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Professor Maria Stokes PhD FCSP Grad Dip Phys SRP

Professor of Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation

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Professor Maria Stokes joined the University of Southampton in 2004 and leads the Active Living Technologies Research Group in Health Sciences. Her research interest is in musculoskeletal health, specifically in exercise to maintain healthy joints and mobility.

Opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration were what drew me to Southampton and are proving to be very rewarding



Research interests

The research aims to optimise function and enable active living through multidisciplinary research into healthy ageing of the musculoskeletal system and physical management of musculoskeletal conditions.
Research Themes:

  • Healthy ageing - maintenance of independence for as long as possible
  • Investigating mechanisms of movement to increase understanding of normal musculoskeletal function, dysfunction and recovery (biomechanics of movement and physiology of motor control)
  • Prevention and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal conditions, such as back, hip, knee, shoulder and hand pain
  • Exercise and osteoarthritis – prehabilitation programmes for prevention of injury and progression to osteoarthritis in elite and recreational sports
  • Development and application of health technologies to aid research, clinical assessment and effectiveness of rehabilitation
  • Assessing risk of muscle injury by non-invasive testing of mechanical properties using a novel hand-held device, the MyotonPRO. Projects include reliability and validity; basic science studies to increase understanding of the physiological relevance of muscle characteristics tested by the device; producing databases of values for different muscles in various healthy, elite sports and patient populations
  • Rehabilitative Ultrasound Imaging (RUSI) in physiotherapy practice and research, as an assessment and biofeedback tool to aid re-education of muscle function. Studies include development of protocols for imaging different skeletal muscles; characterising muscle size and architecture in different healthy and pathological cohorts (e.g. low back pain); using RUSI as an outcome measure in clinical treatment trials.  
‘Remote sensing of activity in sport’

Lavinia Otescue

Supervisors: Dr A Forrester, Prof M Heller, Prof M Stokes
Funded by: Arthritis Research UK and Engineering & the Environment, University of Southampton

Completed PhDs

‘Non-invasive indicators of musculoskeletal ageing'
Sandra Agyapong-Badu
Supervisors: Prof M Stokes, Dr D Samuel, Dr A Forrester
Funded by: Ghana Education Trust Fund;
and University of Southampton Health Sciences Studentship

‘Motion analysis of movement dysfunction in musculoskeletal disorders'
Martin Warner
Supervisors: Prof M Stokes, Dr P Chappell, Prof V Humphrey 
Funded by: Vicon (Oxford) Ltd

‘Clinical utility of ultrasound imaging in the management of back pain'
Jackie L Whittaker
Supervisors: Prof M Stokes, Prof V Humphrey
Funded by: Ion Medical Solutions  (USA)

‘The epidemiology and clinical importance of forefoot bursae in patients with rheumatoid arthritis'
Lindsey Hooper
Supervisors: Dr C Bowen, Dr C Edwards, Prof N Arden, Prof M Stokes
Funded by: National Institute for Health Research, Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship

‘Assessing the performance of knee arthroplasty using clinical testing, motion analysis, electromyography (EMG) and musculoskeletal modelling'
Peter Worsley
Supervisors Prof M Taylor, Prof D Barrett, Prof M Stokes
Funded by: DePuy Orthopaedics (Johnson & Johnson)

Coccydynia in Taiwanese women: a biomechanical and physiological study'
San-Pei Chen
Supervisors: Prof M Stokes, Dr P Chappell, Prof R Allen

Mechanics of patello-femoral joint dysfunction - usefulness of the Q-angle'
Fleur Kitsell
Supervisors: Prof M Stokes, Dr P Jackson, Dr D Samuel
Funded by: Private Physiotherapy Education Foundation (PPEF)

Dynamic evaluation of female pelvic floor muscle function using 2D ultrasound and image processing methods'
Ruth Lovegrove Jones
Supervisors: Prof M Stokes, Prof C Constantinou, Prof V Humphrey

The role of rehabilitative ultrasound imaging In the assessment of trapezius muscle dysfunction'
Cliona O'Sullivan (University College Dublin)
Supervisors: Prof M Stokes, Dr U McCarthy-Persson

Research group

Active Living and Rehabilitation

Research project(s)

Motion analysis of movement dysfunction in musculoskeletal disorders

Research to measure abnormal movement accurately with a view to improving diagnosis and treatment.

