Read about the current research projects within the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences.
The Foot-Ball Interaction in Rugby Union Place Kicking
Place kicking contributes 45% of all points scored in Rugby Union.
One of the unique aspects of place kicking is the ability of kickers to use a tee and ball orientation of their preference. Given the ‘egg shaped’ nature of a rugby ball, this clearly has implications for the mechanics of the impact between the foot and the ball.
This research project will use both empirical and theoretical biomechanical methods to understand the foot-ball interaction, with the objective of informing the ball setup preferences of place kickers to ultimately enhance their success rates.
IACHUS - Bridgend Project: Improving Attainment and Activity by Enriching Children's Health and Wellbeing in the Community and in Schools across Bridgend
Partner company: Active Young People Department (AYPD) at Bridgend County Borough Council.
I am working alongside the AYPD to create a sustainable method for collecting health and wellbeing data from primary schools. The data that I collect (including fitness, physical activity, physical competence and emotional wellbeing) will be used to analyse intervention effectiveness across several schools. The AYPD will use this data to create school and community programmes to improve children’s health and wellbeing in Bridgend.
Kathryn Ann Jordan
Delivering Air Quality Specific Nudges to Help Increase Physical Activity and Reduce Asthma Attacks in Children
Through my research, I will be conducting formative work that will ultimately inform the development of an intelligent app.
The aim is to provide personalised nudges according to local air pollution, to promote physical activity in youth diagnosed with Asthma. We must first establish an accurate understanding of levels of physical activity in those diagnosed with Asthma, and identify the key barriers they face in increasing their physical activity levels, if we are to engage children successfully.
Understanding, Protecting, and Promoting the Wellbeing of High Performance Swimmers
Previous research suggests that the specific pressures associated with elite sport may negatively impact on the mental health and wellbeing of athletes (e.g., Rice et al., 2016). In particular, high-performance swimmers face a number of additional stressors that have the potential to threaten their wellbeing (e.g., Lang 2015).
My research focuses on protecting and promoting the wellbeing of high-performance swimmers. I am using qualitative methods to explore perceptions of wellbeing within high-performance swimming, and identify areas that may benefit from intervention.
Ultimately, the aim is to implement and evaluate an intervention aimed at improving the wellbeing levels of high-performance swimmers.
Optimising the Start to 15m in Swimming Through Pre-Race Interventions
In swimming, the start to 15 m can contribute up to 30% of total race time (lyttle and benjanuvatra 2005) meaning enhancements in start performance have the potential to impact the overall race for distances up to 200m.
The aim of my research is to measure how pre-race interventions, such as heated garments, can influence performance and improve start time. in conjunction with this, i aim to observe how the proportion of start time has changed since the adoption of new rules and whether previous results are still applicable to the current elite swimming world.
My research focuses on enhancing wellbeing and mental health in performance sport. Working closely with two sports (cycling and judo), I have utilised a bioecological framework, to explore the factors that are perceived to affect athletes' wellbeing and mental health. The case studies have led to multi-level intervention, aiming to enhance athletes' wellbeing and mental health in the high-performance sporting environment. It also aims to increase participants' confidence to seek help for their mental health, through increasing their mental health literacy.
Alongside the PhD research, I am also a Sport and Exercise Psychologist in Training (SEPiT), acquiring the knowledge, skills, and experience to become a qualified Sport and Exercise Psychologist (i.e., HCPC registered Practitioner Psychologist). I am currently working with a range of sporting populations to facilitate their wellbeing and performance through the application of theory to practice.
Title: Co-ingestion of nutritional ergogenic aids and their interactive effects on exercise performance and associated physiological responses.
Summary: My research is being conducted in collaboration with the Defence and Science Technology Laboratory (Dstl), focusing on dietary supplementation of ergogenic aids and their effects on human performance. I am particularly interested in the effects of dietary supplements when they are co-ingested and will be performing both meta-analytical and experimental research to help the future optimisation of co-ingestion strategies for athletic populations.
Project Title: The physiological responses to concurrent training in soccer
Supervisory team: Prof. Liam Kilduff
Funder: Swansea City AFC
Soccer players are required to develop and maintain multiple physical qualities aligned to successful performance. This results in concurrent training methods, with multiple training sessions often performed on the same day and in proximity to each other. A training method that is extremely popular in previous literature and applied settings is the use of small-sided games (SSGs). SSGs are considered a time-efficient training method; able to simultaneously replicate some of the multiple demands necessary for performance. Despite a plethora of research suggesting SSGs provide a potent physiological training stimulus, there is very limited research exploring the acute responses to SSGs over the hours and days that follow. Furthermore, strength and power are very important physical qualities that underpin performance in soccer. Therefore, soccer players often undertake resistance training on the same day as soccer training. However, this concurrent training paradigm is associated with an ‘interference effect’, whereby attenuated adaptation occurs when simultaneously training for multiple physical requirements. Therefore, this project aims to investigate the acute responses to SSG and resistance training and their concurrent integration into a training program.
