PODS Scholarship Recipient to Learn More About Lower Extremity Injuries Among Athletes

Close to seven million high school students and nearly 500,000 college students benefit from playing sports in school. However, these athletes risk sports injury. The majority of injuries young athletes experience are to the lower extremity.

These injuries are complex and there is still much to be learned. A PhD student at the University of Iowa’s Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Sciences, Kristin A. Johnson, PT, DPT, is currently studying multi-factorial injury mechanisms and hopes to change the way it is applied in clinical practice. She is working under the tutelage of former FPTR President and funding recipient, Richard K Shields, MPT, MS, PhD.

Johnson was awarded a Promotion of Doctoral Studies (PODS) I Scholarship, made possible by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)’s Scholarship Fund. Johnson aims to use her award to analyze the effects of biomechanical, neuromuscular, and hormonal injury risk factors on lower extremity control during unexpected events. Johnson will also expand on her research of safely exposing people to unexpected conditions while performing single-leg squatting tasks, to examine the influence of sex hormones and reflex training on performance.

Johnson is thankful that this PODS scholarship will support her in the coursework phase of her post-professional doctoral studies. “This scholarship will alleviate some of the financial burdens inherent with full-time PhD training, cover travel costs and fees associated with presenting scientific data, and assist with living expenses,” said Johnson. “This will allow me to maintain focus on fulltime research.”

Johnson values the mentorship she has received from Shields and urges aspiring researchers to find a knowledgeable mentor and choose an institution where they can explore and develop their own research interests. Alongside Shields, Johnson has already participated in designing experiments, obtaining IRB approval, recruiting participants, writing grants and manuscripts, performing her own scientific discovery, and more.

FPTR awarded a total $212,500 in fellowship and scholarship funding to 12 promising physical therapist researchers in 2020. The awards will help these new investigators begin their research careers and complete doctoral studies.

“Research is the foundation of evidence-based practice,” said Johnson. “Physical therapy researchers especially, are comprised of people who pursue new knowledge not for the sake of discovery itself but for the improvement of patient well-being. As a clinician and a researcher, I am confident that an investment in physical therapy research solidifies our profession.”

FPTR awards PODS Scholarships annually to physical therapists or physical therapist assistants who have completed at least two full semesters or three full quarters of their coursework toward a postprofessional doctoral degree. To learn how you can apply, visit Foundation4pt.org.

Select Foundation Grants and Scholarships Awarded

In the course of my career in physical therapy to date, I have been exposed to many different areas. I have taught students both in the clinic and classroom, worked as a legislative chairman for the Eastern District of the Illinois Physical Therapy Association and held both clinical and administrative positions. I have been an instructor in the Physical Therapy Program at Marquette University, an instructor and pre-Physical Therapy advisor at both the University of Alaska and Seattle University and now an instructor in Neuroanatomy for Physical Therapy and Medical Students at the University of Minnesota. All the while, I have advanced my own education and continued to treat patients in the clinic simultaneously. I would now like to use that education and experience more fully by combining teaching, research and clinical work in a physical therapy academic setting. My overarching goal is to challenge traditional ideas about optimal therapies, best practice and outcomes. As our profession continues to increase its role in interdisciplinary teamwork, I would like to be on the leading edge of
those professionals who continue to work toward questioning our practices and the manner in which we contribute to the rehabilitation of an individual. Specifically, I would like to spend my doctoral work developing an advanced foundation in rehabilitation research and neuroscience. I am interested in post-doctoral training specifically to further my ability to pursue neuroscientific research, and I intend to apply for a position at the Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation (CNBS) at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School. During this post-doctoral pursuit I would also like to complete the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) interdisciplinary training program. This program is geared toward post-graduate fellows who are interested in assuming leadership roles in providing health care services for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their families. I hope to apply this postdoctoral training by obtaining an academic position in a Physical Therapy program that would allow me to
combine research and clinical work with teaching. I was recently asked what I would like to have said about me, one day, when I retire. I would be honored to have it said of me that I somehow contributed to the growth and quality of life of others, whether towards the growth of the student who is interested in becoming a PT or the patient who recovers function. I am confident that my doctoral work will give me all the tools I need to make that contribution.



  • Petrie M, Johnson K, McCue P, and RK Shields. Neuromuscular electrical stimulation primes feedback control during a novel single leg task. J Mot Behav. In Review