Promotie Beorn Nijenhuis

Imagine: you perform at the top level and do everything you can to get the best out of yourself every day and perform at the top of your abilities, but that doesn't work from one day to the next. It happens to top skaters, but also musicians or darts players, who have trained a specific skill for years. Former Olympic skater Beorn Nijenhuis conducted research into this neurological phenomenon in skaters, which often heralds the end of a career.

Skater's cramp is a chronic movement disorder, which often heralds the end of a sports career. Skaters experience a jerky movement in the foot at the end of a complete skating stroke, just before it is placed on the ice. This leads to instability and the risk of falling. Beorn Nijenhuis has focused his PhD research on this topic.

Many explanations have been proposed for skater's cramp, but the deliveries have not been successful. Based on clinical and subjective assessments of individual cases, his dissertation showed that skater's cramp is a task-specific dystonia. Dystonia is a neurological movement disorder associated with involuntary muscle contractions. Someone is making these twisting movements without meaning to. In several experiments in which clinical, movement, muscle and psychometric data were collected, this was found to be the case with the skaters studied. Important to note is that these observations are not definitive, but they represent a crucial step towards a better understanding of this condition.

Beorn: “It is difficult to say who is at risk for skater's cramp, but we do know that a genetic component plays a role. There is little that can be done about this in itself, but overtraining, stress and anxiety can be a trigger – and should therefore be avoided.” Attention to mental health and alternating movements is therefore recommended. "On the one hand, you can take a psychological approach, to reduce anxiety, and you can try to relearn how to do the movement." In addition to psychological and sensorimotor training, Botox is also used to reduce muscle activity. “A combination of these strategies probably works best.”