Finnish innovation conquering the world – NBA and NHL teams are testing a smart mobility training stick

Original article: Manu Tuppurainen, Published on 24 October 2018 (2:00), Updated on 24 October 2018 (6:32), Helsingin Sanomat

Translation: Lingo Languages Oy

Original article in finish:

The KHL team Jokerit has also benefited from the TE3 Mobility Training Stick by gaining a better understanding of athletes’ mobility.

The Jokerit team’s athletic trainer, physiotherapist Hero Mali works with the Mobility Training Stick and player Antti Pihlström. After injuring his leg, the TE3 Mobility Training Stick has been an important part of Pihlström’s postoperative rehabilitation program for restoring muscle balance.

The Finnish sports technology company TE3 has established cooperation with two North American NBA teams and an NHL team regarding the use of the TE3 Mobility Training Stick.

The stick is used to test the mobility, coordination and control of the body.

“The product is simple – in practice it’s a stick that has been augmented with a lot of technology and a range of features that make comprehensive performance testing possible,” says Ari Laakkonen, the CEO of TE3.

According to Laakkonen, the athletic trainers of the NHL and NBA teams, and especially the team members were excited about one feature in particular: the stick gives instant feedback via vibration, allowing the athlete to correct their movement. The stick provides real-time feedback and enables the athletes to better understand the errors previously pointed out by the trainer.

“The stick helps the athletes to understand their own mobility limitations and imbalances,” says Laakkonen.

Laakkonen has not yet revealed which teams the company is cooperating with. According to Laakkonen, cooperation is important for the company’s goals regarding the TE3 Mobility Training Stick.

“Our goal is to grow at an international level, and these global joint projects are important stepping stones for further progress,” says Laakkonen.

Laakkonen states that cooperation with the NHL and NBA teams generates mutual benefits. The teams are developing comprehensive performance testing concepts around the Mobility Training Stick in collaboration with the Finnish company. The aim is to create sport-specific performance testing programs.

“The concept should be developed for a particular sport because there are several ways to test performance, even within a single sport. Currently, performance is largely evaluated visually, but our product provides numerical data,” says Laakkonen. According to Laakkonen, an established testing protocol helps evaluate the team members’ performance in a consistent way.

The Finnish top coach Marko Yrjövuori helped TE3 establish contact with the North American teams. Yrjövuori is a performance specialist with long experience of NBA- and NHL-level training.Yrjövuori is involved in the company’s development work.

“That is how we got our foot in the door. Our idea was to go and introduce our products and ask if the teams had any interest in or demand for them” Laakkonen says of the company’s promotional trip across the Atlantic.

Ari Laakkonen demonstrates how the stick is used to measure thoracic spine rotation and potential imbalances. (PHOTO: MANU TUPPURAINEN)
Ari Laakkonen demonstrates how the stick is used to measure thoracic spine rotation and potential imbalances. (PHOTO: MANU TUPPURAINEN)

The Mobility Training Stick helps athletes to identify areas where there is room for improvement – even if they have already been pointed out by the trainer.

According to Laakkonen, methods to test and improve mobility – and thus improve performance and reduce the risk of injury for athletes – are more developed in North America than in Europe.

North America is a particularly attractive target market for the Mobility Training Stick since new ways to measure mobility, coordination and body control during dynamic exercise are constantly being sought in the continent.

The stick must be calibrated against a flat surface, such as the floor. (PHOTO: MANU TUPPURAINEN)
The stick must be calibrated against a flat surface, such as the floor. (PHOTO: MANU TUPPURAINEN)

TE3 is also currently negotiating with the United States Tennis Association. In addition, a training program that utilizes the training stick has been approved by the Technical and Instruction Committee of the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) to be presented at ITF instructor seminars. The training program has been developed by Jean Feller. Feller is an internationally renowned Taekwondo instructor from Finland.

In Finland, several sports institutes use the TE3 Mobility Training Stick for training and performance testing purposes.

The stick is available in two different versions. The consumer version includes various exercise and mobility programs. The professional version contains additional software which enables comprehensive performance testing for athletes.

According to Laakkonen, the stick can be attached, for example, to a barbell to analyze the direction of lift, acceleration, time and efficiency when performing sets.

“For example, ski jumpers can use the stick to measure the acceleration of the jump and to identify unwanted inclinations or rotations,” says Laakkonen.

Briefly put, TE3 is a stick that contains Finnish technology. According to Laakkonen, the product is the result of coincidence, luck, and Finnish madness.

“It all started with a broom handle,” Laakkonen reveals.

Laakkonen’s work in the industrial sector had ended a few years earlier. Laakkonen was in Gothenburg, visiting Jarkko Kortelainen, his friend who works in the sports sector. Laakkonen was relaxing in the sauna, and suddenly he turned to Kortelainen and asked if they should develop a technological sports and wellness product.

Kortelainen picked up a broom handle from the corner and said that “if you can incorporate technology into this broom handle that measures the angle of the broom, that would already be something”.

“That’s how it all started, and now, here we are,” says Laakkonen.

The development process took four years. TE3 was founded in 2016, and approximately 600 Mobility Training Sticks have been sold around the world.

The TE3 application stores and displays mobility test results. (PHOTO: MANU TUPPURAINEN)
The TE3 application stores and displays mobility test results. (PHOTO: MANU TUPPURAINEN)

Finns have invented smart shorts, wrist computers and smart hand paddles.

Suunto and Polar are the global forerunners of Finnish sports technology. Polar is known for its wrist computers, activity trackers and cycling computers, and Suunto for its dive computers, GPS systems and compasses.

Runteq has developed a sensor for smartphones and a smartphone application that provides real-time feedback and post-run analytics for athletes. The application also functions as a virtual trainer by coaching the user during exercise. Runteq intends to develop similar applications and sensors for other sports as well.

Myontec is known around the world for its smart shorts. Myontec has developed athletic shorts that include sensors which monitor muscle load and other muscle activity in real time. The sensor technique can be applied to various exercises where muscle strength needs to be measured.

Firstbeat is a company specialized in wellness services and professional sports. The company has developed a heartbeat analytics solution to improve athletic performance and health. The US-based company Garmin utilizes Firstbeat’s technology in its wrist-worn devices to monitor stress and physical activity. Garmin competes in the same market with Suunto and Polar.

Smartpaddle is a wearable device developed for swimmers. The device measures the technique, force and direction of swimming strokes. The device provides information that cannot be seen from underwater or which athletes find difficult to explain to their coaches.