training interventions, Klimstra hopes to elicit the important pieces that contribute to optimal technique and performance in sport.
Dr. Klimstra is also involved in a research technique design initiative involving the use of wearable motion sensors. The collaborative study harnesses the unique strengths of fellow researchers Dr. Hundza and Dr. Stuart MacDonald, as well as UVic CanAssist and Sport Innovation Canada at Camosun College. This innovative research study involves investigating the efficacy of using wearable motion sensors and other novel commercial motion sensing technologies in order to monitor movement and assist with clinical diagnoses and sport performance analysis and tracking. The wearable motion sensors – similar to the sensors in a smartphone that alter screen positioning in response to handset movement – are capable of detecting and recording the unique parameters of human movement.
One of Dr. Klimstra’s goals is to find the ideal motion sensor combination – type, number, and placement location – as well as the best interpretive algorithm required to elicit the most effective readings for the population of interest. Complicating matters, this ‘ideal’ sensor combination and analysis can be considerably different, depending on the underlying condition of the population under study, whether it is to produce data indicative of preclinical signs of aging-related deterioration early on or to determine valuable metrics of sport performance.
Complexities aside, eliciting preclinical signs of deterioration through portable, easily-worn sensors translates in to huge potential savings, in terms of time and resources, enabling clinicians to diagnose neuromuscular disorders that would normally require a host of complex tests and a fully-equipped laboratory facility.
In addition to making advances in the clinical and sporting realms, Dr. Klimstra hopes that the future of his research will include the continued collaboration of universities, colleges, and sport governing bodies. Collaborative efforts, insists Klimstra, are key to ensuring that the physical, financial, and human resources necessary for conducting valuable research are available for both new and seasoned researchers alike.