Having a career as a Sports Therapist and then going on to study a PhD is a mammoth achievement. Today I am speaking with Ashley Jones who has done exactly that.
If you want to Become An Unstoppable Sports Therapist then visit:
To find out more about Ashley:
Having a career as a Sports Therapist and then going on to study a PhD is a mammoth achievement. Today I am speaking with Ashley Jones who has done exactly that.
If you want to Become An Unstoppable Sports Therapist then visit:
To find out more about Ashley:
Kristian Weaver 0:00
Having a career as a sports therapist, and then going on to study a PhD is a mammoth achievement. Today I'm speaking with Ashley Jones, who has done exactly that. So Ashley tell the listeners a little bit about you.
Ashley Jones 0:14
Yeah, so when I'm a graduate sports therapist, I graduated from the University of Huddersfield back in 2008. Now, so we're a few years ago, years ago, and sort of, due to sort of the placements I've done as a student, I secured my first job in professional football straightaway upon graduation. So I got a part time job at Chesterfield Football Club, who were in Ligue two at the time. And then within sort of a year, I got offered the full time head of Academy medical roll, which which had been rolled out with a new sort of triple p, things that were going on in football. So I did that job until 2013. And I also had a private practice within a gym facility that myself or my, my wife, run alongside the football. And then in 2013, I took a part time job at Leeds Beckett University and sort of carried on working part time in football and a little bit in ice hockey, and, and then undertook an MSc in football rehab at edge Hill. And then I'm just a glutton for punishment. As soon as I finished my MSC edge Hill, I or I enrolled in a PhD at Leeds Beckett. So that was it started in 2015. At the same time, started full time a lecture on the sports and exercise therapy course
they're in the sports medicine programme. And I'm also a member of the SST board and have been just out for over two years now. And now that's probably me in a nutshell really sheepishly What made you want to be a sports therapist, when you when you first started out in this may go back to when you're younger, suppose making your choices to go to university. But what made you want to be a sports therapist? Yeah, so
initially, just my sort of dad suffered with them, sort of chronic low back pain, and I used to go on to the physio appointments back in the day and sitting and watching, listen, I was quite intrigued by that profession, just the gist of Ms. k therapy profession. And I sort of managed to secure my work experience from school access for football club, which is my local team, teammates to go and watch so obviously quite starstruck at the time with with that, and then got to know the club sports therapist. And so naturally, then it just became my focus to get the best levels or code and get as much practical experience as I could say, to just go and even just go and volunteer and holidays and just be around. So naturally, I was always going to try and get a job role in that in that area. But what made me I was intrigued by the profession, but also quite like helping people and seeing progress and helping people reach milestones and empowering people. So you know that that's one of the main reasons that I kind of wanted to go down that route. Quite a personal character. So I like working with people. And so again, helping them achieve goals and just just being being a sociable type of character. So obviously, the football environment really resonated well with me. And I really enjoyed sort of the camaraderie of that fact that thing so. So that that sort of made me want to go into that profession, even as a as a schoolboy student. And, and then, yeah, just just what made me want to work in elite sport, so I was never going to be a professional athlete. And I'm sitting down, so you can't see my physique. But, but yeah, I was never going to be an athlete. So the next best thing is to obviously try and be around the environment by treating them on a daily basis and being involved in the success and rollercoaster ride of elite sport, even if it's from the sidelines. So, yeah, that was that was kind of what made me want to go down the profession, I didn't really want to work in the NHS. So So physio wasn't really an option for me. I always wanted to work in the, in the sporting environment. So obviously, this this this degree sports therapy was something I read into, I thought, yeah, this is absolutely the right thing for me to undertake.
Kristian Weaver 4:10
You know, it's interesting what you said there. I mean, I've spoken to quite a few people on the podcast, who have said that they started out by actually going and volunteering and giving up their free time in order to support and go into professional clubs in order to get that sort of experience, but also create those relationships as well. And so it's actually interesting, there's quite a common theme that people are going out there and doing that sort of free work, voluntary work in order to get to where they are in the future, which is, which is really interesting. So and you also mentioned a few few attributes that you sort of gained from being being in that environment. So can you just tell me what makes a good sports therapist?
