In 2006, Clint Hansen (38) stumbled across gait analysis when he did an internship in the gait lab at Aschau working with patients with cerebral palsy. Ever since he has been hooked on human motion capture. Eleven years later, he started running the Neurogeriatrics group in Kiel together with Professor Walter Maetzler. In 2020, Clint became a part of the Mobilise-D Technical Validation Study (TVS) team. In this episode, Clint tells us about his research career, his role in the TVS, and his adventures visiting participants in their homes.
“In the TVS I was the main person of contact in Kiel. From the recruitment of the participants to the actual measurements and post treatments. I was the go-to-person for everything.” The aim of the TVS was to establish baseline mobility measures for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Parkinson’s Disease (PD), multiple sclerosis (MS), proximal femoral fracture (PFF), or congestive heart failure (CHF). To do this, a sensor was used that was worn on the lower back. The participants were evaluated in a laboratory using a 3D motion capture system. They also did a 7-day mobility assessment while they were going about their daily activities, using a small digital, wearable device fixed to the participant’s lower back. One of Clint’s most fun tasks was to test participants in their own homes.
“Usually, I took the bike because Kiel is a bicycle friendly city and it is often quicker to take the bike than take the car”, Clint says and points out that this is preferable from an environmental point of view as well. “I learned a lot about ornithology and stamp collections but also about orchids.” The bird picture is from one of his home visit learning experiences. “Also, a nice experience was convincing the people to go for a walk which was sometimes tricky due to the weather, but I spent some time walking with the participants around the coast and some parks in Kiel. Quite an experience – not even talking about the terrible-to-good coffee offered.”
The Kiel team tested 25 participants in total, some participants were recruited at the hospital, and others were recruited in their houses. Clint biked home to at least 15 participants and had to take the car only twice. “Once I picked up a participant in Eckernförde and brought her back after the lab assessment.” Eckernförde is around 28 km from Kiel, so it was quite necessary to take the car. “Also, we got stuck in traffic for a total of 2h that day, which wasn’t fun”, he continues, and adds that the second time he had to take the car was for a home assessment outside of Eckernförde again. “Usually, the bike rides were between 3 to 12 km, nothing crazy but again, nicer compared to being stuck in traffic!”
Biking around in Kiel assessing TVS participants, Clint illustrates that he can be considered as a real “mobiliser”. In 2021, Clint moved a little out of Kiel together with his wife and daughter. “I commute everyday with the bike, 9 km each way, and to fight the sitting / sedentary research life, twice a week I train in the gym and on Wednesdays I joined a Team Handball league team.” When he is not working, Clint likes to spend much of his time with his little family and fixing the house DIY as much as he is capable to. His hobbies are kite flying and RC car modeling, and he has even participated in the world championships of RC car racing!
Asking him why he wanted to become a scientist, Clint says: “When I was a kid, I really wanted to understand how things work – I didn’t like taking things at face value, without an explanation. So, curiosity was a big driver for me. I was attracted to working on biomechanics as it is all about understanding why people move in a particular way, and why certain ways of moving work better than others – like how we see elite athletes excelling at 100m races or at javelin using different styles of running and throwing.”
Clint was born in Flensburg, grew up in Berlin, and studied sports science in Kiel after his military service. After his master’s degree he continued with a PhD in Motor Control / Biomechanics at the University of Paris XI. This was followed by a 2-year postdoc in Compiegne, France, working on musculoskeletal modeling of the hand. After 5 years in France, he spent a short time at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and at ASPETAR in Qatar implementing biomechanical test batteries into the clinical everyday screening for the patients following an ACL injury.
In 2017, he started working with Professor Walter Maetzler at Neurogeriatrics in Kiel. “My research and clinical practice focus on understanding and characterizing the biomechanics of human movement in health and disease. I use clinical movement analysis to collect quantitative information to aid in understanding the etiology of movement abnormalities and support treatment decision-making. This process is facilitated through 3D Motion capture, EMG, IMU, GPS analyses and musculoskeletal modeling.”
His position at Neurogeriatrics in Kiel gave him the opportunity to take part in the Mobilise-D TVS, a study that developed and validated algorithms that will allow us to understand how mobility changes as diseases progress. This in turn enables us to accurately assess the mobility of participants in the Mobilise-D Clinical Validation Study. The ultimate goal is to develop a digital system that allows us to use changes in mobility as a biomarker for disease progression.