The 'zwabbervoet': the nightmare of every skater

On the 2nd of February Beorn Nijenhuis, a former Olympic speedskater and current PhD student at Movement Disorders Groningen, was a guest on the NPO2 program ATLAS. There he got to explain his research on ‘zwabbervoet’, a mysterious movement disorder that affects famous speedskaters like Gerard Kemkers and Marianne Timmer.

It is a well-known story among older skating fans: 23 year old Olympian Gerard Kemkers had his skating career cut short by a mysterious problem with his foot called zwabbervoet. Physiotherapists and doctors were all at a loss to help him, and so he had to quit. For many years the mystery of zwabbervoet went unsolved, however now thanks to Marina de Koning-Tijssen and the team at Movement Disorders Groningen the mystery might be solved.

Zwabbervoet is likely a task specific movement disorder, whose origin is in the brain. Part of the evidence for this was presented on the NPO2 program: ATLAS. Here, Beorn Nijenhuis explained how the Movement Disorders team has found evidence of ‘coherence’ in muscles of skaters with zwabbervoet, a common sign of task specific dystonia. This research is an important step in better understanding zwabbervoet, and helping skaters who suffer from the problem.

Here you can watch the episode (in Dutch).