Ashley Jones 4:49
And first of all, we've talked about the personable character, I think you've got to be a good listener. You've got to be sort of empathetic to to people's personal circumstances and situations. You Gonna be facing when you're treating patients, you're going to get people that are on top of the world because they've just managed to train for the first time in nine months, and you're going to get people on the floor when they get diagnosed with a, an ACL rupture, and you have to be able to adapt to those different situations and train almost coach people through through injury, it from a sack social aspect, as well as a physical aspect. So I think I think it's having that holistic approach would make makes a good sports therapist. And I think you really, it's about having the ability to reflect as well. You know, what I've been practising now for 12 years, you know, works in elite sport, and I would no way I teach the next generation of sports therapists, but I will no way say that I'm an expert, in anything, really. Even the PhD that I'm doing, I'm still not an expert I'm trying to be, but you know, that takes a lot of time. And I think you never finished article. So I think a good sports therapist needs to have the ability to reflect on
what their strengths are, but their areas of improvement,
and seek opportunities to develop those. So whether that's working with all those in a community, of therapists, you know, ideally, if that's in your work environment, you know, you know, in my in my role now, say for example, going and sitting with another member of staff teaching this thing that you're you've taught to see how they deliver it, what are the ways that they teach, as a therapist going and taking a complex case and discussing it in a in a roundtable discussion about how you would assess, treat, and rehabilitate that or what other concepts and ideas other people might have. So I think it's really important that you kind of not too, not too shy about what you do, and we don't know and not to, almost, because that will stop you trying to develop and improve. And I suppose off the back of that a good sports actor really should be be current and, and in with the latest research in the area of sort of sports, exercise medicine. So you know that our profession doesn't stand still, there's always new ideas and concepts that have been investigated in research. And I think we should really be, we owe it to ourselves, our patients be always trying to, and to kind of be at the forefront of that, as opposed to being reactive when, when it's been sort of out for those ideas have been well rehearsed out for a while and almost have moved forwards without a so I think,
to be a good sports official, he should really be thinking about those things.
Kristian Weaver 7:33
I just wanted to interrupt this podcast to let you know about a new partnership that we have with physique management, that you can get all your medical supplies for sports therapy. And if you use the code st community, then you'll get a discount as well. Yeah, definitely, I think one of the main points you made, there was almost the communication side of things, whether you're communicating with a player who's who's potentially looking at a life or career ending injury, and, or whether it's someone who you're trying to motivate in order to assist with their performance, or whether you're communicating with the players, parents, coaches, etc. That's all falls underneath sort of our umbrella as a sports therapist. So and I think that's one of the major points that I was come across with sort of developing those communication, those softer skills in order to make a sports therapist, a well rounded practitioner. So you mentioned there that you're sort of bringing forward the next generation of sports therapist through your lecturing. And but you're also Korean in the final stages of your PhD as well. So tell me what your PhD is about, and what have you found out so far?
