Karl Zabjek, BSc, MSc, PhD

Assistant Professor

Department of Physical Therapy
160-500 University Avenue
Toronto, Ontario, M5G 1V7

Email:   k.zabjek@utoronto.ca
Fax:         416-946-8562



Dr. Zabjek is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy and has extensive applied expertise within the field of Clinical Biomechanics. Dr. Zabjek developed his knowledge of Biomechanics within the context of the Undergraduate Kinesiology program at the University of Waterloo, and learned to apply this knowledge to develop clinically relevant research questions that address the contemporary  issues  encountered by individuals living with disability and neuromusculoskeletal conditions. Dr. Zabjek developed this knowledge and expertise within the context of a Masters in Clinical Science at the University of Sherbrook and a Doctorate in Biomedical Science in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Montreal.

Dr. Zabjek’s current research is focused on the development of clinical models to assess the structure and function of the spine in children and youth living with a Paediatric Spinal Deformity. A secondary focus of his research aims to understand the multiple determinants of mobility in individuals living with a Disability. This program of research is conducted in collaboration with researchers from the Rehabilitation Sciences Sector at the University of Toronto, the Bloorview Research Institute, The Hospital for Sick Children, and the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.

Paediatric Spinal Deformities

Zabjek KF, Leroux MA, Coillard C, Prince F, Rivard CH.Postural characteristics of adolescents with idiopathic scoliosis. J Pediatr Orthop. 2008 Mar;28(2):218-24.

Zabjek KF, Coillard C, Rivard CH, Prince F. Estimation of the centre of mass for the study of postural control in Idiopathic Scoliosis patients: a comparison of two techniques. Eur Spine J. 2008 Mar;17(3):355-60. Epub 2008 Jan 8.

Zabjek KF, Leroux MA, Coillard C, Rivard CH, Prince F. Evaluation of segmental postural characteristics during quiet standing in control and Idiopathic Scoliosis patients. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2005 Jun;20(5):483-90.

Zabjek KF, Leroux MA, Coillard C, Martinez X, Griffet J, Simard G, Rivard CH. Acute postural adaptations induced by a shoe lift in idiopathic scoliosis patients. Eur Spine J. 2001 Apr;10(2):107-13.

Leroux MA, Zabjek K, Simard G, Coillard C, Rivard CH. Estimated kyphosis and lordosis changes at follow-up in patients with idiopathic scoliosis. J Pediatr Orthop. 2002 Jan-Feb;22(1):73-9.

Leroux MA, Zabjek K, Simard G, Badeaux J, Coillard C, Rivard CH. A noninvasive anthropometric technique for measuring kyphosis and lordosis: an application for idiopathic scoliosis. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2000 Jul 1;25(13):1689-94.

Griffet J, Leroux MA, Badeaux J, Coillard C, Zabjek KF, Rivard CH. Relationship between gibbosity and Cobb angle during treatment of idiopathic scoliosis with the SpineCor brace. Eur Spine J. 2000 Dec;9(6):516-22.

Zabjek KF, Simard G, Leroux MA, Coillard C, Rivard CH.  [Comparison of the reliability of two 3D acquisition systems used for the study of anthropometric and postural parameters]. Ann Chir. 1999;53(8):751-60. French.

Beaudoin L, Zabjek KF, Leroux MA, Coillard C, Rivard CH. Acute systematic and variable postural adaptations induced by an orthopaedic shoe lift in control subjects. Eur Spine J. 1999;8(1):40-5.

Mobility, Gait and Posture

Fait PE, McFadyen BJ, Zabjek K, Reed N, Taha T, Keightley M. Increasing task complexity and ice hockey skills of youth athletes. Percept Mot Skills. 2011 Feb;112(1):29-43.

Nadkarni NK, Zabjek K, Lee B, McIlroy WE, Black SE.Effect of working memory and spatial attention tasks on gait in healthy young and older adults. Motor Control. 2010 Apr;14(2):195-210.

