Physiotherapy, Rehabilitation and Health

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Physiotherapy is a health-care discipline which focuses on individuals at all stages of the lifespan, both in health and in times of illness or injury, with the aim of optimising movement, functional ability and health.  The discipline takes a holistic approach which encompasses physical, psychological, emotional and social wellbeing in a range of diverse practice settings.  These include: adult and paediatric hospitals; primary and community care teams; rehabilitation centres; nursing and residential homes; hospices; occupational health settings; schools; health promotion programmes; sport clubs, centres and teams; and private practice. 

The World Congress of Physical Therapy, the international representative body for Physiotherapy/Physical Therapy identifies four core areas for practice:

  • Promotion
  • Prevention
  • Treatment/Intervention
  • Rehabilitation

These are reflected in the diverse range of research methodologies and settings of the Physiotherapy, Rehabilitation and Health hub of the School, which encompasses an interdisciplinary team of researchers spanning Physiotherapy, Psychology, Primary Care, Exercise Science, Bio-Engineering and Data Analytics. Enhancing the understanding, measurement and promotion of function, performance, wellbeing and health are at the core of our research activities, be it in primary, secondary or tertiary healthcare settings, sports workplace and other community settings

Given the broad range of physiotherapy education programmes developed and provided by UCD Physiotherapy at undergraduate, graduate entry, postgraduate taught and healthcare provider levels, UCD physiotherapy is a leader in the design, implementation and evaluation of education programmes for healthcare professionals nationally and internationally.

The UCD Physiotherapy, Rehabilitation and Health research group has a well-established track record of knowledge translation with healthcare providers, through ongoing dissemination at national and international conferences, peer reviewed publications, successful research partnership with a wide range of healthcare providers at national level, and the hosting of educational outreach and targeted research seminars. Group members also have established strong links with industry, policy makers and international research groups.  




Research Interests

Current projects

Brian Caulfield

Professor of Physiotherapy 

Wearable sensing, interactive exercise biofeedback applications, neuromuscular electrical stimulation

Professor Brian Caulfield leads University College Dublin’s Connected Health Programme.  He  is a Director of Ireland’s largest research centre, the INSIGHT centre for Data Analytics (, where he leads the Personal Sensing research group and is also a PI in Ireland’s industry led Connected Health Technology Centre, ARCH ( and.  A physiotherapist by training, Brian is also Dean of Physiotherapy at UCD.

Brian is a champion for a Connected Health ecosystem in Ireland and has forged strong relationships with key clinicians, industry leaders, policy makers and research groups to drive advances in the field.  Previously, he was a PI in the CLARITY Centre for Sensor Web Technologies ( and Director of the TRIL Centre (, a research centre focused on technologies for independent living, which was funded by GE and Intel.  As well as these companies, he has worked with a range of multinational and start-up companies such as BioMedical Research Ltd, Fujitsu Laboratories, Novartis, and Shimmer to deliver innovative technology enabled solutions for areas such as sports performance analysis and enhancement, rehabilitation medicine, COPD, and gerontology.  His research has led to significant commercial opportunities in terms of exploitation of intellectual property by industry partners and spin out activity.

Catherine Blake

Associate Professor 

Health analytics and advanced statistical methods in rehabilitation.

Classification of clinical subgroups and targeted treament

Pain and rehabilitation outcomes assessment including novel technologies

Connected Health for Dementia care

Sports injury epidemiology and prevention

Ageing; bone health and fracture prevention

Exercise for health and chronic disease

National GAA Injury Surveillance and Injury Prevention  2007- 2016

UCD sports injury and training load project

Injury surveillance in military personnel

Connected Health Supporting Home Stay in Dementia (CHESS) HRB Programme 2015-2018  €330k

Validation and responsiveness of a novel method for quantitative assessment of single and dual task gait

National MSK Triage Evaluation

Paediatric ESP Evaluation

UCD Get in Gear Programme

UCD Better Bones

Tara Cusack

Associate Professor 

Research mainly concerns two areas firstly education and curriculum development for health care professionals and health care users and secondly evaluating exercise and health behaviour change for individuals with chronic diseases.


