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Eva Ageberg

professor, physioterapist

Research area: Exercise is good for your joints!

A portrait photo of Eva Ageberg in black and white. Eva has long brown hair and is wearing round glasses and a striped blouse.

My research is mainly targeted at young to middle-aged people who are at an increased risk of sustaining a knee or hip injury or who have an existing injury. A joint injury can result in joint pain, functional instability, physical inactivity, and poor quality of life. It also increases the risk of sustaining new injuries and developing osteoarthritis at a young age. Individualized exercises are necessary to prevent and treat both injuries and osteoarthritis. This is to improve or restore joint function so that one is able to move as optimal as possible in daily life, during leisure activities, and whilst exercising/doing sports. My research team and I investigate how an injury affects the individual, the body, and the brain. We develop different tests to evaluate these different aspects. We look at whether strong and well-functioning muscles can prevent injuries and the development of osteoarthritis. Furthermore, we develop and evaluate new exercise methods for injury prevention and the treatment of injuries. We also implement these exercises methods and aim for them to be used by sports clubs and in healthcare.

What sparked your interest in research?  

Whilst working as a physiotherapist, I wanted to learn more about ways to improve physical examinations and treatments. This led me to research. I like the systematic way of working, asking new questions preferably in the borderland between academic disciplines, sharing brand new knowledge with different target audiences, and of course, helping people who are at an increased risk of sustaining an injury or who have sustained an injury or have osteoarthritis.

Tell us about one of your ongoing research projects.

We have an ongoing study called "SHIELD" where we investigate whether our muscles can prevent and/or slow down the development of early signs of osteoarthritis. We examine people with knee injuries by performing different muscle function tests. We also look at how the development of osteoarthritis changes. We do this on two occasions, once every two years.  If the results prove that good muscle function protects against early features of osteoarthritis, muscle function tests can be used to identify individuals who are at an increased risk of developing osteoarthritis. Several LOAD members are involved in this project.

What breakthroughs do you hope for within your research area?

Physical activity has many beneficial effects on health, and exercise is a cost-effective treatment with few and harmless side effects. The overall goal of my research is to improve individualized training that prevents or treats injuries and/or osteoarthritis to promote quality of life and lifelong physical activity. An individualized and flexible treatment model at an early stage reduces unnecessary suffering for a patient. Societal costs are reduced by allocating resources more appropriately by focusing on early and cost-effective measures.

What do you consider to be the most significant contribution you have made to your research area?

First, I want to highlight how to exercise properly. We all know that physical activity is important for both our general health and our joints, muscles, and bones. But exercising with the aim of preventing or treating an injury or osteoarthritis needs to be specific to have an effect. By specific I mean exercise that allows an individual to re-learn and optimize movement patterns. An example of re-learning a movement pattern would be giving an individual with an injury or osteoarthritis, specific exercises that aim to help them walk without limping. An example of optimizing a movement pattern would be helping an athlete to jump and land in a way that reduces the risk of injury. You may believe that it's about certain exercises that help prevent or treat certain injuries. Instead, my research group creates exercises based on principles of exercise training. Exercise needs to be individualized and factors such as age, level of activity, and goals as well as injury or osteoarthritis symptoms, need to be taken into account. Basing exercises on the principles of exercise training allows for physiotherapists and patients and/or athletes to design exercises together. By doing this, the patient/athlete is more involved in their own exercise regime. In order for the exercises to be effective and meaningful, their difficulty needs to be increased gradually. To begin with, individualized exercise needs to be monitored by a physiotherapist.

Our principles of exercise training we have developed primarily for young people with knee injuries. However, since then we have tested and observed that the same principles work well for older people with osteoarthritis.

I consider a large number of my collaborations as important contributions to my research area. The research questions are relevant to everyday life, and I manage projects that are a collaboration between different disciplines such as physiotherapy, sports science, psychology, orthopedics, biomechanics, health promotion, and implementation. This research often takes place in close collaboration with the health care system and sports clubs, which makes it easier for the results to be put into practice.

Read more about Eva's research in Lund University's research portal

What I prefer to do in my spare time: I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, exercising, reading books and watching films and series. I also appreciate good food and drinks.

A book or a film I would recommend: The book "Ålevangeliet: the story of the world's most enigmatic fish" by Patrik Svensson

Something that most people don't know about me: I can still do a cartwheel and a handstand and I can almost do the splits.

The best thing about my job is: Multifaceted work, meeting new people locally, nationally, and internationally and constantly developing on a professional and personal level.