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


5 March 2012

Members of the Committee present were: Lord Broers, Lord Crickhowell, Baroness Hilton of Eggardon, Lord Krebs (Chairman), Lord Patel, Baroness Perry of Southwark, Lord Rees of Ludlow, Earl of Selborne, Lord Wade of Chorlton, Lord Warner and Lord Winston. In attendance were Chris Atkinson (Clerk) and Rachel Newton (Policy Analyst).

Presentation heard from Dr Scott Drawer, Head of Research and Innovation, UK Sport

Dr Drawer outlined the key organisations within the high performance sport science sector and the regulatory system. He gave details of the funding, targets and objectives of the UK high performance sport sector, specifically focusing on UK Sport. Dr Drawer explained that responsibility for rules and regulation lay with several bodies, not a central organisation, and that the primary regulatory requirement was accreditation for individuals in certain professions. He gave numbers of athletes funded by grants. He suggested that professional athletes represent the pinnacle of human functioning capability and that sports provide a unique insight into the maximum capability of humans. He considered the professional sports area to be an interesting platform for understanding health, wellness and ageing. Dr Drawer offered specific examples of studies, trials and innovations in the field including cold water immersion for recovery and aerodynamic positioning work with cyclists and wheelchair athletes. He highlighted how high performance sports can inform other disciplines. Dr Drawer argued that the majority of investment for high performance sport science and medicine research (as opposed to service provision with is funded by Government and National Lottery) often relies upon the good will of the academic and industrial sectors. Streams of work in sport science include equipment, coaching tools, training science and performance medicine. He suggested that the field is quite "young" when compared to other scientific disciplines internationally. He identified future areas for focus as consistent investment, and academic and industry partnership.


  • The links between the high performance sport science sector, the musical conservatoires and endocrine researchers with regard to the psychology and physiology of performance were discussed. It was explained that informal links existed with endocrine researchers, through academic groups, but not with musical conservatoires.
  • The robustness of the evidence base, primarily in terms of scientific methodology, for sport science studies was discussed. The specific example of enhanced recovery from muscle stress was considered. It was suggested that there was some variation across the literature, and that high performance research applications can feed into mainstream research areas such as cardiology and physiology.
  • The voluntary regulation of certain disciplines was discussed. It was suggested that some disciplines, such as medicine and psychology, were better regulated than others.
  • Long-term surveillance and experimentation were then discussed. The specific examples of damage from boxing and running were considered. It was explained that the collection of this type of data was ongoing.
  • Encouraging sports in schools was discussed, including targets set by government. Sport England are responsible for this area and have recently launched a new youth and community sport strategy.
  • The application of high performance research to wider people groups was discussed. It was explained that one of the aims of the 2012 Olympic Games legacy is that it should have applications to the wider public in terms of disease prevention and health.
  • The impact of nature and nurture on sporting prowess was discussed. It was suggested that perhaps it was a mix of both. Recent neuroscience studies of musicians were considered. Studies about training capability were also considered.

Presentation from Dr David James, Senior Sports Engineer, Centre for Sports Engineering Research, Sheffield Hallam University

Dr James presented information about the global sports industry, and figures about the economic contribution of sports clothing and equipment to the UK's economy. He outlined the history of sports engineering. He suggested that the UK leads the world in this research. Dr James offered specific examples of innovations in the field. For example, he talked about technology-based coaching tools. He explained the concept of "technology doping". He concluded by discussing public engagement efforts. He suggested that performance enhancement principles could be explored, and that the commercial base could be developed.


  • The sports clothing market was discussed.
  • The use of research findings for commercial purposes was considered. Issues surrounding protection of intellectual property rights were discussed. It was suggested that the sector was judged by traditional research outputs and charged relatively high fees for commercial activities. It was further suggested that the field could develop spin-off opportunities more. The benefits of enterprise spin-off offices were discussed.
  • The motivation of sports scientists and engineers was discussed.

National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine; Transforming the nation's health with world leading sport and exercise medicine

Professor Myra Nimmo, Dean of the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University, showed a video detailing the work of the East Midlands Consortium of the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine. The centre is being led by Loughborough in partnership with Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, University of Nottingham, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust and the University of Leicester. The video included information on the centre's aims, facilities and examples of its research.

[discussion of the video was taken together with discussion of the final presentation]

Presentation from Professor Fares Haddad, Director of the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health, University College London Hospital

Professor Haddad explained that sports and exercise medicine (SEM) applies the data from high-level performance research to the population at large, integrates health and exercise studies, and informs disease research. He expressed concern about funding and explained that there is no research grant body which focuses on exercise and health. Professor Haddad outlined training opportunities in SEM. He discussed the potential health legacy of the Olympics. Professor Haddad presented studies exploring the economic costs of illnesses relating to physical inactivity. He explained the benefits of exercise to health and wellbeing. He outlined the role of the University College Hospital/University College London Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health in "bridging the gap from elite SEM services to NHS [National Health Service] services and public health". He offered examples of the centre's research, such as the impact of altitude on performance. Professor Haddad argued that the London 2012 Olympics presented opportunities for improving elite athlete and amateur care, optimising the translation of science into clinical delivery, and supporting the exercise medicine agenda for wellness, disease prevention and disease management. He identified areas for improvement as specific undergraduate SEM training for medical students, funding for the whole area, commissioning exercise as a treatment, the impact of exercise public health campaigns, and improving activity levels and health.


  • The application of sports medicine to non-elite athletes was discussed.
  • The speciality of joint replacement was considered. It was argued that drive and motivation explain the difference between the response to injury of elite athletes and others.
  • The legacy of SEM following the Olympics was considered. The translation of SEM to wider public health benefits was discussed.
  • Strategies and efforts to encourage children to exercise were then discussed.
  • The health benefits of exercise were considered.

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