May 28, 2019

Kati Pasanen would like to introduce you to floorball

UCalgary researcher passionate about this emerging sport, along with understanding ways to prevent injury in all sports
Since moving to Canada to take a position at the University of Calgary, Kati Pasanen has been studying injury interventions for high school basketball players.

Kati Pasanen has been studying injury interventions for high school basketball players.

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Floorball is a great sport — maybe someday it will be an Olympic sport, says Dr. Kati Pasanen, PhD, a sport injury researcher in the Faculty of Kinesiology. The only problem is, many Canadians have never heard of it.

“It’s very popular in Europe, especially in the Northern European countries, I’m not sure why it isn’t here,” says Pasanen. “Though I began by playing and coaching ice hockey, I moved to coaching floorball. It’s something like floor hockey in Canada, yet different.”

Floorball is a sport that is dear to Pasanen’s heart. She spent more than 20 years coaching it and perfecting the warm-up routines she developed while coaching ice hockey in her home country of Finland. The multi-talented Pasanen is not only a researcher and a coach, but also a physiotherapist.

In Finland, Pasanen worked at the UKK Institute, a leading research institute in Finland focused on physical activity and health promotion. 

Since moving to Canada in 2017 to take a position in the Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre (SIPRC) at the University of Calgary, Pasanen has been applying her skills to study injury interventions for high school basketball players.

“I chose the Faculty of Kinesiology as I knew it was a world-class place to do research, and the SIPRC is one of the IOC's research centres,” says Pasanen.

Improving technique to prevent injuries

“We are looking at a neuromuscular training program to improve players’ movement quality and technique in areas such as quick direction changes, running and landing after jumping,” says Pasanen. “These are the typical situations where injuries occur, especially in youth team sports.”

By improving the technique, Pasanen says she hopes to prevent common injuries such as ankle sprains, knee ligament strains and lower extremity overuse injuries.

Pasanen has five research studies on the go in Finland related to injury prevention. She is about to publish a paper on using a prescribed training program to prevent injury in youth soccer, a somewhat similar training program to the one she is using for a basketball study at UCalgary.

“We can use somewhat similar exercise programs for many team sports because they have somewhat similar movement patterns. It’s easy to do little modifications to suit a particular sport we want to study, whether it’s basketball, soccer, floorball or volleyball.”

In Finland, Pasanen implemented a warm-up technique in adult floorball leading to a 66-per-cent reduction in injuries and a similar study in youth soccer players that led to a 20 per cent reduction of injuries.

Barriers to training programs

Pasanen is a co-principal investigator of a basketball study in SIPRC. In this study they recruited basketball coaches to implement a warm-up routine before every practice and game for their teams. After games, researchers collect data to see how effective the warm-up routine is in preventing injuries.

The training includes drills for running, turning, jumping/landing, balance, and strengthening the lower limbs and core.

“As a coach, my thought is that while most coaches have players warm up before a practice or game, most do not focus on proper technique, and technique is the key to preventing injures,” says Pasanen.

“We have strong evidence that neuromuscular training can reduce injury in sport, but the biggest challenge is implementing these programs into real-world,” says Pasanen. “We want to understand why many coaches, players and teams do not adopt these practices even though they may know they reduce injuries.”

Once the barriers are uncovered to implementing the training programs, Pasanen hopes to develop informational tools to help reduce injuries to share with people like coaches, players, athletic therapists and physiotherapists.