Lucas van der Woude, Professor at the Centre of Movement Sciences at the University of Groningen’s Medical Centre in the Netherlands was presented the Paralympic Scientific Award on Saturday 3 September at the Closing Ceremony of the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC’s) VISTA conference.
Van der Woude won the award for his work on the restoration of mobility during the rehabilitation of patients with spinal cord injuries. He has organized four different congresses in Amsterdam to bring together researchers in this field, and has produced a number of notable publications.
Van der Woude accepted his award with humility, saying that his research achievements were down to a team effort.
Van der Woude said: “I’m still surprised to be given this award.
“I enjoy having a prize, but I still try to be a little bit modest because it’s not just me. It’s all the people that were there through the years with whom I was able to collaborate and who were willing to collaborate with me.
“I wouldn’t do research for the sake of research. I always wondered if the work that I did would matter and the award seems to indicate that it does.
“What excites me is doing quite fundamental research that feeds back into the athletic arena, into the rehabilitation profession and even into industry. The end research should be visible somewhere in society. This award recognizes the fact that the work we did is evidently seen by the very important organization as being relevant to their work.”
Van der Woude has worked on optimizing manual wheelchair propulsion, both in the general wheelchair population and amongst athletes.
“In an isolated situation on a treadmill we study how the arms are moving, how forces are produced and how the kinematics is organized and what happens as a consequence of exercise or training,” he said.
“The key issue is how can we essentially optimize training protocols and rehabilitation protocols, where people have to start from scratch in learning new motor skills,” added van der Woude, who is also affiliated with the Centre for Rehabilitation at the University of Groningen’s Medical Centre.
Van der Woude wants to use his research to figure out how to speed up improvements in performance and how to help people optimally use their physical resources. His research also focuses on how different training strategies can affect the energy used by a hand cyclist.
“We know that fatigue is a very prominent element, often forgotten in general life, but especially in rehabilitation conditions,” van der Woude said.
“You can regulate your own energy and some people are very god at regulating their limited resources and performing best, and others are less good and perform less well. The question is how do people pace themselves and can we learn from that in sports for the disabled to further improve the coaching, but also the performance of the individual athlete.”
The 2011 VISTA conference, organized by the IPC was attended by around 200 sports scientists and researchers, classifiers, coaches, trainers and sport administrators. It took place in the IPC's home city of Bonn, Germany and was sponsored by the EU’s Regional Development Fund, North Rhine-Westphalia’s Minister for Federal Affairs, Europe and the Media, Nachhaltigkeit. Sustainability. Durabilité in Bonn and the Haus der Geschichte Museum.
For more information on the VISTA conference, please visit www.paralympic.org/events.