Ashley Jones 8:40
I'll try and try and condense it to a nutshell, this is almost like an exam, a bit reviver. So, yeah, and so my PhD title is focused on muscle function prior to injury following rehab and at the point of return to play in professional footballers. So, suppose that the inception of PhD was to work out whether muscle injuries still remain the most problematic because they obviously, in the early 2000s, in all the epidemiology studies, they were, you know, really prevalent. So the first thing I did was on the top of an epidemiologist study, so an audit of injuries essentially in 10 different professional football clubs. And yet we found that actually injuries you know, the incidence of injury is increased to about nine to 9.1 injuries per thousand hours in male professional footballers in all playing or competing the English Football League, so the sort of second to fourth tier of English football, and found that muscle injury system or meaning the most prevalent, which isn't surprising from kind of anecdotal and work that we have done over the years in football, but obviously still to categorise that and give that a prevalence rate was important. And and Rangers have also increased by sort of between eight and 10%, depending on the literature you read, so Actually, what we're finding is players are going back into into train or match play, and then re injuring within three to six months of of being back into that environment and that that load bearing
what we've also seen is possibly, you know, is there's some gaps in the rehabilitation, we tend to play face that we need to consider. So that led me on to looking at muscle function, and also quantifying muscle or lean tissue mass in a group of footballers. So essentially, I measured 193 was football players on their muscle function in preseason baseline, and I've got 130 of those to have lean tissue mass. So whole body dexa scan taken for, for their lean tissue mass quantification in preseason. And, and sorry, the muscle function measure was TMG, or tensive agraphia, which is a involuntary muscle contraction that is induced to enter. Essentially, you measure the displacement of the muscle, so how much it moves and how fast it moves. And so what we found was that actually football plays very, very homogeneous as a sample. So we couldn't even detect any differences between playing position, consistent differences. This is in their lean tissue mass or their muscle function, their age, so no consistent differences between younger versus an older player, and even between limb dominance. So you read about asymmetry being a risk factor for injury, and you read about muscle footballers must have a symmetry because they have a standard leg in the kicking leg, and it's a unit peel activity, but actually, the room between 10 and 30 kilometres a game so so fundamentally, the main thing that they do is wrong, which is a bipedal activity. So they symmetries weren't detected using the in the measures that I took, then track them over three years, to see what injuries occurred. And no surprise, muscle injuries occurred most often. And within that hamstring injuries occurred most often, which again, we kind of were comfortable with knowing about that already. But then what I did was have a look at those that got an injury and what was their baseline muscle function and lean tissue mass measurements? Was there any difference between a healthy and the injured samples in their limbs? And was there any difference within the person as well, so in their contralateral limb, was there a difference in their function or their lean tissue mass, and actually, we found that there wasn't so non fine and uncertain confined is still a finding. So we found that essentially, the you know, the, the equipment that we've used wasn't really a predictor, useful, predictive injury. So screening people at baseline for injury prediction is probably not the most valuable way of doing it using this the equipment that I use in a PhD. And finally, what I did when they sustained an injury, I managed to get 14 of them to be repeated, measured. So I measured them within five days of injury. And I measured them at the point when they returned to play, just to see how the muscle function behaved during injury, the injury phase or spose off of the
much. So within five days, I found that displacement significantly and consistently dropped reduced. And that's probably due to things like excitation can put excitation contraction coupling impairment or extracellular matrix don't damage if you look at the physiology. But it's interesting to see that that was consistent within the players, because this has never been looked at on a live injury before or on a football induced injury, then found that it rose again, at the point returned to play so it wasn't significantly different to baseline. So we did find that players did recover to within a sort of 5% 10% swing of where they were at baseline. So essentially, it does it is sensitive enough to detect or make inferences that on 14 players, we can see that it can it can detect differences following an injury. So it might be something that this TMG equipment that quantifies or estimates, muscle function could be used as part of the rehabilitation and recovery process following a muscle injury. So it was really a bit of a first look and see as to how this kit could be used to assess injury risk. Not really. But could it be used during real during this sort of injury rehabilitation? Which would still mean you'd have to take a baseline and, you know, we found that, you know, on a small sample of 14 players, yes, it could. So it's it's definitely something that needs to research further. But But I suppose that that's where we're at at the minute with it, and there's plans to maybe go further down the line in the
future. So that's in a nutshell.
