TIC TALK Podcasts

Exploring personal experiences of inclusion

TIC TALK 27: Dr Yves Vanlandewijck

A podcast with Dr Yves Vanlandewijck
Dr Yves Vanlandewijck

Dr Yves Vanlandewijck

Katholieke Universitat Leuven, Belgium

Dr Yves Vanlandewijck is one of the worlds leading authorities in disability sport. He is a researcher, an academic and a practitioner all rolled into one. He has many areas of expertise but particularly as a leader in classification of athletes with disabilities.

Transcript of the Podcast with Yves Vanlandewijck

Yves Vanlandewijck

You’re listening to an Inclusion Club Tic Talk all about sport, inclusion and human rights.

Peter:

Welcome to today’s Tic Talk. I’m with Yves Vanlandewijck and I’m not quite sure how to introduce you but I’ll introduce you first as perhaps the Chair of the IPC Sports Science Committee but also long time friend, colleague, mentor, Professor, someone I’ve known on and off for 20 years—

Yves:

A little bit more!

Peter:

So maybe just to start off, if you could give a small snapshot of your background. It’s so diverse at the moment but just to give a little bit of a background on yourself.

Yves:

Well then I have to go back to 1978 where I was introduced to disability sport watching a winter basketball game as a 17-year-old, so I became interested. Really at that moment I became enthusiastic and I was starting in recreation because I also have a background as a physiotherapist. I was mainly focusing on recreational activities because I was looking for active lifestyle for those that came out of rehabilitation but because of my very competitive mind progressively I started to become involved in the Paralympic movement in the competitive field, became a (1:35) basketball coach, made my PhD on (1:39) from a biomechanical exercise physiological perspective and then started to work for the IPC as a member of the Sports Science Committee, interesting because of the multidisciplinarity of that team and then progressively really focused on evidence-based classification because that’s such an important issue at the heart of the movement and that’s what I’m doing now.

Peter:

Whenever I travel the world and go to places and I see your name on the agenda I go “Yes, I’m going to learn something” and also probably have a couple of beers at the same time but today, you just gave a keynote at the EUCAPA. I saw probably the best ever description and demonstration of the complexities of classification and maybe we’ll talk a little bit about that because I think some of the listeners to this Tic Talk would have little, maybe some idea what classification is and you just give a brilliant explanation so what is the purpose really of classification?

Yves:

Well I’m not sure I can do that one more time in what you say, in a very brilliant way, but I am going to try to explain it. It’s a very complex issue because we are dealing with a person with a specific impairment, we need to understand the impact of the impairment on performance because we want people with different kinds of impacts not to compete against each other because that would be unfair so to do this you need to really understand the person interacting with the equipment doing a specific task and the example I used was a person goes up an incline, a wheelchair user is going up an incline. We need to try to understand why this person for example is able to do it or failing. If he cannot understand this then it’s very difficult to compare two athletes. Why is one failing and the other one is succeeding? Is that because of just pure strength and is something that is trainable so there is no unfairness or is it something that has really to do based on the impairment level and you cannot change it in one athlete. In the other athlete it’s more based on another aspect, so this comparison is very, very complex. You need to understand the person, you need to understand the equipment, the interface between the person and the equipment and then you need to understand of course this complexity in relation to what the person is going to do? Is that for example a 100-metre wheelchair race? Then we have to look at what are the components to determine the performance? It’s the start. We all know that, extremely important in a 100-metre and it is then accelerating to maximal speed and do this for a short while. That is two components – start and acceleration to maximal speed. So how much does for example a trunk has impact on forced generation to accelerate a chair from zero to maximal speed? That is what we have to try to understand and I think we need people who understand this complexity to study this and to come to solutions.

Peter:

It’s one of the great grey areas here, that the personal motivation and performance, from the motivational point of view for a level of training point of view, so some people are more trained than others. I’m thinking that’s almost impossible to measure?

Yves:

Are you now talking about misrepresentation of abilities?