Connected Health Early Stage Researcher Support System (CHESS): HORIZON 2020 (2015-2019)  The Early Stage Researcher Ms Caoimhe Bennis will focus on designing and delivering behaviour-change inter-professional education (IPE) for clinicians which will empower patients to change their behaviour.

An examination of how physiotherapy education prepares graduates for employment in Primary Care, this study with Ms Sinead McMahon concerns an evaluation of stakeholder perceptions.

Catherine Doody

Associate Professor 

The identification and classification of  musculoskeletal related  pain states according to underlying neurophysiological pain mechanisms.  

Current research includes pain classification and clinical pain phenotyping using quantitative sensory testing and patient reported outcome measures and the identification of pain sensitization in people with Osteoarthritis.

Associate Director and co-founder of the Centre for Translational Pain Research in UCD.

Nervous System Sensitisation in People with Osteoarthritis of the Knee: A Prospective Cohort Study.   Research Training Fellowships for Healthcare Professionals, Health Research Board,  with Helen O’Leary.

The PACeR Trial -  A Randomised Controlled Trial of Multimodal Physiotherapy for Acute and Sub-Acute Radiculopathy. Eurospine with with Louise Keating and Prof Ciaran Bolger RCSI

The effectiveness of Exercise combined with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy compared to a standalone supervised exercise intervention for chronic pain with Maire-Brid Casey.

Deirdre Hurley

Associate Professor 

Musculoskeletal health services research in Ireland’s health system

The effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of physiotherapy management approaches for musculoskeletal pain conditions

Self-management and physical activity interventions for chronic low back pain and osteoarthritis

The application of behaviour change theory to complex interventions to enhance adherence to treatment and promote self-management

The design and evaluation of strategies to enhance implementation of evidence into physiotherapy practice

Interdisciplinary research with General Practice, Health Psychology, Public Health, & Exercise Science.

Leading a team of UCD and national co-investigators, 3 PhD students, 2 Research Associates, 3 Research Interns, and collaborating with international interdisciplinary researchers

Current Projects

1.Principal Investigator - Self-Management for Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain in Primary Care using the MRC Guidance for Evaluation of Complex Interventions.

Sponsor: Health Research Board Health Research Awards


Principal Investigator: Cluster randomised controlled feasibility trial of the theory-driven group-based complex intervention to support self-management of osteoarthritis and low back pain in primary care physiotherapy in Dublin/Kildare [ISRCTN 49875385]

PhD Primary Supervisor of Elaine Toomey: Exploring implementation fidelity within a physiotherapy self-management intervention.

PhD Primary Supervisor of Alison Keogh: The implementation of behaviour change theory within a group self-management programme for chronic musculoskeletal pain

2. Principal Supervisor - Structured Population and Health Services Research Education Programme (SPHeRE) PhD Scholar Marian Hernon.

Sponsor: Health Research Board SPHeRE Programme


Self-management for chronic musculoskeletal pain; an exploration of economic consequences.

3. Principal Investigator - Development and Pilot Implementation of an E-learning Physiotherapist Training Programme for Self-Management of Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain in Primary Care Sponsor : Health Research Board (HRB)

Knowledge Exchange and Dissemination Scheme 2015.

4. Supervisor - Summer Student Fódhla Ni Cheileachair

Sponsor: Health Research Board (HRB) Summer Student Scholarship 2016


Exploration of Mediators of Self-Management

5.Co-investigator Cochrane Systematic Review

Sponsor: Cochrane Collaboration


Cochrane Systematic Review Herbal Medicinal Products/Preparations for Neuropathic Pain, in conjunction with Dr Adele Boyd, Ulster University (PI).

