Use of ankle foot orthoses in cerebral palsy for addressing gait issues.

As part of our series celebrating the cerebral palsy World Cup at St Georges Park Nicola Eddison, PhD student at Staffordshire University and principle orthotist at the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust and Nachiappan Chockalingam, Professor of Clinical Biomechanics At Staffordshire University write on the biomechanics of cerebral palsy and use of ankle foot orthoses for addressing gait issues.


Cerebral palsy (CP) is defined as a group of permanent disorders in the development of movement and posture causing activity limitations that are attributed to non-progressive disturbances that occurred in the developing foetal or infant brain.  The motor disorders of cerebral palsy are often accompanied by disturbances of sensation, perception, cognition, communication and behaviour; by epilepsy and by secondary musculoskeletal problems.  The result is a lack of co-ordination, muscle imbalance and an increase in muscle tone or paresis.  These issues can be addressed by the use of orthoses to change the wy the foot works and provide cushioning and support.


Ankle Foot Orthoses (AFO’s) are prescribed in a wide range of gait pathologies, including CP in an attempt to influence the kinetics and kinematics of gait and to manipulate the GRF bringing it closer to the joints and thus reducing energy expenditure. There are a wide variety of AFO’s used in clinical practice, they are characterised by their design, the material used and the stiffness of that material.  Changing any of these 3 components will alter the control the AFO has on the patient’s gait.


Whilst, previous research demonstrates a positive effect of AFO’s on certain gait parameters, they are not all in agreement as to which gait parameters are improved with the use of an AFO. The primary aim of the work at Staffordshire University is to determine the effects of tuning ankle foot orthoses (AFO) in combination with footwear (AFO-FC) compared to an un-tuned AFO-FC on the gait parameters of children with cerebral palsy.  Our current experimental work involves the use of ultrasound to measure structure and function of the muscles in addition to physiological and biomechanical measurements involved gait assessment.

We are hoping to develop a more practical way to enable clinicians to effectively tune AFO-FC’s in a clinical setting without the use of three dimensional (3D) Gait analysis.


(This work on The effect of “tuning” in ankle foot orthoses on the gait parameters of children with cerebral palsy, is conducted by Nicola Eddison, who is a principle orthotist at the Royal Wolverhampton NHS trust under the supervision of Professor Nachiappan Chockalingam at the Biomechanics Facility within the Faculty of Health Sciences, Staffordshire University).

For more details of the Undergraduate degrees and Masters degrees we offer in Sport and Exercise check out our webpages in the School of Psychology, Sport and Exercise at Staffordshire University.  We are a leading UK University for Sport degrees in the heart of England.  We produce Internationally recognised research which is driving knowledge in this area forward and we work with leading national sporting teams and our degrees are ranked in the top 10 of new Universities in the UK in the Guardian League Table.




From St Georges Park to Rio 2016….…Working as a sport psychologist with the Senior England Cerebral Palsy team

As the Cerebral Palsy World Cup comes to St Georges Park in Staffordshire, Dr Jamie Barker, the England CP Teams Sport Psychologist and Associate Professor of Applied Performance Psychology at Staffordshire University writes about working with the team in the build up to the championships.


Being part of the senior England Cerebral Palsy (CP) Football team has been one of the most intriguing and rewarding situations I have found myself in during my 16 years as a practicing Sport Psychologist. As we rapidly approach the CP World Cup which will be hosted at St Georges Park, Burton-on-Trent from Mid-June, I am genuinely excited at the potential I have witnessed in our team and how far we can go in the tournament-but as a Psychologist I guess I would have to be positive in my outlook!

As a newcomer to CP football I have had to educate myself around CP, the implications of players having CP, classification processes, and the tactical nature of 7-a-side CP football. Within in our team we also have a number of players who have suffered brain trauma through horrific accidents, or stroke and therefore trying to understand the challenges and frustrations of these individuals has been fascinating and allowed me to reflect on my own expectations and beliefs! Listening to the many challenges that all of our players have experienced whether dealing with CP from birth or having a professional football career terminated because of a freak accident has been enlightening as well has humbling.


From a psychological perspective we would typical work with coaches, help to create a relaxed and comfortable performance environment, work individually with players to develop robust confidence, deal with pressure more effectively and become more rational in how they see themselves and the world in which they perform.

Indeed, much of our work with elite sport is drawn heavily on the research and applied excellence of colleagues at Staffordshire University.

First, we get players to “be better coaches to themselves” (thanks to Professor Marc Jones), to not beat themselves up when things don’t go to plan. Much of our work is about challenging players on their expectations-does perfect football exist? Do players make mistakes? The idea behind challenging such beliefs in athletes is to allow them to have logical and helpful expectations which in turn will yield helpful emotions relative to football performance. In our research with we call this Smarter Thinking. Smarter Thinking is very much at the forefront of our applied philosophy and the performance culture we try to create. ‘Smarter Thinking’ encourages individuals to have realistic, yet helpful expectations.