Kristian Weaver 14:41
Okay, so in terms like TMG and what's the placement like for the equipment? Is it on a specific muscle with each
Ashley Jones 14:48
Yeah, so so for the for the study that I did I only well, only most just superficial skeletal muscle, so it's, you know, so you can't go for any of the deep line muscles. So, essentially I am is a measured the bicep for us the rectus femoris at both ends of the gastrocnemius, the adductor magnus, and then I did the glute max as well and, and accepted those besides the glute max, because they're all obviously, muscles that generally get injured in football. So that prevalence rate was higher than others. And they were superficial. But yeah, essentially what happens is you put two electrodes either side of a central point. So you've got a probe that's like almost like a click a pen that sits on top of the muscle, so superficial to skin level, you have electricity, the side that stimulates the muscle to contract, and then the pen reacts to the order, the sensor reacts to that, and, and then the actual sensor measures the radial displacement. So the amount of movement that occurs and the speed of that movement, so it plots a time displacement curve, essentially, that then those parameters are estimated from. So TC, which is a contraction time is it's got some loose validation to to muscle fibre type. So you can sort of estimate that, that the the the muscles that have got a high portion, fast twitch might well have a quicker reaction with that. And displacement has a, again, a loose a loose reaction, sorry, a loose association to to force and output. So it might be that the more movement there is, the more force can be elicited, because you'd expect a large proportion of mass could move something further. And they're stronger, or can elicit more forceful say. So again, it's quite new technology. And that was one of the reasons for the novelty of the PhD to try and try and unpick it and could it be used in clinic is it a good is it got some clinical utility, it's portable, and, and this equipment cost about 12 to 15,000 pounds to buy. So, you know, football team could afford that versus an isokinetic dynamometer to measure maximal force out isometric force output, for example, which would be 30 to 40 grand So, so it does give us that potential to quantify a indices of function portably. But again, it's still quite, we're still quite, or it's quite new technology. So we still don't know as much about it, as we'd like to in order before we start to really sell it as a as the answer to all functional measures. So that's kind of where it's at at the minute.
Kristian Weaver 17:24
I suppose it might be quite difficult to sort of differentiate between playing position because of the way that players train now in terms of there's lots of small sided games, which rely on players doing quite a lot of very similar movements. And so actually, that could be a potential for for why you're not necessarily seeing those differences in it might be more of an injury based quantification as opposed to to being able to differentiate between playing position for example.
Ashley Jones 17:50
Yeah, so it was it was useful to see what what I suppose
footballs to create a profile for footballer rarely. So it what what what when I did the sub analysis with that with that independent with the different independent variables where it really showed us that, that just take the whole value, just take the raw value, don't worry about sort of categorising by plane position by dominance because actually, football is a very homogenous people, they do train very similarly. That's why their co founders are so low. So we few for football players in general, because they have very similar diets, they have very similar exercise patterns, they generally live quite similarly. Because they, you know, they they're so regimented into a routine that we feel more comfortable that if you were testing, you know, Joe Bloggs, or a group of students that the amount of co founders within their sort of daily, weekly routine in terms of exercise, diet, nutrition, anything else will affect things more so. So yeah, it was nice to get those, those whole value. So now, you know, really, for football player does sustain an injury, you can look at those baseline values to look at and see where they should be at. And really, that that is useful and novel for going forward for a future research in this area. So So yeah, fingers crossed, the examination team will feel the same as well.
Kristian Weaver 19:11
So what were the most difficult parts of completing your PhD either?
Ashley Jones 19:18
Right, so I've got a GFI for you. So
I think I think the first thing was, I mean, I've done it part time alongside a full time job so stay motivated for six years has been or it will be six years next June that that's been quite tough at times. And although I've really enjoyed it so good, because I've learned so much and and develop so much that and there is always a different task to be doing. So you know that that does change it up a bit. But you do have to be quite a motivated person to to do that. Time management's been, it's been quite difficult at times because obviously I mean, in this time between the doing the PhD of a father to children about to house moves, I've gone to a full time job. And we've had a medical pandemic. So, you know, that's the only things I can think about off my head. So, yeah, it's obviously factoring all that into doing this as well having the headspace to, especially during this time where when I'm writing up and finishing office, this is actually the most challenging part because you, when you collect the data, you are just a technician, you just collecting collecting information. And once you get into the groove of that, it's quite straightforward. But now I actually have to unpick and understand exactly what I've done and why I've done it and what it means and the contributions to knowledge and things like that. So yeah, that that the time management that's been quite hard, but still, it's achievable if you if you want it enough. And I suppose one of the big things is like resilience, you have to be able to accept critique and, and sort of criticality a lot, you know, you you send him work to supervisors, you having conversations with your research team, you group or your fellow PhD students, and you have you I'm sure people have heard of the imposter syndrome that surrounds kind of be a pig being a student of any kind, but certainly like a PhD student who's also a senior lecturer already. And you know, it's almost expected that you the finished article, when you were younger researcher, essentially, you quite, you're quite wet behind the ears when it comes to devising independent projects and being beat having the answers to things and being able to really write with great precision. So, yeah, you have to have a lot resilience to be to be knocked back and told that what you've what you've produced is okay, or it's good, but there's always lots of things to find that that can be better. So I think the big thing is kind of
being comfortable with being uncomfortable.
