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Towards improved assessment and training of plantar flexors in athletes for rehabilitation and performance

   School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

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  Dr J Folland, Dr S Allen  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Loughborough University is a top-ten rated university in England for research intensity (REF, 2014) and an outstanding 66% of the work of Loughborough’s academic staff who were eligible to be submitted to the REF was judged as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’, compared to a national average figure of 43%.

In choosing Loughborough for your research, you’ll work alongside academics who are leaders in their field. You will benefit from comprehensive support and guidance from our Doctoral College, including tailored careers advice, to help you succeed in your research and future career. Find out more.


The plantar flexors are a critical muscle group in track and field athletics from both performance and injury prevention perspectives. This PhD studentship is a unique opportunity to work on this joint project between British Athletics and Loughborough University investigating the assessment and training of the plantar flexors in order to enhance both performance and rehabilitation.

The reliable and meaningful/valid measurement of plantar flexor function remains a challenge, which limits the quantitative assessment of this muscle group and may compromise both the rehabilitation and performance improvements of athletes. Different functional (i.e. strength and power) measurements of the plantar flexors have been proposed (including isometrics, isokinetics, isoinertial and stretch shortening cycle activities) for monitoring the recovery of athletes during their rehabilitation post-injury and throughout regular training.

However our understanding of these different assessments and their relationship to track and field performance or readiness to perform remains limited. Similarly the underpinning neural, anatomical and mechanical determinants of these different tests as well as the plantar flexor characteristics required by elite level track and field performance are poorly understood. Finally, plantar flexor rehabilitation and training has often also lacked rigorous, quantitative evaluation.

The aims of this PhD are to investigate: different assessments of plantar flexor function, potentially including development of novel, improved assessments; determine the structure and mechanics of plantar flexors in runners and/or jumpers; monitor the recovery of plantar flexor function, and underpinning neuromechanics, during rehabilitation from injury and the responses of the plantar flexors to training interventions.


Primary supervisor: Professor Jonathan Folland

Secondary supervisor: Dr Sam Allen

Entry Requirements

Our entry requirements are listed using standard UK undergraduate degree classifications i.e. first-class honours, upper second-class honours and lower second-class honours.

Entry requirements for United Kingdom

Applicants should have, or expect to achieve, at least a 2:1 Honours degree (or equivalent) in Sport & Exercise Science or a related subject. A relevant Master’s degree will be an advantage e.g. Exercise Physiology, Sports Biomechanics etc., as is demonstrable experience/interest in neuromuscular research.

English language requirements

Applicants must meet the minimum English language requirements. Further details are available on the International website.

Find out more about research degree funding


All applications should be made online. Under programme name, select 'Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences'. Please quote the advertised reference number SSEHS/JPF/BA in your application. To avoid delays in processing your application please ensure that you submit the minimum supporting documents.

Apply now

Funding Notes

UK Fee Fully Funded
International Fee Fully Funded
Tuition fees cover the cost of your teaching, assessment and operating University facilities such as the library, IT equipment and other support services. University fees and charges can be paid in advance and there are several methods of payment, including online payments and payment by instalment.
The studentship is for 3 years and provides a tax-free stipend of £15,609 per annum for the duration of the studentship plus tuition fees at the UK rate. International (including EU) students may apply however the total value of the studentship will cover the International Tuition Fee Only.
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