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Dr Valerie Sparkes 

Clinical Work Experience

Prior to working at Cardiff University, I spent 18 years in clinical work specialising in musculoskeletal out-patient physiotherapy including sports injuries. I worked in the NHS at Addenbrooke’s NHS Trust, Cambridge and Private Practice in Cambridge. In my last post I worked in the Rheumatology Clinics as an Extended Scope practitioner triaging patients with spinal pain.

My academic work included projects on differential diagnosis of abdominal pain, working with Professor J Hunter, auditing of the management of Spinal Pain within out-patients and research into the effects of different exercise programmes on outcomes following spinal surgery.

Department of Physiotherapy, Cardiff University - My main teaching and research interests are in musculoskeletal physiotherapy, including sports injuries with a special interest in spinal dysfunction and referral of the visceral structures to the musculoskeletal system.

Within the Postgraduate Department of Physiotherapy I am Programme Manager for MSc Physiotherapy, Module leader for Neuro-musculoskeletal physiotherapy; Tissues, Systems and Functional Analysis, and Sports Injuries assessment and management.

At BSc level I am Module leader for Research, Musculoskeletal Research team leader and the BSc project co-ordinator.


My main teaching involves musculoskeletal assessment and treatment, research methods and research ethics at BSc level as well as teaching medical students. At MSc level I teach musculoskeletal topics including spinal dysfunction with special emphasis on the thoracic spine and visceral referral patterns. Within the sports modules I teach clinical reasoning with special reference to differential diagnosis of symptoms.

Within Tissues Systems and Functional Analysis I teach spinal biomechanics and spinal anatomy as well as using real time ultrasound for muscle imaging of transversus abdominus and multifidus. Within Research Methods at MSc level I teach research ethics.

I examine for Membership of the Manipulation Association of Chartered Physiotherapists.

Project Supervision - I supervise BSc and MSc projects with a special focus on spinal dysfunction including the effect of sitting and standing on spinal alignment and muscle activity. The effect of fatigue on spinal muscles and spinal curvature in rowing. Other projects include Gluteal muscle function and strength and its relationship to knee angle in runners and cyclists.


I am Vice Chair of the School of Healthcare Studies Ethical Committee and a member of the School of Healthcare Studies Research Committee.

Organisation Membership

I am a member of The Welsh Institute of Sport Exercise and Health, The Manipulation Association of Chartered Physiotherapists, The Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Sports Medicine, Cardiff Institute of Tissue Engineering and Repair (CITER).


I review papers for Manual Therapy and Physiotherapy and review funding applications for Action Research and the Physiotherapy Research Foundation.