Sport and exercise science and medicine:
building on the Olympic legacy to improve the nation's health |
CHAPTER 1: Introduction
Purpose of the inquiry
1. With the backdrop of the London 2012 Summer
Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Committee decided to conduct
a short inquiry into sport and exercise science and medicine.
Our purpose was to investigate two fundamental questions:
- how robust is the research and
evidence base for improving the performance of elite and non-elite
athletes (in a wide range of sports)?
- how can this knowledge be translated into treatments
and preventative interventions to improve the nation's health?
OLYMPIC AND PARALYMPIC HEALTH LEGACY
2. The London bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympic
and Paralympic Games promised to "offer more than just 17
days of spectacular sport";
and, in 2005, the London 2012 bid committee made a commitment
to deliver a lasting legacy.
In May 2010, the Coalition Agreement said, in relation
to the Games, that the Government would "urgently form plans
to deliver a genuine and lasting legacy".
Later that year, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)
published a document entitled Plans for the legacy from the
2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. It focused on four areas
of potential legacy:
- "to increase grass roots
participation" in sports "particularly by young people",
"and to encourage the whole population to be more physically
- "economic growth";
- "community engagement" to "bring
people together over a national event"; and
- "regeneration in East London".
3. Dame Tessa Jowell MP, former Olympics
Minister and member of the bid committee, explained that the (then)
Government had a "driving ambition" to host "the
first Olympic Games which could point to a public health legacy".
The goal of increasing participation in sport was "not just
about increasing participation in sport for the sake of it ...
it was also to tackle one of the most serious health epidemics
facing the UK, that of obesity".
The important health benefits of physical activity underpin the
London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games legacy commitment: "the
nation will be healthier, happier and more active".
This legacy commitment is of particular significance not only
because of the increasing evidence testifying to the risks associated
with sedentary lifestyles,
but also because, according to the Department of Health (DH),
the costs of providing medical care as a consequence of the UK's
physical inactivity "epidemic" are not sustainable.
They estimate that the direct cost of physical inactivity to a
Primary Care Trust is £5 million a year and that the direct
and indirect costs of physical inactivity in England are approximately
£8.2 billion a year.
4. A further aim of the Olympic legacy is "maintaining
world-class performance" of the UK's elite sportsmen and
women. UK Sport, the
UK's high performance agency, seeks to improve the performance
of the UK's elite athletes. They work with over 1,400 elite athletes
to increase the UK's chances of success in major sporting competitions
and one aspect of this work, through their research and innovation
team, is sport science.
WHAT IS PHYSICAL ACTIVITY?
5. DH define physical activity as including "all
forms of activity, such as everyday walking or cycling to get
from A to B, active play, work-related activity, active recreation
(such as working out in a gym), dancing, gardening or playing
active games, as well as organised and competitive sport"(see
Figure 1 below).
What is physical activity?
NATIONAL CENTRE FOR SPORT AND EXERCISE MEDICINE
6. As part of their commitment to ensure a lasting
public health legacy from the Games and to improve support for
both elite and non-elite athletes, the Government have promised
to expand training, recruitment and services in sport and exercise
medicine, and to establish a National Centre for Sport and Exercise
In funding the NCSEM, DH expect it to "become a hub of clinical
and research expertise to:
- increase exercise in the community;
- develop strategies to prevent diseases related
to inactivity; and
- prevent, diagnose and manage injuries for both
professional and amateur athletes".
We consider the NCSEM further in paragraph 48.
Areas outside the scope of this
7. In July 2011, we published a report into behaviour
change in which the subject of one of the case studies
was interventions, including physical activity, to tackle obesity.
To avoid overlap, we have limited the scope of this inquiry to
exclude behaviour change where it relates to encouraging participation
in sport. Since the focus of this inquiry is the science of improving
human performance, we have also excluded technologies and work
to enhance sports equipment.
8. A targeted call for evidence was sent to the
Government, its agencies with responsibility for sport, health
and research, and the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) in May
2012. The call for evidence was also published on our website.
Twenty-three submissions were received. The call for evidence
is set out in Appendix 3. In March 2012, we held a seminar on
sport science, a note of which is set out in Appendix 4. In May
2012, we held a seminar on the Olympic public health legacy. A
note of this seminar is set out in Appendix 5. In June 2012, we
held five oral evidence sessions.
9. The membership and interests of the Committee
are set out in Appendix 1, and those who submitted written and
oral evidence are listed in Appendix 2. We are grateful to all
those who assisted us in our work.
10. Finally, we are grateful to our Specialist
Adviser, Professor Ian Macdonald, Professor of Metabolic
Physiology in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the
University of Nottingham, for his expertise and guidance during
this inquiry. We stress, however, that the conclusions we draw
and the recommendations we make are ours alone.
Cabinet Office: The Coalition: our programme for government,
May 2010. Back
DCMS: Plans for the legacy from the 2012 Olympic and Paralymic
Games, December 2010. Back
D Campbell: 'Will London's Olympic public health legacy turn to
dust?', British Medical Journal, June 2012. Back
London 2012: Response to the questionnaire for cities applying
to become Candidate cities to host the Games of the XXX Olympiad
and the Paralympic Games in 2012. Back
NHS: Sport and Exercise Medicine: A Fresh Approach, April
2012. By "sedentary lifestyles", we mean, for example,
reliance on transport rather than walking, increased number of
hours spent watching television or in front of a computer, and
the rise in the number of hours spent at a desk rather than in
manual labour. Back
DCMS: Beyond 2012-The London 2012 Legacy Story, March 2012. Back
UK Sport, Q 70. Back
DH: Start Active, Stay Active: A report on physical activity
from the four home countries' Chief Medical Officers, July
DH, DCMS. Back
House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, 2nd Report (Session 2010-12):
Behaviour Change (HL Paper 179). Back