Sport and exercise science and medicine: building on the Olympic legacy to improve the nation's health - Science and Technology Committee Contents

CHAPTER 4: Findings and Recommendations

52.  During the course of this short inquiry we were presented with little evidence to suggest that the enhancement of the performance of elite athletes is generally based on strong biomedical science. Given the difficulties associated with conducting research with elite athletes, it is important to develop a two-way flow between, on the one hand, observations on elite athletes and, on the other hand, rigorous research on non-elite athletes and the wider public (paragraph 20).

53.  The evidence we received has led us to the view that the latest advances in relevant areas of biomedical research are not being consistently applied to improving the performance of elite athletes. Robust methodologies must be applied to sport and exercise medicine (SEM) and sport and exercise science (SES) for them to have maximum effect, and to enable a two-way flow of research between the fundamental and applied disciplines (paragraph 22).

54.  We recommend that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and UK Sport take steps to ensure that the biomedical science UK Sport applies to improving the performance of elite athletes is of the highest quality and meets international peer-review standards that would be applicable in other areas of science (paragraph 23). (Recommendation 1)

55.  We recommend that UK Sport should, as a matter of principle, undertake to share its research findings more widely, especially where the research is publicly funded (paragraph 24). (Recommendation 2)

56.  There seems to be sufficient evidence to demonstrate a causal link between physical activity and health benefits for a very wide range of diseases. However, the reasons for this link are not well understood. Research to understand these underpinning mechanisms could be of benefit to elite athletes, non-elite athletes and the wider public (paragraph 26).

57.  Where there is a good scientific basis, lessons could be learnt from the study of elite and non-elite athletes that have relevance to the wider public. This "trickle down" of research from athletes to public health benefits will be even more valuable where underpinning mechanisms are better understood (paragraph 30).

58.  Given the estimated costs of inactivity (see paragraph 3 above), and the potential benefits of the use of exercise as a preventative measure and treatment for chronic diseases, we recommend that the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and other research funders should stimulate research to translate findings of sport and exercise science and medicine to public health benefits (paragraph 39). (Recommendation 3)

59.  We recommend that the National Health Service (NHS), medical schools, the General Medical Council and relevant professional bodies ensure that appropriate training, both at undergraduate level and in continuing professional development opportunities, is available for health professionals to support the prescription of exercise as a preventative measure and treatment, where science supports this. We invite the NHS to consider adding physical activity to the Quality and Outcomes Framework (paragraph 42). (Recommendation 4)

60.  We recommend that the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) assess the quality of research to support the prescription of specific exercises in the management of chronic diseases and, where the evidence supports it, update their guidelines to reflect these findings (paragraph 43). (Recommendation 5)

61.  We recommend that the NHS and NICE evaluate the most effective mechanism for assuring the quality of service delivered by exercise professionals in exercise referral schemes (paragraph 44). (Recommendation 6)

62.  We find it remarkable that DCMS is not concerned with the health benefits of sport (as a form of physical activity). We recommend that the Government take a strong, joined-up approach to promoting the health benefits of exercise and physical activity, and that DCMS play an active part in this. We also recommend that the Government look to international models for improving the quality and application of sport science (paragraph 47). (Recommendation 7)

63.  Given the level of seed investment made, and the importance of this research, the proposed strategy is unsatisfactory. We recommend that the Department of Health (DH) clarifies the intended role of the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine (NCSEM) and outlines how it will ensure that the work of the Centre will be sustainable (paragraph 48). (Recommendation 8)

64.  The NCSEM, sports scientists and sport medical professionals must demonstrate that they can undertake research of the same quality as fundamental disciplines and that they have the institutional support to carry it out. We recommend that the Research Councils, particularly Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Medical Research Council (MRC), demonstrate that they are co-operating to ensure that good quality research in SES and SEM does not fall between the two councils (paragraph 49). (Recommendation 9)

65.  Given the importance of co-ordination and co-operation to further this field, we recommend that the NCSEM lead the development of a National Sports and Exercise Science and Medicine strategy. Such a strategy would seek to engage researchers and clinicians (both from within and outside the Centre) to identify key research needs, improve the quality of research, promote collaboration and co-ordinate research in SES and SEM over the next five years. The Centre should consider the work of international counterparts, to learn from their experiences (paragraph 50). (Recommendation 10)

66.  Furthermore, the expertise of MRC, BBSRC, NIHR, UK Sport, charities, researchers and clinicians in these fields must be shared to facilitate cross-fertilisation of ideas, and to ensure that the lessons of good science applied to elite and non-elite athletes are translated into public health benefits. We recommend that the NIHR provide a lead to this work (paragraph 51). (Recommendation 11)

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2012