Student Spotlight


Exercising Compassion Through Science

April 5, 2017 b
y Rebecca Sainsbury

Brigham Young University, PhD student, S. Jun Son, picked up his first badminton racket at just eleven years old in Mungyeong City, South Korea.  His badminton career continued through high school, but the birdie wasn’t the only thing capturing Jun’s attention.  He was always conscious of injuries that hindered his team’s success, as well as the lack of care that was available to high school student athletes.  The compassion Jun felt for his team was the beginning of a character full of lifelong service, and helping others to completely recover from and prevent sports-related injury.


After discharge from the Republic of Korean Army in 2006, Jun served as a physical education teacher from 2006-2008 at a private sports institute and public elementary school (after-school programs) prior to coming to the United States in 2008 where Jun earned a bachelor’s degree in Athletic Training from University of Texas at Austin.  He gained various clinical experiences serving as a student athletic trainer for UT Athletic teams including football, volleyball, soccer, softball and track & field, shadowing sports medicine doctors at the university hospital, St. David’s medical center and Texas Sports & Family Medicine, and interning as a student athletic trainer in the high school.


In 2012, Jun began the master’s program in Athletic Training at Brigham Young University, where he has found great success at research. Upon arrival, not only did he serve as an athletic trainer for the BYU track & field team and Spirit Squad, but also immediately began research on experimental knee pain and chronic ankle instability studies under the direction of Dr. Ty Hopkins—BYU professor and renowned expert in joint injury and rehabilitation.  The results of his Master’s thesis have been published in Sport Sciences or Rehabilitation Journals including Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports (10.1111/sms.12539) and Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (10.1016/j.apmr.2016.05.022).  “Jun is a problem solver, time efficient, confident, creative, has ingenuity, and no one works harder—he’s more like faculty than a student,” his advisor, Dr. Ty Hopkins remarks.


Jun continues to work on his PhD degree under the direction of Dr. Ty Hopkins.  His recent study entails finding an answer as to why repeated ankle sprain is so common.  In the ankle sprain coper landing study, Jun used ankle sprain copers, who have a history of ankle sprains but do not show chronic residual symptoms, as a new comparison group since most chronic ankle instability research has used uninjured healthy controls as a comparison group to chronic ankle instability patients. The results were recently published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (10.1249/MSS.0000000000001255).


Jun is currently working on his dissertation research project entitled “Clinical Predictors of Movement Patterns in Patients with Chronic Ankle Instability”.  This study leverages Dr. Hopkins’ previous study in movement strategies during landing.  “Interventions have been designed based on the existing literature on risk factors of chronic ankle instability, which appeared to be effective in some patients, but not all. Contradictory outcomes in current chronic ankle instability research reminded me to think a different way that a chronic ankle instability population or this injured group that at first seems homogenous, there are probably subgroups of patients who different from each other depending on each patient’s injury-associated deficits and injury status; however, researchers consider this injured population as a homogenous group, so that the studies are not individualized and not deficit-oriented when screen patients with chronic ankle instability. Therefore, these patients are treated by clinicians the same, which is not targeted for each patient’s deficits.” says Jun.


Jun, his advisor, Dr. Ty Hopkins, and other collaborators (Dr. Matt Seeley, Dr. Hyunsoo Kim, Dr. Shane Reese - Statistician, and Dr. Garritt Page - Statistician) have recently created six subgroups of chronic ankle instability based on each patient’s movement patterns during landing and walking.  Jun’s dissertation work continues to examine whether defined six movement pattern subgroups of this injured population can be predicted by clinical tests (ie, dorsiflexion angle, static/dynamic balance, muscular strength, figure 8 hop test, and arch height) that are commonly used by clinicians in clinical settings.  The results from this particular ankle study are expected to be implemented into the clinical setting within the next three years to help clinicians analyze landing patterns without biomechanical tools (ie, force plate, high-speed video cameras, etc.) in a clinical setting whether a particular patient may have risk of ankle sprain injury during landing.  Final results will be released this summer, shortly before Jun graduates with his PhD in August.


Meanwhile, two chronic ankle instability studies (ie, 6-week neuromuscular training and functional walking patterns) and two knee pain studies (ie, bilateral joint loading with unilateral knee pain and landing energetics associated with trunk motion) are to be presented early this summer at the World Congress on Osteoarthritis (OARSI), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA), and International Ankle Symposium (IAS) annual meeting.  Importantly, 11 BYU undergraduate students who were assisting with these research projects will present the results as a lead-author at the ACSM annual meeting in Denver.  More importantly, Jordan Read who is majoring in Athletic Training and an undergraduate research assistant over 3 years, has been selected as an Undergraduate Poster Award Finalist at the NATA annual meeting in Houston from the Patellofemoral Pain study ( and


Clearly, the well-being of others is priority for Jun, which is why he hasn’t forgotten the struggles of his high school badminton team.  His compassion for teams and individuals with limitations has kept him concerned, especially for the special needs of high school student athletes in South Korea, and further, all people who suffer repeated ankle sprains.  His goal is to return and help those who want to improve treatment outcomes in chronic ankle instability patients in South Korea.  “When I help other people in community outdoor events through volunteer activity, I am really thankful that I can have an opportunity to serve myself for helping and caring others” he says.  Until his return to South Korea, Jun plans to continue learning more through his research in the United States, and volunteering in his community at outdoor events including Utah Special Olympics, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, etc.