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Objective monitoring for concussion in rugby (Advert Reference: RDF19/EE/CIS/GODFREY)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, January 25, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Concussion is a frequently reported injury in rugby with links between repeat concussions and poorer cognitive function, depression, verbal fluency and electrophysiological abnormalities diagnosed in later life. Typically, a team physician/physiotherapist makes the return-to-play decision based on a brief sideline evaluation or limited observation post injury. Returning to participation before complete recovery increases risk of secondary injury, as well as possible long-term, or even catastrophic neurologic sequelae. Indeed, concussion related dysfunction can last ≥2-weeks but there are no current tools/methodologies to continuously assess players during that time.

This project will use wearables and novel analytics to monitor players who experience concussion immediately after injury and remotely over a season. A single, discrete, low-cost wearable and validated methodologies will record a range of biomechanical movement data, some of which has been shown to be a non-invasive marker for neurological conditions. Specifically, the candidate will work with the supervisor and extended team* to:

• Develop a wearable system to assess player health status during sideline assessments. Our previous work has shown the ease of using a wearable to quantify a range of biomechanical-based data. The student will work with Dr Godfrey to determine commercial opportunities of this work.
• Monitor player’s during 7-day free-living as they undertake their normal activities of daily living within habitual environments at numerous time points during the season. This real-world assessment will better inform player management (return to play protocols) by detecting abnormal locomotor function outside of the acute timeframe to aid long-term treatment.
• Utilise existing research and sporting networks to provide a pathway to impact for remote player assessment and improved player welfare.

*Dr Sam Stuart (Oregon Health and Science University), Heather Steel (NU High Performance Sport Manager), Darren Fearn (NU Head of Rugby Union and England Students Head Coach), Salwa Bowen (Lead Sport Physiotherapist NU, ex-Newcastle Falcons)
The principal supervisor for this project is Alan Godfrey.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:

• Would suit a student with an interest in sports related research with new technologies, who is prepared to work closely with rugby teams during their season and upskill/engage in large data analytics, especially from wearables.
• Willingness to learn basic coding skills will be required (if none).
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDF19/EE/CIS/GODFREY) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: Friday 25 January 2019
Start Date: 1 October 2019

Northumbria University is an equal opportunities provider and in welcoming applications for studentships from all sectors of the community we strongly encourage applications from women and under-represented groups.

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Students Worldwide, and covers full fees and a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2018/19, this is £14,777 pa).


• Godfrey A, Hetherington V, Shum H, Bonato P, Lovell N, Stuart S. From A to Z: Wearable technology explained. Maturitas. 2018. 113, 40-47.
• Stuart S, Hickey A, Morris R, O’Donovan K, Godfrey A. Concussion in contact sport: a challenging area to tackle. Journal of sport and Health Science. 2017. 6, 299-301.
• Hickey A, Stuart S, O'Donovan K, Godfrey A. Walk on the wild side: the complexity of free-living mobility assessment. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2017, Epub ahead of print.
• Godfrey A. Wearables for independent living in older adults: Gait and falls. Maturitas 2017, 100, 16-26.
• Hickey A, Del Din S, Rochester L, Godfrey A. Detecting free-living steps and walking bouts: validating an algorithm for macro gait analysis. Physiological Measurement 2017, 38(1), N1-N15.
• Del Din S, Galna B, Godfrey A, et al. Analysis of free-living gait in older adults with and without Parkinson's disease and with and without a history of falls: identifying generic and disease specific characteristics. Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences. 2017. glx254.
• Godfrey A, Morris R, Hickey A, Del Din S. Beyond the front end: investigating a thigh worn accelerometer device for step count and bout detection in Parkinson's disease. Medical Engineering & Physics 2016, 38(12), 1524–1529.
• Del Din S, Hickey A, Hurwitz N, Mathers JC, Rochester L, Godfrey A. Measuring gait with an accelerometer-based wearable: influence of device location, testing protocol and age. Physiological Measurement 2016, 37(10), 1785-1797.
• Ladha A, Del Din S, Nazarpour K, Hickey A, Morris R, Catt M, Rochester L, Godfrey A. Toward a low-cost gait analysis system for clinical and free-living assessment. IEEE Engineering and Medicine Biology Society, Orlando. 2016
• Godfrey A, Bourke A, Del Din S, Morris, R, Hickey A, Helbostad J, Rochester L. Towards holistic free-living assessment in Parkinson's disease: unification of gait and fall algorithms with a single accelerometer. IEEE Engineering and Medicine Biology Society, Orlando. 2016
• Barry G, Galna B, Lord S, Rochester L, Godfrey A. Defining ambulatory bouts in free-living activity: Impact of brief stationary periods on bout metrics. Gait & Posture 2015, 42(4), 594-597.
• Godfrey A, Del Din S, Barry G, Mathers JC, Rochester L. Instrumenting gait with an accelerometer: a system and algorithm examination. Medical Engineering & Physics 2015, 37(4), 400-407

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