Project Title: The difference in worst case scenario between international elite senior level and elite U20s rugby union
Collaborative Partners: RFU, FFR, Georgia Rugby
My study is examining the worst-case scenario for running demands in international rugby union comparing senior and U20’s players. I have data from England, Georgia and France senior matches from multiple 6-nation tournaments and I have data from England U20 across both U20 world cups and U20 6-nations. I have analysed the data and looked into the difference in HSR and TD (both total and m/min) to compare the differences between senior and U20 but within this, looking if there are differences between forwards and back, in general, and more specifically, the 6 positional groups (front row, second row, back row, half backs, centers, back 3).
Project Title: The use of GPS to analyse the worst-case scenario of movement demands using fixed epochs versus rolling averages and the impact of climate and travel on the male England Rugby Sevens team during the World Rugby Sevens Series.
The first focus of my research was to analyse the running demands of the England rugby sevens team during the World Rugby Sevens Series using two different methods (fixed epochs and rolling averages). The results of my study indicated that the fixed method underestimated the running demands of the rugby sevens athletes and therefore if this was used to plan trainings the athletes may not be optimally prepared.
The second focus of my research analysed the effect that the different climatic and travel conditions of the World Rugby Sevens Series had on the players running demands of total distance, high-speed running and whole game relative distance. From my findings it was highlighted that travel west compared to east resulted in an increase in peak 5-minute relative total distance and whole game relative distance. An increase in the relative humidity that the athletes competed in increased their peak 5-minute relative total distance and whole game relative distance, with high climatic temperatures also causing an increase in whole game relative distance. Lastly, an increase in the combined effect of temperature and humidity known as humidex resulted in the athletes undertaking less whole game relative distance.
The findings from this study highlight the importance of using rolling epochs when quantifying the worst-case scenario and how rugby sevens athletes are affected by different climatic and travel variables during the World Rugby Seven Series. These findings can therefore be used to inform training and preparation strategies to ensure rugby seven athletes are optimally prepared for the worst-case scenario and different climatic and travel demands.
Project title: The application of advanced data analytics to quantify load monitoring and performance in professional rugby union
Funder: EPSRC and Ospreys Rugby
In conjunction with Ospreys Rugby and EPSRC, my research involves the use of many streams of training and match day data to help understand what drives successful performances within Elite Rugby Union. Through advanced data analytics methods, the aim of the project is to quantify how data such as match performance indicators, training loads and wellbeing data contribute to performance and establish whether these can be used to predict match outcomes. This research is based in the United Rugby Championship (formerly the PRO14).
Project Title: Neuromuscular, Biochemical, Endocrine, Mood, and Sleep responses to International Cricket
Industrial Partner: ECB
International participation is the pinnacle of any sport, and cricket is no different. Cricketers physiological performance has improved greatly over the last ten years. Advances in physical preparation and an emphasis on cricketers becoming athletes as well as performers has changed the game from what it used to be. The volume of cricket played at the elite-level is a major factor influencing player fatigue levels and the subsequent need for appropriate recovery practices. Furthermore, the physiological demands vary considerably between positions; batsman, bowler, wicketkeeper, and game formats; shorter (T20/One-Day) and multi-day (Test) matches. Working alongside the ECB, this research project will assess the impact of international cricket on elite-level athletes through physiological responses. Collecting data across 3 formats: Test, One-day and T20 matches, I will analyse and assess the neuromuscular, biochemical, endocrine, mood, and sleep responses of participants. Ultimately, the aim is to investigate the impact of international cricket on elite-level athletes, and look to implement appropriate priming and recovery interventions to enable elite-level cricketers to perform at the peak of the sport throughout an international series and across congested fixture lists.
Project Title: The influence of plant-based dietary patterns on in vivo musculoskeletal and vascular characteristics
Supervisory Team: Dr Shane Heffernan
Joe is a PhD student investigating the effects of plant-based dietary patterns on a range of physiological markers of human health and sporting performance. Working alongside his supervisor, Dr Shane Heffernan, he has recently set up the OMnivorous and Non-meat eater Integrative Physiology and NutriTion (OMNIPLaNT) study, in which they will compare these markers between different dietary groups, ranging from whole-foods plant-based through to omnivorous diets. They utilise ultrasound technology for assessment of skeletal muscle and vascular health in addition to dual-energy X-ray imaging for comparison of body composition and bone mineral density between different diet groups.
