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Dr Peter Francis

About Dr Peter Francis

As part of the School of Rehabilitation and Health Science, Peter lecturers on BSc and MSc courses in Sports and Exercise Therapy and Medicine. A background in sport and exercise science from the University of Limerick, Peter is an accredited performance physiologist with the Irish Institute of Sport, twice working there before the Beijing and London Olympics.

Peter became interested in overuse injuries from his own experiences as an endurance runner and completed a BSc Physical Therapy, in which he was awarded student of the year in a class of 40. As a result Peter has been involved in the treatment and rehabilitation of a number of European, World and Olympic athletes in the sport of athletics. Peter is an IAAF level 4 endurance coach and ran the endurance program at the University of Limerick for a period of 3 years (2010 - 2013). Peter uses his combined knowledge of exercise science and rehabilitation to provide athlete training camp support and coach education for the Athletics Association of Ireland. Most recently, Peter was team manager for the Irish athletics team at the European Junior Championships in Sweden.

Peter was awarded the 'Roadbridge Medical Research Scholarship' to undertake a PhD investigating age-related change in muscle quality at the University of Limerick (2010 - 2013). In 2013, Peter was appointed lecturer in Sport and Health Science at the University of St. Mark and St. John, Plymouth. In 2014, Peter was appointed senior lecturer at Leeds Beckett University. Peter is also the weekend pitch side therapist for local rugby team Leodiensian's RUFC.

Current Teaching

  • BSc Sport and Exercise Therapy
  • MSc Sport and Exercise Therapy
  • MSc Sport and Exercise Medicine

Research Interests

Peter's research broadly focuses on muscle function. This includes the measurement of age-related change in muscle quality, changes in running economy as a result of improvements in muscle function, injury related change in muscle function and responses to therapeutic intervention.

The measurement of age-related change in muscle function is important as it is contributing to a body of knowledge attempting to develop diagnostic criteria for sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is to muscle what osteoporosis is to bone, yet diagnostic criteria for muscle lags far behind the well-established criteria for the assessment of bone health. Peter's work is also starting to move into assessing the muscular health of retired rugby players due to IRB (International Rugby Board) concerns about player health after what is becoming an increasingly traumatic and injurious career since professionalism arrived in the early 2000’s.

Peter's work in relation to muscle injury focuses on footballers and endurance athletes. Muscle injury is the most prevalent injury in football and contributes to the greatest amount of time missed from training and matches. Furthermore, muscle re-injury leads to significantly greater muscle damage than the initial injury. Deficits in muscle function can remain even when MRI imaging appears clear which suggests imaging alone cannot govern return to play criteria. Peter's work aims to chart muscle function pre, during and post injury.

PhD Students
Peter is currently supervising the following research students:
  • Ian O’Sullivan – Determinants of running economy in national standard distance runners.
  • Ashley Jones – Muscle function prior to injury, during rehabilitation and after return to play in professional soccer players.
  • Hannah Wilson – The effect of kinesiology tape on pain and muscle function.
  • Ian Entwistle – Musculoskeletal health in retired professional rugby players.
  • Isobel Thornley – Musculoskeletal health across the life span.
  • Lawrence Mayhew – Body composition and injury risk factors in female footballers.
  • Cassie Oddy – Neuromuscular adaptation to barefoot running.

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