The importance of high-quality research work in sports and exercise medicine ~ Pekka Kannus MD, PhD

After attending an excellent thesis defense in sports and exercise medicine on March 22, 2013, I’d like to write about the importance of high-quality clinical research work in sports and exercise medicine.

In Finland, it has been a long tradition that those interested in a science and specialist career to do academic dissertation work. It usually takes about five years to complete the thesis works and the results are published in four to six original papers in the peer-reviewed international literature. The thesis itself is a large literature review and summary of the original publications.

Photo by s.yume. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Source: flickr

Photo by s.yume. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Source: flickr

In Finland, sports and exercise medicine is a rather young newcomer in medical specialization with a five-year curriculum after the medical school.

From the beginning, sports and exercise medicine has attracted many talent young physicians and the dissertation works finished so far have been of high quality. This is not just my opinion:  since 1985, Finnish universities have given an exceptionally number of “honorary mentions” to theses of sports and exercise medicine. Competition is stiff as  less than 10 percent annually of all medical theses receive this title.

The above noted thesis defence was by Henri Taanila, MD. The title of his thesis was “Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) in male Finnish conscripts: Importance of physical fitness as a risk factor, and effectiveness of neuromuscular exercise and counseling in the prevention of acute injuries, and low back pain and disability.”

In addition to detailed analysis of the prevalence and risk factors of the MSDs, his six original works showed, using a randomized, controlled study design, that a systematic neuromuscular warm-up program with injury prevention counseling clearly decreased the risk for MSD among these army conscripts. And the best part of the work was that the program will be now implemented in Finnish army training. Too seldom we can see that research work results in true clinical implications.

Hopefully, Henri’s work will get continuation -in Finland and other countries. If someone needs further information or even a copy of the thesis please contact

Please see Chapter 11, Principles of diagnosis: clinical assessment, in Clinical Sports Medicine for tips on taking a comprehensive history to assess musculoskeletal disorders.

Pekka Kannus, MD, PhD, Professor. Specialist in Sports and Exercise Medicine University of Tampere, and Chief Physician Injury & Osteoporosis Research Center UKK-Institute Tampere Finland. email:

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