The 'Hazard Phase'

I saw this graph a while ago and unfortunately I can’t remember who originally posted it or who designed depsite searching, but its brilliant and did make me laugh, and think…
Hazard Phase
When I saw it doing the rounds again recently I thought to myself when was my ‘Hazard Phase‘ when did I used to think I knew it all, or worst still, am I still in it? Now I’m sure some of my ‘special fans’ will say that I act and display the signs of a know it all with my strong and direct views and opinions. However, having strong views doesn’t automatically mean someone knows everything, and I am well aware of the uncertainty of all I do, and I am well aware that I don’t know much in the grand scheme of things, as one of my personal heroes Richard Feynman once said…

We all have a limited intelligence, and tend to use it in a particular direction

I know that I only know what I only know, and dont know what I dont know. I admit I have some large, in fact huge knowledge gaps in areas, and even the areas and stuff I do know a bit about there are shades of grey! I am now comfortable with the uncertainty of not knowing things for certain.
So when was my ‘Hazard Phase’?
Looking back I think without a shadow of a doubt my hazard phase was when I was working in professional football. I thought that’s it, all the hard work and study has paid off, I’ve achieved the pinnacle of my career, I’m at the elite, sharp, pointy end of sports medicine and physio, I’m where all the cutting edge stuff happens, I’ve made it, I clearly know more than most of those other physio losers working with mere normal people, and I’ve got a snazzy tracksuit with my initials on it to prove how clever I am!
Back then I was an insufferable knobhead, most will say I am still one. I was arrogant, cocksure, and certain. For example I believed that we knew what normal movement was and that we had to make everybody achieve it. I was influenced by things such as Functional Movement Screening, which I was taught and believed was as an injury prevention screen tool. I thought I could predict a players risk of injury by putting them through a barrage of tests and scoring them how I thought they should be moving. When this was challenged by some others I thought they were idiots who clearly have no idea, and when I reflect back on how I was thinking it makes me cringe. 
Another example of my know it all phase was my thinking that simple strengthening was a sure fire way to prevent injury and improve performance, and although I do still think it is vitally important and there is evidence to back this up, I have come to realise that it is NOT just as simple as more strength equals less injury. Being strong is essential to reduce the risk of injury, but it’s not sufficient to prevent it.
I think I am now out of my ‘Hazard Phase’ but as this graph suggests the next phase is expert. Well I don’t agree, in fact I feel I know less now than ever before and so it will be a loooong time before I call myself an expert, if I ever do at all. I wonder if this graph plots a route that is inevitable for all of us in our development, is being a know it all an essential process that we ALL must go through?
If so it makes me think about all the times I have perhaps been a little harsh and quick to rebuke those know it all that I have had heated, passionate debates with. Perhaps they were just in their ‘Hazard Phase’ in their own journey of development, and I wonder if I would I have been as receptive to others offering opposing views and critique when I was in my ‘Hazard Phase’?.
However, with that being said there are also many that will never come out of the ‘Hazard Phase’. These are the ones we should all be wary off and not waste our time or energy trying to debate or discuss with them. For these, there is no further development to be had. These are the many influential ‘guru’s’ and they are in my opinion best avoided for the sake of your sanity and blood pressure.
So I will leave you with this question… When was your ‘Hazard Phase’?
Or are you still in it?
As always, thanks for reading
Adam (definitely NOT an expert)



  1. I am in the early stages of “I know nothing” but thanks to guys like yourself and the many other contributors who share their thoughts on twitter I think I am improving…but hard to say when improving means heading towards “Hazard Phase”!!

    • Hi David
      Thanks for your comments and youre right Twitter and blogs are a great way to avoid the Hazard Phase.
      I also don’t think all of us go into the Hazard Phase
      , most do, I definitely did, the key is to recognize there are always different explanations for everything we do, as soon as you think you fully understand something in this business, that is usually when I would say you have slipped into the Hazard Phase.
      Be comfortable, feeling uncomfortable and keep telling yourself and your patients, we just dont fully understand how/why this works….

  2. Although I exist profoundly within the ‘I know nothing’ beginner phase I like to think about Socrates when thinking about learning and experience.
    ‘The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.’
    It provides me with sense a relief that in knowing nothing, I am truly wise… perhaps. But I do agree with you, that this is likely to be part of how we learn and how we come to terms with being a professional. I would disagree that discussion and debate should only be for those who have come out the other side of the hazard phase and that identifying such people would be difficult.

    • Hi Plastic
      Thanks for your comments and I do like your avatar by the way.
      My comments about not debating with some people I think you have misinterpreted or I haven’t made myself clear. I am not saying we shouldn’t discuss or debate with people in the hazard phase of their journey, if they are open minded and prepared to accept and look at alternatives and different explanations. The ones I am referring to about not wasting time or energy with are the ones who are in the hazard phase and have closed their minds to any alternatives or different explanations, these in my experience are the manual therapy guru’s, the ones clinging to the notion of skill and precision is needed, that think they have a gift that cant be taught, that believe the effects are due to an ability to biomechanically alter things, that ignore and rule out non specific effects such as placebo and patient expectation etc, etc, its these that I have tried to discuss rationaley with and get nowhere, these people are deep in the hazard phase and they cannot be helped.
      Kind Regards

  3. Hey Adam,
    I think I joined the ‘I know very little phase’ when I stumbled across your blog on twitter many moons ago!
    Prior to that I felt the ‘hazard phase’ was almost a hereditary problem from the senior Physios at work. Only because they were stuck in the ways of the systems in place.
    Since then, I’ve almost questioned everything and everyone about the ‘everything’ that they know.
    Now that I run my own practice I’m even more aware of how easy it is to fall into the ‘hazard’ phase.
    Just shared it with the team and they all agree with this article!
    Thank you

  4. I’m not going to lie, after reading some of your other stuff I was thinking you were a bit of a dick at first ?, but do you know what, I’ve actually gone full circle and started saying to myself that all your points are really valid and they open up great discussion. I’m new to this all but I want to thank you for making me question everything as I know it will make me better in the long term ??. Keep doing what you’re doing mate, really enjoying it. And apologies for the open thoughts at the start ?

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