Sports research impacts Olympics
Published 2 May 2012
Universities Week (30 April –7 May) report shows impact of universities' research and sport development around the Olympic and Paralympic Games and UK sports industry.
University of Brighton's research is included in a new report showing the impact of universities' research and sport development on the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and UK sport generally. The report has been released as part of Universities Week which aims to increase public awareness of the wide and varied role of the UK's universities.
The report, Supporting a UK Success Story: The impact of university research and sport development, highlights just some of the many ways in which research has helped Team GB limber up and prepare for London 2012. The University of Brighton's research on the brain's involvement in exercise tolerance is highlighted in the report.
Featured on the BBC's Horizon programme, researchers at the University of Brighton's Chelsea School of Sport demonstrated how the nervous system – not just our muscles – dictates how much physical activity we are capable of doing. Originally, researchers assumed that fatigue was caused because muscles couldn't operate effectively as a consequence of prolonged or intense physical exertion. However, the introduction of techniques such as "transcranial magnetic stimulation", a non-invasive method used to assess the brains control of muscles, has allowed researchers to explore just how influential the brain is in muscle fatigue. Scientists hope the research could lead to new methods of improving performance.
The report also features the University of Brighton's collaboration with Aberystwyth
University and the University of Exeter on research into ways of warming up that can help improve an athlete's performance. The team has studied methods that involve high-intensity exercise known as "priming", before the main exercise session or race. Priming increases the concentration of lactate in the blood and since the production of lactate makes the blood acidic, priming exercise can be thought of as an "acid-up" as opposed to a "warm-up".
The report highlights how research taking place at universities across the UK, including the University of Brighton, is helping to give athletes that extra split second or millimetre advantage which can mean the difference between gold and silver medals in competitive sports.
There is an in-depth look at how exploration and development in the areas of technology, health and wellbeing, design, sport development and participation and the Games past and present, have contributed to London 2012 and the UK sports industry.
Professor Julian Crampton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Brighton, said: "Universities Week 2012 is an excellent opportunity to showcase some of the fantastic work universities are contributing to the world of sport, which is especially apt with the Games taking place this year. Here at the University of Brighton we are heavily involved in London 2012.
"Professor Jonathan Doust, head of the university's Chelsea School in Eastbourne, is a non-executive director of the English Institute of Sport (EIS) and was chosen to help Britain's athletes to Olympic success in London in July.
"Dr Nick Webborn, principal research fellow at the University of Brighton, has been appointed chief medical officer to Paralympics GB. Glenn Cook, lecturer at the university's Chelsea School of Sport is British Triathlon's Olympic Head Women's Coach. Dr Gary Brickley, senior lecturer in physiology at Chelsea School of Sport is a GB paralympic coach. Sarah Hogg, head of sport and recreation at the University of Brighton is on the Board of Trustees of Active Sussex which launched its Sussex Legacy project, promoting a range of exciting sporting opportunities for Sussex. It will deliver a number of programmes in the Olympic year."
From the science behind athlete hydration to the regeneration of East London, home to the Olympic Park, the report takes a journey through the research and sports development that sits behind the lasting impact of London 2012 on the UK. Throughout the report, issues of endurance sit side by side with examples of urban regeneration and the history of sports medicine to demonstrate the diverse ways in which the whole of UK society benefits from the work of universities linked to the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive, Universities UK, said: "It is sometimes easy to forget when you watch an athlete or team compete just how much preparation has gone into their performance. This isn't simply a question of training schedules and practice. These days, cutting-edge university research is used to support every aspect of Olympic sports – from nutrition and health to equipment, physiotherapy, rehabilitation and of course performance. For instance, the combination of design and technology can be immensely effective for top athletes so that the actual design of a kayak or bob-sleigh can be as important to athletes as their own skill and training."
Karen Rothery, Chief Executive Officer, British Universities & Colleges Sport, said: "Sports development within our universities is encouraging greater participation in sport and activity across the student population and within the communities of universities. A variety of programmes and the support and development of a supporting workforce in volunteers and officials means that more people have the opportunity to be more active and enjoy the many benefits that brings."
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Contact: Marketing and Communications, University of Brighton, 01273 643022