The evolution of Biomechanics; from science to high tech apps

Martin Haines is an internationally recognised biomechanics coach and has worked with some of the UK’s leading sports personalities. He is also the founder of Brytespark – a business to explore how software and innovation can transform this specialist area of medicine.

Martin Haines

“In 1985 I qualified as a Remedial Gymnast and Recreational Therapist. At the time it was the proudest moment of my life, I had achieved what I set out to do, which was gain a trade like my father said I should, on the basis that I would now be set for the rest of my life. We had learned the skills to provide pain sufferers the best exercises to help them recover; we were the experts in rehabilitation. After qualifying I worked in the National Health Service (NHS) for a year until I realised that I would never fulfill my potential working in an environment that was not what we would now call ‘patient-centric’. Despite the many billions of pounds being invested in it, the NHS, while better than some state healthcare providers, has never really achieved its potential and many of us continue to be frustrated by its many flaws. As a 19 year old who had just qualified and was very motivated to use the full extent of his new skills, I realised that the NHS was not, and was never going to be, the right environment for me to reach my potential and therefore enable me to help my patients optimally.

So in 1987 I left to become the ‘Physiotherapist’ to Crystal Palace Football Club. There were many similarities between Remedial Gymnasts and Physiotherapists, but quite distinct differences too. Although its now changing, conceptually a physiotherapist’s role was primarily to treat the site of pain. This is often by electrotherapy, sometimes by massage and other ‘hands-on techniques’ and very occasionally by exercise. Given the lack of training in the physiotherapist’s syllabus in the exercise and rehabilitation areas, Remedial Gymnasts were created in the mid 1940’s to look after the many people who had crippling injuries and became amputees in the World Wars. Physiotherapy was not geared for this dynamic exercise role so Remedial Gymnastics and Recreational Therapy was created as a cross between Physical Training Instructors (PTIs) and Physiotherapists. So we had the clinical expertise combined with the considerable exercise knowledge of the PTIs; a perfect combination for our war heroes and later perfect for working in sport and many other walks of life.

Remedial Gymnasts and Physiotherapists however were not easy bedfellows. Over the years since the wars, while their separate expertise in rehabilitation and electrotherapy were maintained, their roles become very similar. So in sport there were many Remedial Gymnasts being hired as ‘Physiotherapists’ due to our additional expertise in rehabilitation, which is clearly important in a sporting context. So when I was offered the job at Crystal Palace Football Club I was delighted; after all this was the reason I came into the profession.

There were 500 Remedial Gymnasts (RGs) in the world and 30,000 physiotherapists in the UK and each and every RG was very proud of their backgrounds, profession and unique education.

Understanding this background will help you understand our collective feelings when in 1993 Mrs. Thatcher, the Prime Minister at the time, decided to amalgamate the professions of Physiotherapy and Remedial Gymnastics. Irrespective of our political persuasions, you can imagine that she was not a popular woman to us at this time. To add insult to injury, Remedial Gymnasts had to complete a ‘complementary skills course’ to teach us the skills of electrotherapy. To make matters even worse Physiotherapists did not have to sit a course for them to be taught rehabilitation; no doubt influenced by the associated time and costs of training 30,000 people.

Most of us passed the complimentary skills course, although I know a number that didn’t even take the exam as they were so appalled by the situation, but in the end we all became Physiotherapists.

Forgetting everybody’s personal disappointments, my biggest concern was the world losing the skills we had learned as Remedial Gymnasts and that while there were 500 of us still ‘Dual Qualified’ there were no new RGs coming through to propagate the invaluable skills that I had seen help patients so much. So on the day I qualified as a Physiotherapist I decided at some point in the future that I would create a new profession bringing back the rehabilitation and exercise skills of a Remedial Gymnast and Recreational Therapist.

Over the next 10 years I was fortunate enough to work with some great people from a number of different backgrounds and was involved in some groundbreaking research. As this developed and we created new screening and training models, it occurred to me that this was becoming what I considered would have been the future of Remedial Gymnastics. We began to understand more about kinesiology and biomechanics, we started to ask questions about movement and why people moved in particular ways. We realised that movement patterns were based upon multiple factors. We tried different ways of helping people. We looked at influencing movement patterns by repeating and practicing them ‘properly’ in a theoretically correct way, and while we found that helped some, it actually hurt others. So we started to look at why particular movement patterns were being performed and what was causing them. It was at this point that we started to realize that this unique work that we were doing and the conclusions that we were drawing should be taught to others. In fact anyone who prescribed exercises for any reason; whether it be fitness, medical, corporate or sporting – all needed to know about this work that lay between the sciences of kinesiology and biomechanics. It became clear to us that this was unique information and that we had to tell everybody about it.

So in 2008 after 10 years of data collection, researching and refining, we formed a business to educate those who prescribe exercises for a living, to enable them to get the benefit of the skills Remedial Gymnasts were taught and from the data we had collected over the years, to complement their existing expertise. We set up Biomechanics Education Ltd.

It was then that Biomechanics Coaching was borne. A profession that would become recognised as experts in a field we have termed Intrinsic Biomechanics, which is a combination of kinesiology, biomechanics and exercise science. A unique profession that would enable learners to provide evidence guided exercise prescription in any number of fields from personal training, strength and conditioning, therapy, massage, exercise physiology, coaching, Pilates and group exercise.

After we had qualified a number of Biomechanics Coaches we then decide that we should set up an organisation to monitor, support and promote the profession of Biomechanics Coaching, and so in 2010 the Intrinsic Biomechanics Association was created.

Now after 7 years of education as a business were are in an exciting place. We not only run education in the UK, but we have distribution in the US and Scandinavia and are in advanced talks with many other countries that are recognising the value that Biomechanics Coaching brings.

While I continue to support the education business, I am fascinated by the possibilities that software innovation and the Internet bring, and how this may enable my work over the years to be scaled to achieve maximum impact and benefit. So I created Brytespark Ltd to explore this further.

My concept is designed to capitalize on the paradigm shift towards personalized healthcare delivered remotely and at the patient’s convenience. Through the many years of development I have created a system of algorithms which can semi diagnose and automatically recommend an ongoing programme of rehabilitative exercise to treat a wide variety of musculo-skeletal problems allowing users to self-manage a variety of issues from low grade back pain to post-injury rehabilitation. The system has also been proven to work successfully in a preventative capacity, reducing the occurrence of injury and absenteeism.  Although this tool works well on its own with simple to follow and personalized exercises, it is anticipated that the future uptake of wearable movement and health sensors will further enhance its capabilities leading to a tool which could potentially replace some healthcare activities and reduce the burden on our healthcare systems around the world.

The possibilities are endless with the programme and we are looking at ways to develop it with partners who can help us achieve global commercialization. We are in discussions with global pharmaceutical companies as well as high street retailers who see the value of this innovation to their offering; as well as investor who see this as an exciting and profitable venture. The impact on professional and recreational sport is proving to be significant and I am on the Medical Advisory Board to the European PGA as well as an advisor to a number of professional bodies looking at how Intrinsic Biomechanics can help their programmes and product design. We continue to explore commercial opportunities, but I recognize that without the unique education I received as a Remedial Gymnast that none of this would be possible.”

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Paul Budd

Co-Founder and Business Development Director

Paul is an experienced sales & marketing leader within the healthcare sector and is a Co-Founder of Salus Digital. He is a Digital Health enthusiast with a passion for extending the reach of technology to improve patient’s lives and reduce the strain on healthcare services.

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