Caitriona Cunningham

Assistant Professor 

Occupational Musculoskeletal   Disorders

Bone Health and Fracture Prevention

Exercise for Health and  in Chronic Disease populations

Health Professional Education

Current Projects:

Advanced  Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Practice in Ireland - Health Service Evaluation

UCD Better Bones

Physical Activity  and Exercise Tolerance in  Adults with Cystic Fibrosis

Physiotherapy Hub-Evaluation of a ‘Real World’ Learning Environment

Hamish Fleming

Assistant Professor 

Biomechanics, Tai Chi

The long-term physical, emotional, and

health- related consequences of

anterior cruciate ligament injury: a

systematic review.

An investigation of the use of viscosupplementation in sports medicine in ireland.

Olive Lennon

Assistant Professor 

Neurological Rehabilitation

Adult Acquired Disability

Technology applications in rehabilitation

Lifestyle interventions for chronic disease management and secondary prevention


Supervisor: PhD candidate Dearbhla Burke

Project: Neuropathic Pain in Spinal Cord Injury

Supervisor: HRB Summer Student Brian Gilmartin

Project: Robotic hand development for rehabilitation

Collaborator: Mater Misericordiae Hospital and St Mary’s Hospital

Project: Aerobic rehabilitation in acute stroke care

Collaborator: National Rehabilitation Hospital

Project: Outcomes and determinants of rehabilitation post Spinal Cord Injury and Acquired Brain Injury

Ulrik McCarthy-Persson 

Course Director of MSc in Sports Physiotherapy


Kinematics and muscle activity of human & equine movement.

Osteoporosis and effects of exercise.

Sports and exercise injuries and rehabilitation


Cliona O’Sullivan

Assistant Professor 

Teaching and Learning

-Curriculum and programme development, design and review

-Interprofessional learning

-Embedding global health learning into health science curricula

2. Global health, disability and rehabilitation

-Building education and research capacity in global health, disability and rehabilitation

-Peadiatric disability and rehabilitation in low and middle income countries

3. Motor Control and biomechanics

-The application of rehabilitative ultrasound imaging, motion analysis and electromyography to the evaluation of motor control in clinical and sporting populations

1. Building educational and research capacity and strengthening partnerships between health science educators in Ireland and Uganda (funded)

2. An Evaluation of an Advanced Practice Physiotherapy Triage  Clinic in Paediatric Orthopaedics in the Irish Healthcare System

3. The effectiveness of a rehabilitation and educational intervention on children with disabilities and their guardians in Uganda- 1 year follow-up

3. The spiral curriculum: a case study in graduate entry physiotherapy education

4. The prevalence of urinary incontinence in a cohort of nulliparous sports women

5. A study of upper and lower quadrant muscle size and activation in GAA football players measured with Rehabilitative Ultrasound Imaging and correlation with injury status

Brona Fullen

Assistant Professor

Co-Director of the UCD Centre for Translational Pain Research.

The Centre, located in the Schools of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science, Medicine, Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems, and Mathematics aims to enhance the scientific understanding of pain from the basic sciences through to the population level.

Current research interests:

The assessment and multidisciplinary

management of chronic pain in multiple conditions (musculoskeletal disorders, spinal cord injury and obesity).

Healthcare research in Primary and Secondary Care

The mediating effect of health literacy in chronic pain management


PhD: Chronic pain management – what role does health literacy have?

Funding: Meath Foundation

PhD: Neuropathic pain post spinal cord injury

MSc: Impact of a weight management service on musculoskeletal pain in obese individuals

Funding: Pfizer Healthcare Ireland

Nessa Waters

Regional Placement Facilitator

Evidence Based Practice

Impact of the Fresno exam on Evidence Based Practice during Physiotherapy Clinical Placement


Sinead Mc Mahon

Practice Education Co-ordinator

Physiotherapy education , Clinical Education, and Professional Development

Recently submitted a PhD exploring how physiotherapy education prepares graduates for employment in the primary healthcare sector