Optimized athlete body sensor networks for simulation-based performance analysis

Development of  a system of wearable sensors that gather information about the movement of athletes so that it is possible to optimize the athlete's technique in much the same way as an aircraft's shape is optimized. 

Clinical utility of ultrasound imaging in the management of low back pain

The outcome of the project will determine whether Ultrasound  imaging can enhance the assessment of individuals with lower back pain and provides a basis for further investigation of the potential impact of this tool on treatment effectiveness, and hence advance the standard of care for people with these problems.  

Assessing the performance of knee athroplasty using clinical testing, motion analysis, electromyography (EMG) and musculoskeletal modelling

This project aims to use the latest clinical testing, motion analysis, and musculoskeletal modelling to assess patients’ function in individuals with degenerative joint disease.

Objective Measurements of Clinical Tests of Dissociation of the Scapula using Motion Analysis - Dormant

This project examined how accurate some clinical tests of shoulder movement were and how reliable they were on repeated testing.

Development of novel dynamometry for the assessment of muscle strength and endurance in epidemiological studies on older people - Dormant

This project aimed to develop suitable equipment and test methods for measuring arm and leg muscle strength and endurance in older people. 

The development and validation of a kinematic model for the measurement of scapular kinematics

Measuring movement of the shoulder, particularly the scapula (shoulder blade), is difficult due to its gliding nature beneath the surface of the skin. This project aims to develop a suitable method to overcome these problems using a sophisticated system for analyzing movement of the body.

Optimized athlete body sensor networks for simulation-based performance analysis

We have developed a system of wearable sensors that gather information about the movement of athletes so that we can then simulate what their muscles are doing, their aerodynamic drag, etc. This will allow us to optimize the athlete's technique in much the same way as an aircraft's shape is optimized.

Movement dysfunction in footballers with femoroacetabular impingement (FAI)

This study aims to investigate whether there are altered biomechanics, muscle activation and movement patterns in young footballers with femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) that can cause hip and groin pain. More specifically, this study aims to establish appropriate functional tests from existing clinical tests, for examining kinematics and muscle activity, to determine the feasibility of test protocols for a larger study to examine mechanisms underlying movement dysfunction. This work forms the basis for studies to develop and evaluate exercise interventions to manage and prevent FAI.

Novel technology for assessing muscle tone and mechanical properties: MyotonPRO

Deputy Director of Southampton Statistical Sciences Research Institute (S3RI)

Head of Musculoskeletal Research Cluster, Health Sciences

Director (Academic) of Southampton Musculoskeletal Research Unit (MSKRU) -Southampton University Hospitals Trust / University of Southampton


Mentorship for Health Research Training Fellows Steering Group (Clinical Academic Training for Nurses, Midwives and Allied Health Professions and Healthcare Scientist Programmes): 

2012 - present

Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Research & Development Committee:

2010 - present

Manual Therapy  journal, International Advisory Board: 2009-present;  

Visiting Professor, School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Population Science, University College Dublin, Ireland, June 2008-present

Allied Health Research Network (AHPRN) Core Executive Committee: 2005-present;

Clinical Rehabilitation Sub-Editor: 1994-present 

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Book Chapters

  • Stokes, M., & Bruton, A. (2009). How to start. In A. P. Moore, & P. Lyon (Eds.), National Physiotherapy Research Network. Getting involved in research. A pocket guide (pp. 14-19). London, UK: Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.
  • Fitzgerald, D., & Stokes, M. (2004). Muscle imbalance in neurological conditions. In M. Stokes (Ed.), Physical Management in Neurological Rehabilitation (pp. 501-516). Oxford: Elsevier Sciences.


Lecturing on undergraduate and postgraduate courses:

  • Functional and applied anatomy, using ultrasound imaging.
  • Experimental research methods.
  • Writing for publication.
  • Focussed writing workshops.