If you are interested and would like to take part in The OMNIPLaNT Study, or receive some more information, you can access the online questionnaire(s) or leave your contact details via the links below:
Contact Details: https://survey.swan.ac.uk/index.php/681766?lang=en
Project Title: Kinematics and Force Application During Initial Sprint Acceleration
Supervisory Team: Dr Neil Bezodis, Dr Louise Burnie
Collaborating partner: National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya, Japan (Dr Ryu Nagahara)
In track sprinting, the athlete generates around 70% of their maximum velocity during the first four steps on the track. The ability to apply force horizontally is a determining factor for sprint acceleration performance. However, it is currently unknown what features of a sprinter’s technique are associated with this technical ability. This research project will empirically investigate the relationships kinematic characteristics and a measure of technical ability (ratio of forces) during the initial acceleration phase of sprinting, with the aim of providing practical implications for sprinters to manipulate their technique to improve acceleration performance.
Project Title: The effect of dietary supplementation on physiological and thermoregulatory responses to exercise in hot environments
Supervisor: Dr Mark Waldron
My research focuses on dietary supplementation and thermal physiology. More specifically, the aim of my PhD is to investigate the effect of taurine supplementation on exercise performance in the heat, alongside thermoregulatory responses such as core temperature, sweating and vascular changes. This research has relevance to both athletes and military personnel, as many competitions and tactical operations take place in hot environments. My PhD will include both meta-analytical and laboratory-based experimental work, with my first article published in 2021 (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40279-021-01500-2).
A realist evaluation of multi-component interventions with disadvantaged young people
Ospreys in the Community
Dr Camilla Knight & Dr Denise Hill
The overall aim of my research is to use realist evaluation (Pawson & Tilley, 1997) to assess the impact of various multi-component programmes on the engagement, behaviour, and psychological outcomes of disaffected and disadvantaged young people. Realist evaluation is a theory-driven approach, aiming to establish a rich, in-depth understanding of how a programme may work, for whom, under what circumstances, and why (Pawson, 2013).
The findings and guidelines produced from realist evaluations can provide policymakers with a detailed and practical understanding of the types of programmes that may benefit disadvantaged young people and help advance the implementation of future programmes.
Disadvantaged young people, social justice, realist methodology and programme evaluation, strengths-based approaches, positive psychology, appreciative inquiry, positive youth development (PYD), sport-based PYD, experiential learning.
PhD Title: Physical Demands of Training and Competition in International Netball Players
Coaches and conditioning coaches must effectively organise training in order to maximise training adaptation, as well as develop technical and tactical aspects of performance. however, at present, there are few reports highlighting the responses to a variety of training stimuli in elite female team-sport players, especially in elite netball, limiting the ability of the coach to do this. the aim of this research is to identify the responses to international competition, netball-specific training sessions, and the influence of organisation of training (such as session order, or volume of training) to allow coaches and conditioning coaches to effectively plan training.
A-CLASS Girls Cymru: Active Children Learn Achieve Stay Sporty Cymru
Prof. Gareth Stratton, Prof. Sinead Brophy and Dr Rachel Hughes
Physical literacy, physical inactivity, physical competence, self-objectification, feminism, embodiment, philosophy of the body, adolescent girls.
Investigating the Dose-Response Relationship between Exercise, Physical Activity, and Lifelong Health
Dr M. McNarry and Dr K. MacKintosh
I completed my undergraduate degree in Sport & Exercise Science at Aberystwyth University and have just completed my masters by research at Swansea University, where I am now undertaking my PhD. I am a very keen long-distance runner and have ambitions to complete a half / full Ironman triathlon in the future.
My research interests include the effects of High Intensity Interval Training and its interaction with sedentary time in elite athletes and secondly exercise longevity in paediatric populations. Specifically, investigating whether there is an optimal training type or maturational threshold in youth populations alongside the long-lasting effects of intense training cycles in youth upon all-cause mortality risk factors in adulthood.
Investigating the Measurement of Physical Activity and Associated Factors in Youth and Adults with Cystic Fibrosis
Dr. Kelly Mackintosh and Dr. Melitta McNarry
Physical activity (PA) refers to any bodily movement that causes an increased energy expenditure above resting and is associated with numerous physiological and psychosocial health benefits, irrespective of condition. Specifically, regular PA is associated with a better quality of life and reduces the frequency of exacerbations and rate of lung function decline in Cystic Fibrosis (CF).
