Our research experts

Our La Trobe University researchers and The Australian Ballet health and medical team are all leading specialists in their fields. Our unique partnership offers an environment where experts from both La Trobe and The Australian Ballet are able to collaborate in a dedicated environment.

Professor Jill Cook


La Trobe University: Professor in musculoskeletal health

Professor Jill Cook is a professor in musculoskeletal health in the La Trobe Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre.

Jill’s research areas include sports medicine and tendon injury. After completing her PhD in 2000, she has investigated tendon pathology, treatment options and risk factors for tendon injury.

Jill currently supplements her research by conducting a specialist tendon practice, and by lecturing and presenting workshops both in Australia and overseas.

Dr Sean Docking

La Trobe University: Research fellow

Dr Sean Docking is a postgraduate researcher at the La Trobe Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre at La Trobe. He completed his PhD in 2016 and has a research interest in tendons and tendinopathy - with a special focus around musculoskeletal imaging and how it relates to clinical outcomes and injury prevention.

Sean has published numerous peer-reviewed articles and presented at national and international conferences (including the Future of Football Medicine Conference , the International Olympic Committee World Conference on the Prevention of Injury & Illness in Sport and the Sports Medicine Australia Conference).

Sean has previously conducted research in The Australian Ballet School investigating how the patellar tendon develops in adolescent ballet dancers, as well as presenting to The Australian Ballet School on how to best prevent tendon injuries in ballet dancers.

Sue Mayes

The Australian Ballet:  Principal Physiotherapist and Medical Team Manager

Sue Mayes has been the Principal Physiotherapist of The Australian Ballet since 1997. She manages the medical department of The Australian Ballet and treats the diverse injuries of the professional ballet dancer. Sue graduated from La Trobe University in 1990 with a Bachelor of Science (Physiotherapy) and completed a Graduate Diploma in Sports Physiotherapy in 1996.

Sue has been a co-investigator and co-author on several ballet related research projects, and she has published papers from her PhD, titled: Hip health in professional ballet dancers. She is currently researching ankle and hip joint injuries in professional ballet dancers as part of the partnership between La Trobe University and The Australian Ballet. Sue has presented at International conferences, including International Association of Dance Medicine & Science conferences and the IOC World Conference on Prevention of Injury & Illness in Sport 2017, she also lectures regularly throughout Australia.

She has travelled extensively worldwide, including providing physiotherapy for Sylvie Guillem tours throughout Japan with Tokyo Ballet (2000–2015), and the ‘New Universe of Manuel Legris’ program in Tokyo (2010). Sue has been nominated for a 2017 Australian Dance Award in the category ‘Services to Dance’.

Dr Jodie McClelland

La Trobe University: Graduate Research Coordinator

Dr Jodie McClelland is a lecturer and researcher in physiotherapy at La Trobe, and a registered physiotherapist with more than 15 years of clinical experience. After completing her PhD in 2009, Jodie continued her research training through a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Delaware (USA) in the Physical Therapy and Biomechanics and Movement Science programs.

Jodie’s research focuses on evaluating and improving outcomes from knee surgery, and she has a particular interest in assessing biomechanics and movement analysis. Jodie has collaborated with sporting organisations such as the Australian Football League, A-League and Australian Rugby League.  She publishes her research regularly and has presented at many international conferences.

Jodie is excited about collaborating with The Australian Ballet to evaluate how biomechanics in dancing may relate to dancer injury.

Rachael McMillan

La Trobe University: Post-graduate research candidate

Rachael McMillan commenced her studies with La Trobe in early 2016, as a post-graduate research candidate.  Over the past 12 months, under the supervision of La Trobe’s Professor Jill Cook and Dr Tania Pizzari, she has been lead researcher on the GLoBE Hip Trial; a study investigating the effect of exercise and hormone  replacement therapy on gluteal tendon health in post-menopausal women.

More recently, Rachael has been liaising with Sue Mayes, Principal Physiotherapist of The Australian Ballet, to investigate the relationship between hip muscle volume, pathology, and pain in retired Australian ballet dancers. Results of this study may inform clinicians on appropriate strength and rehabilitation programs to prevent and manage hip injury in dance.

With a personal background in dance and experience treating dancers, Rachael is thrilled to be a part of this exciting collaboration with The Australian Ballet.

Dr Ebonie Rio

La Trobe University: Sports physiotherapist and post-doctoral research fellow

Dr Ebonie Rio completed a PhD in tendon pain, with her novel research leading to changes in rehabilitation practise around the world.

She currently is involved in a variety of projects investigating tendon pain (particularly in the lower limb), as well as other areas including investigating innovative new rehabilitation techniques.

Her experience includes involvement with the Australian Institute of Sport, The Australian Ballet, the Commonwealth Games and Winter Olympics, and 18 months travelling with Disney’s The Lion King stage show.