Ultrasound imaging of skeletal muscle: an introductory course for physiotherapists (continuing professional development course)

Maria has a background in physiotherapy and neuromuscular physiology. Her research career began two years after qualifying as a physiotherapist at the London Hospital, when she studied for her PhD in Neuromuscular Physiology in the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Department of Zoology, University of Oxford. Her post-doctoral years were spent as a Research Fellow in the Department of Medicine, University of Liverpool, and then as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Physiotherapy, University of Queensland, Australia. Her research focused on physiological mechanisms of muscle weakness and fatigue, and developing assessment tools, including ultrasound imaging to assess muscle size and behaviour, and mechanomyography to record muscle vibrations. She returned to the UK to become Director of Research and Development at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in London.

Maria’s current research into active living and healthy ageing of the musculoskeletal system spans the activity spectrum from elite sports through to frail older people. Her basic scientific research focuses on mechanisms of movement in health and disorders affecting the musculoskeletal system, including the biomechanics of movement (using motion analysis) and neuromuscular control of movement (using observational movement screening tools and measuring muscle electrical activity). This knowledge f mechanisms informs the development of exercise programmes to protect joints from abnormal loading and injuries that may lead to osteoarthritis.

Her research is based in the national Arthritis Research UK Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis ( and embedded within two local multidisciplinary collaboration initiatives; the Southampton Musculoskeletal Research Unit (a joint venture funded by Southampton University Hospitals Trust and the University) and the University’s Institute for Life Sciences (


Advisory groups membership

Co-Chair, European Space Agency ‘Post-mission Exercise (Rehab)’ Topical Team (‘Exercise after Space’)

Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Research & Development Committee: 2010- present

Manual Therapy journal, International Advisory Board: 2009-present;

Clinical Rehabilitation Sub-Editor: 1994-present


Southampton Musculoskeletal Research Unit (MSKRU): Southampton University Hospitals Trust/University of Southampton (Director, Academic) – to enhance interdisciplinary collaborative research between clinical, applied and basic sciences

Southampton Statistical Sciences Research Institute (S3Ri) – fostering collaboration between Health Sciences & S3Ri to ensure high quality research for complex studies in health science (2009-present)

International collaboration on Rehabilitative Ultrasound Imaging (RUSI) - aiming to develop international guidelines for education, clinical practice and research (Whittaker et al., 2007; Journal of Orthopaedics & Sports Physical Therapy: Special Issue. 37(8): 435-449)

Arthritis Research Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis

Professor Kim Bennell, Director of Centre for Health, Exercise and Sports Medicine, University of Melbourne, Australia

Dr Carolyn Emery, Associate Dean Research, Associate Professor and co-chair of International Olympic Committee Research Centre of Excellence in Injury Prevention in Sport, Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, Canada

Mr Mo Gimpel, Sports Medicine & Science Manager, Southampton Football Club, Southampton UK

Ms Sarah Mottram & Mr Mark Comerford, Directors, Movement Performance Solutions

Professor James Selfe, Professor of Physiotherapy, School of Sport, Tourism and the Outdoors, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK

Links with allied health and medical clinicians, including: physiotherapy, occupational therapy, podiatry, rheumatology, epidemiology, primary care orthopaedic surgery

Commercial Links

Movement Performance Solutions Ltd – collaborating with Sarah Mottram and Mark Comerford on movement control research

Myoton AS Estonia - supporting research on testing mechanical properties of muscle

Southampton Football Club - Supporting research into prevention of osteoarthritis

Vicon Motion Systems Ltd – supporting research into movement analysis

Ett Solutions (Italy) – supporting research into their motion analysis system for the upper limb

Honorary positions in academic institutions

Visiting Professor, University College Dublin, Ireland, June 2008-present

National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) – Honorary Faculty Member – 2008 – present

Sub-editor of Clinical Rehabilitation Journal



Professor Maria Stokes
University of Southampton Health Sciences Building 45 Highfield Southampton SO17 1BJ

Room Number: 67/4019

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