Tung JY, Gage WH, Zabjek KF, Maki BE, McIlroy WE. Frontal plane standing balance with an ambulation aid: Upper limb biomechanics. J Biomech. 2011 May 17;44(8):1466-70. Epub 2011 Apr 1

Gage WH, Zabjek KF, Sibley KM, Tang A, Brooks D, McIlroy WE.Ambulatory monitoring of activity levels of individuals in the sub-acute stage following stroke: a case series. J Neuroeng Rehabil. 2007 Oct 26;4:41.

Sadeghi H, Prince F, Zabjek KF, Labelle H. Simultaneous, bilateral, and three-dimensional gait analysis of elderly people without impairments.Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2004 Feb;83(2):112-23.

Sadeghi H, Prince F, Zabjek KF, Sadeghi S, Labelle H. Knee flexors/extensors in gait of elderly and young able-bodied men (II). Knee. 2002 Feb;9(1):55-63.

1)        Paediatric Spinal Deformities

Paediatric Spinal deformities are one of the most prevalent class of musculoskeletal conditions observed in children and youth.  Historically, the clinical management of a spinal deformity has posed a significant challenge to the rehabilitation and orthopaedic community. This challenge arises from the complex deformation of individual vertebra, the rib cage and the spine that is also accompanied by postural disorganization and neuromuscular dysfunction. The advent of new conservative and surgical management techniques has provided the clinical community with a large spectrum of assessment and treatment options. However, a gap in our understanding about the primary factors that are associated with the natural history of a spinal deformity, and factors associated with positive treatment outcomes still remains.

The overall goal of this research focus is to generate new observations about the structure, function and mobility of the spine in children and youth living with a Paediatric Spinal Deformity. As a member of the University of Toronto Spine Program, Dr. Zabjek collaborates with a multi-disciplinary team of experts within the field of Medical Sciences (Anatomy, Physical Therapy, Kinesiology, Orthopaedics) and Biomedical Engineering (Mechanical and Electrical). The generation of new discoveries within this field will provide the foundation for the development of new measures that will assist in the evaluation of clinical outcomes and inform the development of new interventions aimed at the optimization of the clinical management of a Paediatric Spinal Deformity.

2)                  Mobility, Gait and Posture

Mobility impairment is one of the leading causes of disability for individuals living with a neuromusculoskeletal condition, and is associated with decreased levels of physical activity, cardiovascular fitness and quality of life. Motor, sensory and cognitive deficits are recognized as important determinants of gait and balance dysfunction that emerge with the natural history of conditions such as Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Stroke and Traumatic Brain Injury. However, there is an emerging recognition that the constructs of the built home and community environment will affect how severely these deficits inhibit mobility. Importantly, it is the interaction between functional deficits and challenges of the built environment that will influence mobility, and are associated with the risk of falls. Within this context, it is clear that new knowledge that informs about this interaction will guide the development of innovative and effective interventions that will enable individuals living with a disability to achieve safe and efficient mobility. The long term goal of this research focus is to develop new insight into the facilitators and barriers to mobility in individuals who are living with a neuromusculoskeletal condition. Of specific interest is to build new knowledge about the determinants of postural and locomotor behaviour in light of functional deficits (sensory, physical, cognitive) and the physical constructs of the built environment. To address these complex issues I am currently collaborating with researchers from the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, the Bloorview Research Institute, and I am a member of a team of researchers from Ontario and Quebec working towards understanding and measuring integrated functioning following TBI. This new knowledge will enhance capacity to design effective interventions that enable mobility.

Department of Physical Therapy:
Musculoskeletal Physical Therapy Practice
Biomechanics, Gait and Posture

Graduate Department of Rehabilitation Science:
Restorative and Disordered Motor Control

Dr. Zabjek holds a Scientist Position at the Bloorview Research Institute, an Adjunct Scientist Position at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, and an Associate Scientist with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario Centre for Stroke Recovery. Dr. Zabjek is also an Associate member of the Graduate Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, and a Faculty of the University of Toronto Spine Program.

Scientist, Bloorveiw Research Institute at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital
Adjunct Scientist, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute
Associate Scientist, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario Centre for Stroke Recovery