An introduction to the rules, regulations and playing of CP football

Second, much of our work is also about developing a challenge culture which has been derived from the work on challenge and threat states by Professor Marc Jones and Dr Martin Turner. As support staff working in elite sport it is important to remind players of past success, controllable factors, and things they need to do to perform well. Believe me when I say this (and I am biased) but England CP players are one resilient bunch-they have dealt with so many life stressors due to CP or brain injury that when playing football there is an sense of freedom and expression-pressure is something they look forward to and thrive on.

Finally, we would also support teams from a leadership and cohesion perspective. With this in mind we establish a performance culture which is similar to that used by the New Zealand All Blacks Rugby Union team and draws heavily on the contemporary research on leadership developed by my colleague Dr Matt Slater. Indeed, given Matt’s leadership expertise he is integral in looking at how teams function as a group and how they can maximise their potential. Accordingly, it is important to develop a vision and values system which draws on the aims of the staff and players.

With the CP World Cup just around the corner the excitement is increasing as we look forward to the challenge of competing against the best players and teams from around the world. To reach the Rio 2016 Paralympics England are required to finish within the top 8 at the World Cup so the stakes are high but the players are ready- my only concern remains that I can practice what I preach and hence see the tournament as a challenge not a threat, be a Smart Thinker and provide the necessary leadership when required!


For more details of the Undergraduate degrees and Masters degrees we offer in Sport and Exercise check out our webpages in the School of Psychology, Sport and Exercise at Staffordshire University.  We are a leading UK University for Sport degrees in the heart of England.  We produce Internationally recognised research which is driving knowledge in this area forward and we work with leading national sporting teams and our degrees are ranked in the top 10 of new Universities in the UK in the Guardian League Table.



Dr Jamie Barker is an Associate Professor of Applied Performance Psychology at Staffordshire University.  He is currently Chair-Elect British Psychological Society Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology.  He has researched and published extensively the field of performance psychology as well as being a consultant to Sport and business.  Jamie is also a PhD & Stage 2 Supervisor. Follow him on Twitter @DrJamieBarker during the World Cup.

Gerrard’s last game – the end of an era for English Football

This Sunday sees the final game of the season for Stoke City FC at the Britannia stadium against Liverpool FC.  Tickets for the game sold out a long time ago and are now selling for thousands pounds on the black market.  But this is not because Stoke have had a very good season (although they have).  Nor is it because a title or cup is at stake (because it’s not).  It’s because it is the last game in a Liverpool shirt for Steven Gerrard.  At the end of the game Stokies and Scousers alike will stand and applaud the number 8 who has given so much to English football


Mathew Knight from our Staffordshire University Staffs Squad U-17 academy explains why....

Mathew Knight from our Staffordshire University Staffs Squad academy explains why….

Steven George Gerrard of Liverpool Football Club, has enjoyed one of the most lucrative, and heroic careers playing the sport he loves. Memories such as working with icon Kenny Dalglish, playing in the World Cup, or arguably, most prestigious of all, winning the Champions League in such a manner as he did. A true maestro in the centre of midfield, Gerrard always looked bound for a great destiny as he stepped out against Blackburn Rovers, November 1998 making his first professional debut for the club he loved.  So why is he so iconic?

An inspiring  leader in difficult times

Where else could we start but Istanbul, 2005? The night that defined Gerrard as possibly one of the greatest centre-midfielders in the history of football. 3-0 down with hope dwindling, he stepped up to the mark and effectively won the game on his own. That night in Istanbul was the point in his career that fans and player alike, started to realise what a very special player Gerrard is.  The way he motivated his disheartened Liverpool side to pull back the deficit and eventually win the match was almost unheard of in the footballing world. He has a bit of everything a pundit once said “a touch of Scholes; a drop of Lampard; and a bit of Xavi”.

A player like no other

Gerrard is unlike any other midfielder, he can ping a ball 50 yards to a players feet, can crunch any United player when needed, or sit in front of the defence and break up play like he was in the park on a Sunday afternoon. The final point being illustrated last season where the ‘Gerrard’ role was invented effectively, where he would sit in front of the defence, sweeping up counter attacks, and starting quick forward breaks of his own. You could say that Gerrard is up there with the midfield greats, the likes of Zidane or Zico.

Gerrard is simply one of a kind. Maybe what differentiates Steven to many other midfielders is his loyalty, and attitude towards the beautiful game. The fact that he has never left Liverpool, his beloved club is unheard of in the modern era.  He has been there through thick and thin, bad and good, Roy Hodgson, Rafa Benitez, Roy Hodgson (the un-talked about era in the minds of Liverpool fans due to his awful record). The sheer loyalty that Gerrard possesses, the way he has stayed with Liverpool no matter what, coaching the youngsters, or scoring vital goals to win vital games. He has been so influential both on and off the pitch.

The fans’ player

Being a fan himself, Gerrard knows how much this prestigious club means to people, and this has been evident throughout his performances and the way he handles himself no matter where he is. For example the way when he was injured he watched from the stands with the supporters, just shows his significant presence and great attitude to the fans that adore him.  It seems like every action is in the fans best interests, not only does he think like a fan, he is a fan, and forever will be as he ventures onto his new adventure in Los Angeles, where no doubt, he will continue to ping the ball left, right centre for fun.