Peter:

A little bit.  I was coming to that, yes.

Yves:

I was feeling something like that in the air.

Peter:

I was leading into it.

Yves:

Well that is of course a problem because what we are doing is we want an athlete to perform to his maximum and then we want to analyse what are the determinants of this performance. Of course what when the person doesn’t want to perform to the maximum? That’s a very interesting thing because many people want to understand this, for example insurance companies that are going to pay a lot of money to a person because he became impaired. Here for example this insurance company it’s extremely important that he is not 30% but only 10% suffering from that impairment. For this person it’s more important to have 30%. He will receive more money for the rest of his life so we are talking about really, really important issues here. Also in performance sport this is extremely important because when you present yourself with less abilities, with less performance capacity then you will go into a more easy class and you are perhaps a gold medallist while in the class you will need to be in you would be just somewhere in the middle and nobody would know you. It’s extremely important how to deal with that. There are several ways to do that. I know that one of the PhD’s (7:17) really at this moment is Rebecca is working on misrepresentation of abilities and in the approach you see several steps e.g. one step is and I’m not sure I have the English correct here, there are some physical laws, like for example the law of hill in concentric contraction you can produce less force than when you do an eccentric contraction so there are different laws and a very simple explanation would be if you do a kangaroo jump you’re going to stand there, you bend your knees and you jump as high as possible. You would do that in three ways; first, you just bend through your knees and without bending any further from that static position, you jump as high as possible. That would be a squat jump. Then you have a counter-movement jump. Now I allow you to first bend your knees further and then jump so you use a (8:19) cycle. The third part would be you are going to stand on a little height of let’s say 20-30cm, you jump down and then you jump while the height you can jump will be the highest when you jump down the obstacle. The second highest jump will be the one where you have to counter movement and the worst would be the squat jump. If you present this in another way this is not correct. As an athlete you don’t know this so you can use physical laws that I call it – I’m not sure if that is the correct wording but to check if people present themselves. Another one that Sean is now searching for is Fits Law, which is a coordination test where also you can give different performance levels, you can check if people perform according to that law, laws that are developed for able bodied people but that Sean is now applying to athletes with cerebral palsy with severe coordination issues and it works, the law still stands.

Peter:

You’re involved also with classification of athletes with an intellectual disability. Now I’m guessing that’s an enormously complex one. Is it enormously complex or is it actually more straightforward?

Yves:

Well it is enormously complex because classification is enormously complex but we have one big advantage, which is a huge advantage, and that is we can start from scratch. There is no history. We do not have 20 years of classifiers who made up a classification system based on experience without evidence and probably the judgment of these classifiers is close to correct but close to correct is not good enough because when you make a mistake in one person this can be a disaster for that person’s quality of life so we have to be correct. So we can start from scratch. That’s the good thing. It is complex. What we try to do is we try to find out if the impact of intellectual impairment is important in a specific sport. Of course when you take basketball you understand that the complexity of this dynamic space in front of you and making decisions to pass or to shoot or to dribble is quite simple to measure but when you ask me the same question – what’s the impact of intellectual impairment in running a 100-metre sprint? Then you can imagine that the impact on a percentage base is way less. The question is still the same – does the intellectual impairment make a difference over there? So therefore for example now you see that in the Paralympic games, there is an inclusion of the 1500 metre because there we see that there is probably an impact of intelligence in the way of how people pace their body. Pacing your body is a cognitive thing. When you are running you feel that – let’s say, the two of us, we go running together. I will be a disaster, so I have to follow you. I will read my body when I try to follow you my body will tell me “you will not do this for another kilometre if you keep the pace of Peter so tell him you have to slow down” or run on your own. So this is something that an able-bodied person is able to do. People with intellectual impairment they cannot pace their body. We have a test where we let them run a 400-metre. We bring them up to 200‑metre. This is the pace they have to run. It is 80% of their personal best of their 1500 metre and then they have to continue the pace and it’s a slow pace. All of them, without any exception, all the athletes with intellectual impairment accelerate in the second part where they do not get any feedback anymore, where the able-bodied athlete he is scoring home time within a second (12:43). It is testable. Now the question of IPC is “okay, but what when we bring it down to 400 metres?” There the pacing is completely different.  What would we expect with a 100 metre. There is no pacing anymore in the 100 metre so we need to find something else. That’s the complexity.

