Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
We're launching a new website soon and would love your feedback. See the new design
Health Sciences
(023) 8059 6868

Professor Maria Stokes OBE, PhD, FCSP, SRP

Professor of Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation

Professor Maria Stokes's photo
Related links
Personal homepage

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 to enable lifelong active living and healthy ageing through optimising neuro-musculoskeletal health.

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

Research interests

The research aims to enable lifelong active living and healthy ageing through optimising neuro-musculoskeletal health, in line with the Active Living Research Theme

Her programme on Active Living and Healthy Ageing has two main themes:

  • Targeted neuromuscular exercise programmes for good quality movement to maintain  joint health and protect from injury and osteoarthritis.
  • Enabling general physical activity for lifelong health – focussing on adherence strategies for sustained activity, targeting groups with lowest activity levels.

Topics underpinning these themes :

  • Mechanisms of neuro-musculoskeletal dysfunction and recovery to inform neuromuscular exercise interventions (from elite sport to frail elderly and deconditioned astronauts). Her background in neuromuscular physiology drives the studies of mechanisms that underpin clinical studies to enable interventions to be targeted.
  • Technologies to aid research and interventions: developing/novel applications of assessment tools and assistive devices, establishing their validity and reliability, including: rehabilitative ultrasound imaging (see below); movement quality assessment tools (neuromuscular control) ; mechanomyography (MMG; measurement of muscle sounds/vibrations); and Myoton technology to investigate muscle tone and mechanical properties in musculoskeletal disorders, neurological disorders and deconditioning of astronauts in space.
  • 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 and monitoring changes in astronauts in space.
  • Prevention and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal conditions, including back, hip, knee, shoulder and hand pain. Prevention of injuries and post-traumatic osteoarthritis is a priority for the Versus Arthritis Centre. (Sports Arthritis Research UK)

The research programme offers student project topics at all levels (PhD, MSc, BSc, internships) that are integral to existing lager projects.

Current PhDs

Warm-up exercises for movement quality in female footballers
Paul Muckelt

Supervisors: Prof M Stokes, Dr M Warner
Funded by: Versus Arthritis and University of Southampton

Exercise Management for People with Hand Osteoarthritis
Beatrice Sankah
Supervisors: Prof M Stokes and Prof J Adams
Funded by: Commonwealth Scholarship Commission, UK

‘Care in Orthopaedics, burdeN of treatmeNt and the Effect of Communication Technology: the CONNECT Project’
Anthony Gilbert
Supervisors: Dr J Jones, Prof C May and Prof M Stokes
Funded by: NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship

‘Hip and Lower Limb Movement Screen: Utilisation in patients with hip and knee osteoarthritis to identify the quality of movement control’
Umer Sheikh
Supervisors: Prof Stokes, Dr D Lambrick, Dr C Franks

‘Muscle strength in old and oldest-old people:

assessment, prevalence and indicators of low muscle strength’
Julia Wearing
Maastricht University
Supervisors: Prof Dr Rob de Bie, Prof Dr Eling de Bruin, Prof M Stokes

Physical Demands, Personnel Training and Injury in Military Specialists
Debra Hayhurst
Supervisors: Dr M Warner, Dr J Fallowfield, Prof M Stokes

Completed PhDs

‘Improving Movement Quality of Military Personnel to Protect Hips and Lower Limbs from Injury.’
Conor Power (2020)
Supervisors: Dr M Warner, Dr J Fallowfield, Prof M Stokes

‘The influence of posture and abdominal muscle contraction on the inter-recti distance and shape of the linea alba in parous women’
Samantha Gillard (2019 - University of Teeside)
Supervisors: Prof J Dixon, Prof C Ryan, Prof M Stokes

‘Hip and Lower Limb Movement Screen: validity and reliability of observational assessment in comparison to 3D motion analysis’
David Wilson
Supervisors: Prof M Stokes, Dr M Warner and Prof C Cooper
Funded by: Arthritis Research UK

‘Exercise programmes for hip control to improve lower limb movement quality in young footballers: a proof of concept and feasibility trial’
Nadine Booysen
Supervisors: Prof M Stokes, Dr M Warner and Prof N Arden
Funded by: NIHR Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship

‘Estimates of loading rates on the lower limb joints using a wearable accelerometer during physical activity’
Susan Nazirizadeh
Supervisors: Dr A Forrester, Prof M Stokes and Prof N Arden
Funded by: Arthritis Research UK

‘Non-invasive indicators of musculoskeletal ageing'
Sandra Agyapong-Badu (2014)
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 (2012)
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 (2012)
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 (2012)
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 (2011)
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 (2011)
Supervisors: Prof M Stokes, Dr P Chappell, Prof R Allen

Mechanics of patello-femoral joint dysfunction - usefulness of the Q-angle'
Fleur Kitsell (2011)
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 (2010)
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) (2010 - University College Dublin)
Supervisors: Prof M Stokes, Dr U McCarthy-Persson

Research group

Active Living for Health

Research theme

Active living

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.