And so being able to go into situations and go into meetings and being comfortable with what you do know, but equally being comfortable with what you don't know, and, and almost being okay with the fact that you found a non significant finding. And, you know, footballers, haven't got asymmetries, you know, been able to physiologically explain that but also be okay about the fact that it doesn't, it didn't hit the hypotheses you wanted it to, or you say what you thought it might should say? Or that you you expected or that, you know, anecdotally you you
thought it would, it would it would be so
yeah, it's that it's been challenging, but I've absolutely loved it. So, you know, equally, I can't I can't say that it's a bit been, it's been difficult, it's been challenging, rather than difficult to say.
Kristian Weaver 22:31
Thanks, I think you've almost given us some better advice there for anyone who wants to undergo a PhD, any sports therapist to think about planning a PhD in the future. But there's only other bits of advice that you'd say for someone who is thinking, I want to embark on this mode of study?
Ashley Jones 22:48
Yeah, so first thing I think, is just make sure that the if you select a PhD, you're interested in the topic area. Yeah, that sounds really basic. But, you know, there are PhDs available all the time that, that, that people I'm sure, look at and think, you know, that sounds, that sounds okay, I might do that. But you are investing a huge proportion of your time for a long period of time. So it's got to be something that you enjoy reading about and immersing yourself in.
And, and I suppose,
off the back of that, if it's something you enjoy, you know, hopefully, you've got contacts in that field. And that helps you to contact wisely, you know, I was really lucky that, that I managed to use my contacts in football to obtain convenient samples, but big samples, which is obviously made my hopefully my thesis and my light up, and my future applications look strong, because, you know, I've used the people that I know, and that, that bought into why I was doing to me, I suppose big thing is take time away from it as well, I think, you know, especially when you're doing it for six years, and or even even if you're doing it full time, there's got to be weeks way to put you down for a week, and then go back to it. Because there's been times where I've thought, right, okay, I need to work on this, because I've got three days to only do three full days. And by the end of the second day, you're almost getting bit burnt out sometimes if you've worked on it for eight, nine hours. And then if you leave it for a few days and go back to it, you pretty much rewrite it because what you've wrote was, wasn't particularly great. And also you have a different perspective, you
look at it through a different lens. So I think that
having the balance of being able to pick it up, but also be able to put it down is is really important. And if you're looking at supervision, supervisors, choose them wisely. You know, you're gonna be working closely with them for a long time if you you know, that supervisors are interesting characters because they, they all expect something different of you and and you have to learn how to manage their and temper their expectations and your own expectations of them. So, you know, my supervisors have complete I've got two new ones because both of mine unfortunately left the university during my PhD. I'm still in touch with the originals, which is great, but you know, it's actually been There's been some good things about getting a new supervisor who looks at it very differently, you know, so but equally, and choose, choose them wisely so that they will stay involved with us should they not be around the university in the future, and just finally, just enjoy the process because it makes you a bit, it makes you a better human being is in a better, better critical thinker. And it does make you look at things very differently and challenge. And question and I think a lot of us at the minute have seen with, with the kind of data that's coming out from the government and from various sources about the pandemic, you know, that there's so many holes that you could pick in, pick it pick out, and so many inconsistency is at times about messages that are based on scientific data that once you've kind of gone through a process, like a PhD, or, or a Master's or, or anything that's got a heavy research component, you start to think about what, you know, sort of what are the implications of that? What does that mean? And, and actually, you know, you start to look at how things are written and really challenging. So it's quite interesting just to make your brain work differently, really, because, you know, as a therapist, but I don't think we're necessarily trained as scientists were trained as therapists, that have a lot of grey in our, in our lives, a lot of grey greyness, it's not all black and white as a therapist, but often in science, it kind of is. So it's quite nice to have that balance.