Peter:

Mm, that’s the interaction between the impairment and the requirements of the activity, like any other classification system?

Yves:

Yes, Exactly. It’s the same with the same question on the table there.

Peter:

Could I ask you the question of the inclusion of athletes with an intellectual disability into the Paralympic…we all know the kind of history behind them but from your perspective what are some of the issues that face athletes with intellectual disability to be included and fully accepted. I get the feeling they’re not fully accepted yet as bona fide participants in the Paralympic games?

Yves:

There are now included partially in the summer games. Now there is the wish that they also would be included in the winter games. I was in Nordic skiing expert meeting with representatives of science, of the athletes, trainers, coaches, classifiers and administrators talking about Nordic skiing. I had three hours to give them an idea about what is this classification of athletes with an intellectual disability. After that presentation my question to them was, giving them examples from basketball and athletics what we already developed, how should be do this now in Nordic skiing, US experts, now that you know the concept how is intelligence going to impact on Nordic skiing? Feed me because I need information. One of the athletes with a physical disability raised his hand and he said “if there is one person who has an intellectual disability participating in the winter games in 2018 I will not participate anymore ever.

Peter:

What was your reaction to that?

Yves:

Well I didn’t say but I thought it “perhaps you are also the person who doesn’t want to go on the photograph of elite athletes together with a (14:58) player.  You have to also understand where it’s coming from because 20 to 30 years ago there was the assumption that when you were watching a person in a wheelchair that people made up a lot of assumptions – it’s not possible that this person is intelligent, it’s not possible this person has a family, it’s not possible that this person has children – all wrong assumptions. Perhaps some of the assumptions could be right but nobody has the right to generalise these ideas to just everybody. That’s wrong.

Peter:

It’s a difficult question but I’m sure people have asked you before, where do you see the future role of classification say in five or 10 years time? You’ve been working on this and it’s transformed over the past decade but what about the next decade? Where’s it going from here?

Yves:

I’m a little bit afraid that it’s going to become worse and worse because sport evolves so fast and sport now says “those scientists they seem to know how it should be done, okay, this is our question, please deliver the answer tomorrow because we have to perform”. At a certain moment the CEO of IPC, Xavier Gonzalez said “Yves, what do you want? To stop organising the Paralympic Games for 30 years until you’re done with your job?” I said “well, no, I understand but I ask you is to slow down because you are implementing the next things all the time and what I’m saying is do not implement what you don’t understand because otherwise you are going to have something that blows up in your face afterwards” and most of the time the consequence is that the quality of life of some individuals is becoming a disaster because of these decisions. I can only say let’s work hard. Let’s convince more people to be really, really involved in these questions. What we try to do, I gave in the presentation the examples how we try to do this as a sports science committee to get more scientists from the able-bodied sports world to be involved. We can transfer a lot of information from the able-bodied sports world into what we are doing and I think then we will improve. At the end I am 100% sure that the issue is probably unsolvable, to perfection, but we have to try to come as close as possible.

Peter:

Yes, as you say, it’s not exact science but I think all the sort of stuff you’re doing is as much science evidence as we can possibly use to make it the best possible system for people in the future.

Yves thank you very much.

Yves:

My pleasure.

Peter:

There are a million things we could talk about and keep going but we’ll call it quits there and so thanks very much.

Yves:

We go for a beer now!!

Peter:

We’ll stick with water maybe.

Yves:

Okay, thank you.

 

You’ve been listening to an Inclusion Club Tic Talk podcast. For more Tic Talks visit www.theinclusionclub.com