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

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 - completed

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

Movement dysfunction in footballers with hip and groin pain

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

Strength and Balance in Older Golfers

This study aims to determine if playing golf is associated with good strength and balance in older recreational golfers. This will help determine if golf meets World Health Organization recommendations and can be adopted on referral and social prescribing schemes.

Assessing muscle tone in patients with neurological conditions

This collaborative project with Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Ghana is examining the robustness of the MyotonPRO device to measure muscle tone, and monitor effects of physiotherapy treatments in stroke and Parkinson’s disease patients in a clinical setting in Africa.

Maintenance Of Physical AcTivity BeHaviour (MOTH) programme

The MOTH programme aims to develop digital tools to support people with long-term conditions to maintain physical activity.

MOTH Project 3: Service evaluation of exercise referral schemes (Southampton (Falls) & Winchester (Stroke) schemes)

Exercise referral schemes (ERS) provide group-based activity for people with a health condition or at risk of developing a condition. This project uses a protocol developed by the MOTH Programme to evaluate such schemes.

Muscle Tone in Space (Myotones Project)

Changes in astronauts' muscles are being monitored during their six-month stay on the International Space Station. Novel technologies are used to measure the tone and size of muscles. Researchers guide astronauts via a live video link to carry out testing.

Warm up exercise programmes in youth football to improve movement quality

Football is very popular, with over 265 million players worldwide. Physical activity is important for good health and warming up before activity can prevent injuries so that the activity is performed safely. Use of warm-up programmes is limited and injuries can lead to problems in the long-term, such as osteoarthritis. This study aims to examine how warm-up exercise programmes can prevent injuries and improve performance.

  • Head of Active Living for Health Research Group, School of Health Sciences, University of Southampton
  • Deputy Director, Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis Research Versus Arthritis
  • Lead - Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity, School of Health Sciences, University of Southampton
  • Member - Council for Allied Health Professions Research (CAHPR) Professoriate;
  • Hub Facilitator – Southern Central CAHPR Hub
  • Member - Mentorship for Health Research Training Fellows Steering Group (Clinical Academic Training for Nurses, Midwives and Allied Health Professions and Healthcare Scientist Programmes): 2012 - present
  • Chair - European Space Agency ‘Post-mission Exercise (Rehab)’ Topical Team (‘Exercise after Space’) 2014-2016. Produced recommendations for future research. Eight papers were published in special supplement:   Stokes M, Evetts S, Hides J. Guest Editorial Terrestrial neuro-musculoskeletal rehabilitation and astronaut reconditioning: reciprocal knowledge transfer. Musculoskel Sci Pract 2017; 27(Suppl1): 1-53. (Aerospace Medicine and Rehabilitation Laboratory website)

Funding Panels

  • Health Education England / NIHR Integrated Clinical Academic (ICA) Programme, Clinical and Senior Clinical Lectureship Schemes Selection Committee
  • Health Research Board (HRB) Clinician Scientist Post-doctoral Fellowships (CSF) Panel, Republic of Ireland
  • Peer reviewer for several UK funding bodies including: NIHR schemes; MRC; BBSRC; EPSRC, Versus Arthritis, and international bodies in:  Australia, Canada, Iceland, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, Singapore.

Scientific Journals



Sort via:TypeorYear



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). 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). Elsevier Sciences.



Teaching across all levels of undergraduate (3 years) and postgraduate (MSc and doctoral) levels:

  • Functional and applied anatomy, using ultrasound imaging.
  • Experimental research methods - research design, validity and reliability of outcome measures.
  • Writing strategies for student assignments and research 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 neuro-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 neuro-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 of 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 Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis Research Versus Arthritis (Sports arthritis research uk website) and embedded within three local multidisciplinary collaboration initiatives; the University’s Institute for Life Sciences (Institute for Life Sciences website), FortisNet, a network of clinical, academic and industrial partners (FortisNet website) and NIHR Wessex Applied Research Collaboration (NIHR website).

Membership of Scientific Societies / Professional Bodies:

  • Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (MCSP)
  • Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC)
  • The Physiological Society (UK)
  • Society for Research in Rehabilitation (SRR)
  • Society of Authors
  • British Medical Ultrasound Society (BMUS)
  • National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) – Faculty Member



International Movement Screening and Interventions Group (Lead)

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., 2019; Imaging with Ultrasound in Physical Therapy: What is the PT’s scope of practice? A competency-based educational model and training recommendations. Br J Sports Med 2019; 0:1–7)

Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis Research Versus Arthritis

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

Commercial Links

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

Southampton Football Club - Supporting research into prevention of osteoarthritis Saints FC website

Vicon Motion Systems Ltd – supporting research into movement analysis Vicon website

Honorary positions in academic institutions

Visiting Professor, School of Physiotherapy, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin (2020-)

Honorary Contract, Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust

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

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



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

Room Number : 67/4019

Professor Maria Stokes's personal home page
Share this profile Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo
Privacy Settings