Kristian Weaver 26:25
Fantastic, thanks, that sort of honest appraisal of how it's gone, and what people need to be thinking about. So have you got any published studies that people can have a look at ash? Or is there somewhere where people can go go and find out more about you?
Ashley Jones 26:40
So yeah, I managed to publish my football audit, back in 2019. So that's available, and I'll send you a link for that. Or you can put it into a bio or something. And also, I've managed to publish them that the standard operating procedure that I've used for my 10 demography TMG assessments, so that's available, as well. And when we've got two or three more publications that are in the, in the in the sort of final stages, kind of validity, study viability study, and then another couple of papers around the use of TMG on them as a measure of function for an Achilles tendon, sorry, but plantar fascia problem. So we've got kind of a different take on it there and look at the gastroc nemus measurements. So that's available already. So I'll send you these so you can have a look at them and put them into the bio. And just yeah, that's probably the main area cuz then researchgate I found date when I've got time. But again, that's that's sometimes gets to falls by the wayside. So that's probably the best place to start. And then then, Mullins Beckett profile does link to our publications, too. And well, I also lead the research group at Leeds Beckett. So once we do get through this, the strange time, or even possibly during it depends how long it lasts, that we will be hosting an MS k Research Symposium, which was all set to go and I've got Johnny Wilson speaking at that event. And then literally, that was the third week in March. So obviously, we got locked down the week before it used to take place. So I've got I've got 100 people to that, who were mainly local sports therapists, and rehabbers and physios and, and are some of our students. So we will be hosting another symposium in the future where we'll present research from our team and, and obviously mine will be involved in that. So you know, do keep a lookout on my my Twitter account. And also the society's WhatsApp is Twitter accounts are sent to put things on there, too. I think it's, it's beneficial for members and members of the public that follow that page. So yeah, that's probably the best place.
Kristian Weaver 28:56
And quickly, I should just what is your Twitter account for listeners
Ashley Jones 29:00
I think it's at ash Jones 1987. But let me just check this under Scott, again, if you could put it in the bio for me that peaceful? Yeah, no
Kristian Weaver 29:09
worries. So obviously, we'll put all the links to any papers and stay in contact with actually so we'll have an up to date list of any references that have articles that he has published. And obviously, any contact details will be put into put into the show notes. So then you can go straight to actually use Twitter when he remembers what it was.
Ashley Jones 29:30
Yeah, it says actually is at ash Jones 1987. So a capital A, that's all Yeah, I mean, if anybody is interested in in any kind of particularly football based research around Muscle, Muscle, either either health or quality or function, that that tends to be the you know, research interest of mine and several members of our group in both male and female football. So, you know, just drop me an email, drop me a direct message online and yeah, I will be happy to chat over anything that anybody has. He wants to possibly explore, investigate, it's interesting to hear about, it's really important. That's what therapist, you know, do do do make a dent in the research world because we we were doing some great things as a as a profession, and we need the therapist to be here to be publishing now. So be great.
Kristian Weaver 30:20
Ashley, thanks very much for coming on the Sports Therapy Community streamed. Obviously, I'll link all those bits and pieces up in the show notes. And hopefully, you've stoked the few fires in sports therapist, you're looking for doing looking forward to doing PhD study. So thank you very much for your time. Thank you.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai