UM Researchers Team With Paddleheads for Balance Study

UM researcher Andy Kittelson (left) worked with Paddlehead players this week on a study that may lead to improved rehabilitation following concussions and other vestibular injuries. (UM photo by Shanna Madison)

MISSOULA – Researchers at the University of Montana recently teamed up with the Missoula Paddleheads to advance important research to help understand athletes’ sense of equilibrium and balance.

During the first week of August, faculty, staff and students from UM’s School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science worked with the Paddleheads to improve rehabilitation practices for athletes following concussions and other vestibular injuries. The vestibular system links the inner ear to the brain and controls balance.

Conducting this research are UM Assistant Professors Brian Loyd and Andy Kittelson of UM’s School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, as well as Research Lab Manager Tiffany Quindry and summer undergraduate Research Fellow Tyler Filippini.

"We are very excited to partner with the Paddleheads to better understand vestibular function in elite athletes,” said Kittelson. “This is a unique example of team science and something that I don’t think is possible in too many places. It’s another reminder of how Missoula is a pretty special community." 

The research team is at Ogren Park at Allegiance Field in Missoula from 2 to 3 p.m. through Thursday, Aug. 4, to conduct the study.

One goal of this research is to develop metrics of vestibular performance to enable targeted, high-level rehabilitation following injuries like concussions. This work with the Paddleheads also aligns with two larger UM studies funded by the National Institute of Health and Department of Defense that explores novel methods for assessing vestibular function in older adults, active-duty service members and military veterans.

Dr. Kittelson also serves as the director of the Design-Physio Lab, which aims to develop data science applications to aid clinical decisions in rehabilitation. Dr. Loyd is the director of the Community Ambulation, Mobility and Participation (CAMP) Lab which works to better understand and optimize vestibular performance and mobility for people in Missoula and beyond.


Contact: Dave Kuntz, UM director of strategic communications, 406-243-5659,