A University of Dundee graduate, whose devastating knee injury inspired her to set up a company seeking to revolutionise the way we train and recover from injury, has won £10,000 in the 2021 Converge Awards.
Jodie Sinclair (25), who graduated with a Product Design degree from Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, won the Royal Bank of Scotland Rose Award for her sports recovery wearable, Theo.
Converge is an annual competition celebrating Scotland’s academic innovation and entrepreneurship, with prizes awarded across a diverse range of sectors including the creative industries, life sciences, healthcare, and technology and engineering. The Rose Award is designed to boost female entrepreneurship in Scotland, and the prize package includes £10,000 in cash plus access to mentoring services.
The accolade is the latest of many prizes that Jodie has picked up since she began developing her device. The idea for Theo came after Jodie ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), an injury that ended her hopes of a career in football and led to her experiencing depression during an arduous three-year recovery.
Theo is an item of smart clothing and an app that allows the user to measure, track and analyse their muscle development, even before progress is physically visible. Acting as a motivator for the injured user, Theo provides their physiotherapist with a greater insight into their recovery. Progress can be checked at any time and in any place, as the platform allows for remote monitoring.
It also allows the user to track their mental health, something Jodie believes is every bit as important as the physical recovery from injury.
“I got my injury when I was longboarding a week before I started university and it completely turned my world upside down,” she said. “I had been playing football since I learned to walk and had also got into rugby and other sports. I had been scouted for a football scholarship in the US and hoped to play semi-professionally.
“I had to wait a year for my operation and then there was a an 18-month rehab after that. I had always been known as an athlete, but suddenly I wasn’t anymore. I felt like part of my identity had been stripped away from me and I ended up in a dark place with depression.
“Rehabilitation can be a lonely and dispiriting experience and I definitely think the mental health side of recovery is overlooked. I went from being in peak physical condition to really struggling with simple exercises, like lifting my leg up from a chair. For the first six weeks you don’t really see any progress. You don’t have the endorphin rush you get from competing. It’s hard to keep motivated, so that’s where the idea of Theo comes in.
“Seeing that you are making progress that isn’t visible on the outside can make a real difference to how you approach the programme your physio sets you. It also helps them monitor your results and check-in with any clients who have reported persistently low moods. I want to prevent other people experiencing the same mental ordeal that I experienced after injury.”
Jodie, who is originally from the Outer Hebrides and now lives in Glasgow, has fully recovered and enjoys boarding and other extreme sports, although she never seriously returned to football after her injury.
She has now won prizes worth more than £30,000 in various entrepreneurship competitions and says the money will be used to roll out the product to physios to generate extra validation that will help drive the next phase of the company’s development.
Converge is funded by the Scottish Funding Council, all 18 Scottish universities, Creative Scotland and a roster of partners and sponsors – all of whom lend their invaluable expertise and knowledge in helping Converge alumni businesses on their journey to success.
Professor Iain Gillespie, Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University, congratulated Jodie on her success, saying, “This is a fantastic achievement, and the fact Jodie has progressed Theo from an idea through to an award-winning business is testament not only to her vision but also her incredible dedication.
“It is not easy to maintain your studies or workload while also developing a business idea. It requires great determination, belief and stamina. The fact that Theo was borne of the obstacles that Jodie faced with her physical and mental health makes her achievement even more impressive.
“I wish her every success and hope she goes on to emulate the other Dundee graduates and researchers who have enjoyed success at Converge over the years on the way to establishing highly successful companies that make a vital contribution to Scotland’s economic growth.”