Profile: Joel Fuller

PhD candidate at UniSA
Bachelor of Physiotherapy

UniSA PhD student and physiotherapist Joel Fuller (Bachelor of Physiotherapy with Honours 2012), who is investigating the connection between running strides and sports injury, will travel to the United States to further his research as part of the prestigious Fulbright scholarships program.

Joel will use his Fulbright South Australia Postgraduate Scholarship to visit the University of Massachusetts.

He says he will use his time in the US to investigate whether there is a connection between running stride and injury risk.

“Running is an inherent component of most sports, so it’s important for understanding injuries,” he says.

“We’re looking at whether the structure and pattern of your running stride gives an indication of the health of your neuromuscular system – similar to how the structure and pattern of your heartbeat gives an indication of the health of your cardiovascular system.”

He says he will use his time in the US to investigate whether there is a connection between running stride and injury risk.

“We’re looking at whether the structure and pattern of your running stride gives an indication of the health of your neuromuscular system – similar to how the structure and pattern of your heartbeat gives an indication of the health of your cardiovascular system.”

Joel will set off in August with the goal to further investigate a stride assessment technique developed as a spin-off from his PhD project on footwear and running injuries.

“We developed some novel biomechanical assessment techniques that we thought had potential clinical application,” Joel says.

“We use a sensor inside the shoe to detect foot strikes and measure running stride rhythm.

“When running, no stride is the same as the last one. Previous work in motor control shows this variation is not just white noise, but instead contains a purposeful structure that results from fine-tuning of the running stride by the central nervous system

“If certain stride structures and patterns can be proven to predict certain types of injury, our technique to assess running stride will give a good idea of a runner’s risk of injury.

“Currently biomechanical assessment can be equipment-heavy and time consuming. This technique is much simpler, and will be easy to use in practice. The complexity is in processing the stride information, not in collecting it and this processing can be automated.”

The University of Massachusetts will offer Joel the opportunity to work with a large group of high-performance athletes from the institution’s sporting programs. Joel says he is looking forward to tapping into the university’s expertise.

“This is a great chance to stay at the forefront of my field and investigate questions that have come up in practice,” he says.

“Down the track, I hope to translate my findings to clinical work, to benefit patients and end users.”

The Fulbright Program has been providing opportunities for educational exchanges between the United States and Australia since 1949.

UniSA’s second Fulbright Scholar of 2015, Adjunct Professor Rob Fowler, will travel to George Washington University on the Fulbright Professional Scholarship in Climate Change and Clean Energy.

For more information on Prof Fowler, Joel and the Fulbright Scholarship program, visit the Australian American Fulbright Commission website.

More information on PhD research opportunities at UniSA.

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