Geoff Maitland

You are here:

Geoff Maitland

It is with a heavy heart that I write to inform my colleagues of the passing of Geoffrey Douglas Maitland. Geoff passed away Friday January 22, 2010, aged 85, in Adelaide, Australia. Geoff is now reunited with his beloved wife Anne, who predeceased him last year. Geoff is survived by his 2 children John and Wendy. We share your grief in the hope that it will soon be diminished and in its place will remain loving memories of your father. Anyone who knew Geoff understands that he would rather have us celebrate his life than mourn him. It is in that spirit that I offer this personal perspective of Geoff. It is my understanding that a longer and more scholarly dedication is being produced by others and will no doubt go into great depth of detail regarding Geoff’s numerous achievements, awards and honors, and there were many indeed.Regarding honors, Geoff would tell you that his most cherished professional achievement was being awarded Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1981.

When Geoff the unassuming, humble man was pressed, he would admit that his greatest personal achievement was his long and happy marriage to Anne. Anne was his rock, his solace and his joy. I would like to tell you more of Geoff the man and the effect his life and his teachings have had on literally millions of people around the world. Sir Isaac Newton said “If I have seen a little further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” Geoff Maitland is indeed a giant of Physical Therapy. Geoff’s concept is considered by many to be one of the cornerstones of orthopedic manual therapy. Throughout his 40 year career as a teacher, mentor, clinician and scientist, Geoff trained tens of thousands of Physical Therapists as well as colleagues from other medical professions.Geoff’s principles of assessment and treatment have been adopted by therapists all over the world. As Therapists embrace Geoff’s teachings, they have in turn, shared his concept with their students and colleagues. Whenever a patient is evaluated and treated using the “Maitland Approach” Geoff’s steady hand is there, right along side us, treating millions of patients. Geoff’s impact was indeed enormous.

Many of you know of Geoff and his teachings. You probably know that he studied with James Cyriax, as did others. You know that Geoff helped co-found IFOMT in the late 1960s along with Stanley Paris, Gregory Grieve and Freddy Kaltenborn. The initial discussions took place in the cafeteria of a London Hospital. IFOMT was formalized in 1974. You probably know that Geoff was always steadfast in his belief that clinical assessment takes precedence over theoretical constructs. Clinical Reasoning was paramount with Geoff and his instruction was strict, he would accept nothing short of perfection, from the detailed and patient-focused assessment to the effective application of highly detailed and specific movements. He was relentless in his search for “the answer” through rigorous, detailed clinical assessment, treatment and reassessment. This is the Geoff that you know. I would like to share with you some things about Geoff Maitland that perhaps you may not know. Geoff was a pilot of a Lancaster Bomber, stationed in Britain with the RAAF during WW2, and flew many dangerous missions. After the war he studied Physiotherapy in Australia and eventually founded the world’s first 3 month certificate course in “manipulative therapy” in 1965 in Adelaide. Geoff continuously studied, read voraciously and during his professional career, spent a dedicated half day each week in the medical libraries studying the works of all the professions dealing with musculoskeletal disorders.

Geoff was a stickler for detail, from his method of accurate and unbiased questioning of the patient in the subjective examination, to the importance of highly detailed recording of clinical findings, to his adamant belief that Irritability is a key concept in the assessment and management of patients. Geoff once gave a 1 hour lecture that within minutes appeared to be a rather random stream of consciousness, so we students foolishly stopped taking notes and just sat there listening as he spoke of seemingly unrelated concepts, thoughts and ideas. With 5 minutes to go he tied all of these thoughts together into a coherent, well constructed and inescapable conclusion. I sheepishly asked the student next to me if he wrote all that down. He was the only one who did and was kind enough to give me a copy. I never made that mistake again. ”Quite simply a Clinical Genius” as Chad Cook writes in his dedication to Geoff in Orthopedic Manual Therapy: An Evidence Based Approach, a sentiment that I wholeheartedly share”…Maitland’s emphasis on very careful and comprehensive examination leading to the precise application of treatment by movement and followed in turn by the assessment of the effects of that movement on the patient, form the basis for the modern clinical approach. This is probably as close to the scientific method as is possible within the practice of physical therapy and serves as a model for other areas of the profession.” An excerpt from Prof. Lance Twomey’s Foreward in Refshauge K & Gass E (1995) Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy

In closing, if I could, I would send this letter to Geoff today.

Dear Geoff,
You have generously passed on your knowledge, your skills, and your passion, by teaching and mentoring so many of us. You lit a fire of inquisitive clinical thought that burns brightly and continues to enlighten our profession. Your work continues to inspire us and charge us to challenge ourselves as clinicians, and by doing this we strive to provide excellent care for our patients around the world.

We will keep the fire burning for you. Your impact was immense. Your life was fruitful and rich. I am only one of many who will raise a glass in you honor. Rest well in the knowledge of a job “well done”. Thanks Mate,
Christopher Showalter
Chris Showalter