Steven George Gerrard

No matter which club you support, or if you are just an avid sport watcher in general, we can all agree that Gerrard is a truly spectacular sportsman who has been one of the best in his generation, showing key characteristics of skill, technique, and most importantly of all, loyalty. A player that only comes around once every blue moon, he will be deeply missed by all football fans alike, and his presence will be solely missed in the Premier League.  Gerrard is an icon, a hero, a true master of the beautiful game…


Matthew Knight is currently completing his A levels at Moulton School and Science College, Northamptonshire. He is an Academy member of Staffs Squad, a collection of  academics and experts who write and love the beautiful game


For more details check out: School of Psychology, Sport and Exercise at Staffordshire University.  We are a leading UK University for Sport degrees in the heart of England, we produce Internationally recognize research which is driving knowledge in this area forward and we work with leading national sporting team

For more information or details of the wide range of sport related undergraduate and postgraduate degrees on offer at Staffordshire University check out our webpages

Happy 40th Birthday Becks: How Long Can an Ex Celebrity Last?

As David Beckham enters his fifth decade, Lecturer in Sport Sociology At Staffordshire University Alison Bambridge, celebrates the phenomenon that is David Beckham and asks how long an ex celebrity can last? 


Celebrity can be a cruel mistress. She lures you in, massages your ego then the minute you turn up late or forget the flowers you are dead, your once-prime body tossed into the scrap heap or destined for C-list daytime TV appearances or bookings to open leisure centres in Macclesfield.

In all areas of culture, stars rise, fall then disappear from the public domain in mere nanoseconds. It is rare then to discover a celebrity who has survived the normal onslaught of disinterest, character assassinations, scandals and run of the mill mockeries. David Beckham, ex footballer and current megastar is one such man.

The vagaries of celebrity shelf life are perhaps not as marked within the world of sport as they are in the more constructed worlds of music and TV but then the lifetime of an athlete is already limited. For sporting celebrities, those who rise above and beyond their initial sporting success to grasp onto a wider platform, the potential rewards are phenomenal. In recent times it is probably David Beckham who has encapsulated this more than anyone. He has been transformed from a footballer, to a national sporting hero, to a spokesperson, to an entrepreneur to an institution. He is ubiquity personified. To put it simply, despite the fact that he no longer does what he was famous for, there seems no escape from Brand Beckham. Or is there?

Despite earning £20,000 a week from image rights alone ( in fact to use an image of him here would cost me £2.75) and millions in contracts connected to advertising and sports promotions Beckham himself is aware that he may possibly have a celebrity shelf life. After retiring from playing, last year he suggested that at 39 he might not be able to carry on being the torso of H&M’s underwear campaign, a decision that would leave a multitude of women sobbing into their copies of OK. Now, as he reaches 40, there is a debate on whether without the boots and the body the longevity of Brand Beckham is under threat.


One of many David Beckham look-a-likes (  Despite the real David Beckham earning £20,000 a week from image rights alone to use an image of him here would cost me £2.75!

In his favour, Beckham has created a well crafted all round nice guy persona; he interacts with his multiple children, appears devoted to his wife who herself is similarly branded, and has connections to so many charities, sports franchises and media outlets that one begins to suspect he must have hired a slew of body doubles to be able to be so many places at once.

Perhaps spurred on by the double-retirement Beckham recently announced his decision to launch his own sporting brand, a joint venture with Simon Fuller that takes him away from the lucrative sponsorship deals and into a new domain. This is not without risks; there are many other celebrities who have attempted the same move into clothing lines and failed, dramatically. Miley Cyrus, Kim Kardashian, Beyoncé, Kanye West and Paris Hilton, all celebrities with avid fans and all with constant media attention. One of the suggestions behind the sartorial fall outs is that the level of hype and expectation can never be realised by what is in essence a pair of jeans with some sparkly bits on them. So how to make a tracksuit a global commodity people would kill for might even be beyond Beckham yet for the man at 40, there is also an obvious need to reinforce an iconic status. For the majority of the consumers that Brand Beckham  will undoubtedly be aimed at, Beckham’s Manchester Utd. playing days are just  folk tales as it’s 12 years since he played in the Premier League. Perhaps for the sportswear shoppers of today, a Harry Kane range would be more appealing.


Hilarious Guy Richie directed Beckham Underwear advert for his H&M range

Whatever David Beckham chooses to do post 40; management, media or even politics (now there’s a thought) it seems unlikely that the robust self-confidence that informed his playing days will desert him. Beckham appears to have manufactured himself perfectly, appealing to everyone, disappointing no-one. Brand Beckham likewise will probably roll on, Brooklyn and Cruz in the wings of a franchise that seems, at least at the moment, unstoppable.



Alison Bambridge (; @alicrime) is a Lecturer in Sports Sociology in the School of Psychology, Sport and Exercise at Staffordshire University

For more information or details of the range of sport related degrees on offer at Staffordshire University check out our webpages