My main interest in research is to investigate physical activity and its health-related benefits, particularly in Cystic Fibrosis.
Investigating the effects of an Inspiratory Muscle Training programme in children and adults with Cystic Fibrosis
Dr Melitta McNarry and Dr Kelly Mackintosh
Physiological and psychological impact of exercise interventions, respiratory diseases, paediatric health
Longitudinal Characterisation of Cardiac Function in Recently-Diagnosed Breast Cancer Patients (The CARE-B Study)
Prof Michael Lewis and Prof Gareth Stratton
The primary focus of this study is to establish whether cancer treatment has a greater influence on the heart than previously recognised. Although treatment is known to reduce cardiac pumping efficiency in some patients (so-called cardiotoxicity) very little is known about the mechanisms underlying this side-effect of treatment. In this study we are examining (for the first time) the influence of chemotherapy and anti-HER2 antibody treatment on cardiovascular function, cardiac rhythm and myocardial tissue dynamics in recently diagnosed breast cancer patients.
Using a novel integration of physiological measurement and imaging techniques we are able to describe the extent and time-course of cardiac changes in far more detail than has previously been achieved, both during and following treatment. We are also interested in how body composition, cardiorespiratory fitness and physical activity/sedentary behaviour are influenced by treatment in these patients, which we assess using DEXA scans, cardiopulmonary exercise testing with breath-by-breath gas analysis and accelerometry, respectively. In due course we believe that this study will have an important role in revising breast cancer treatment schedules to minimize its undesirable effects on the heart.
Professor Gareth Stratton and Dr Kelly Mackintosh
In children, physical activity (PA) is recognised to have a favourable effect on health, while, sedentary behaviour is associated with many health and psychosocial problems. Despite this, few children meet current recommendations for PA and sedentary behaviour.
Given children spend significant time at home, understanding these behaviours in this environment is imperative to inform behaviour change interventions. In addition, interventions targeting behaviour change in the home environment are scarce and have been limited by the number of strategies used. While, there is an emerging body of evidence on the influence of the home environment on children’s sedentary behaviour and PA, several gaps in the evidence remain. Further, to date, research has mostly been limited to Australia and the USA, and UK research specifically, is lacking.
Therefore, in collaboration with the university of Western Australia, through a Zienkiewicz scholarship, my research will involve investigating the influence of the physical environment of the home on South Wales children’s sedentary behaviour and PA as well as implementing an intervention targeting a reduction in children’s sedentary behaviour and PA, while addressing some of the gaps in the current evidence base.
Novel Methods of Visualising and Measuring Children’s Physical Activity
Dr. Kelly Mackintosh and Dr. Melitta McNarry
Childhood obesity is one of the most serious global public health challenges of the 21st century, at least in part due to the insufficient levels of physical activity children engage in. My research involves investigating novel methods of visualising and measuring children’s physical activity levels.More specifically, how can tangible 3D printed visualisations of physical activity provide children with more meaningful and personalised feedback to potentially enhance their understanding, awareness and motivation to engage in more physical activity. Lastly, can more accurate measurements of physical activity, such as, accounting for the energy costs of turning create a more detailed picture of children’s sporadic movement patterns than previous linear measurements of human locomotion.
The x4a Trial: Exercise for Asthma
Dr Gwyn Davies, Dr Melitta McNarry, Prof Gareth Stratton/Prof Andrew Wilson (Swansea/East Anglia)
Asthma and obesity have both increased dramatically in recent years and are two of the commonest long-lasting problems to affect children. It is important to target asthma and obesity by developing effective novel exercise and educational programmes tailored especially to improve asthma outcomes. The study offers a real chance to improve outcomes for children with asthma in a relatively short timeframe. The work should also frame professional practice and guide school policy relating to asthma, physical activity and exercise.
The aim will be to deliver programmes that: allow children to take control of their asthma and increase confidence in taking part in physical exercise and show that the targeted exercise programme leads to better asthma control, fitness and fewer asthma attacks.
PhD Title: Title Pending
Investigating the Influence of Physical Activity on Cardiovascular Health in Chronic Conditions
My research interests surround exercise physiology and cardiovascular health, specifically arterial stiffness and heart rate variability, in both healthy and clinical populations. Within exercise physiology, my particular interest is physical activity and accumulation of activity in clinical populations, with the possibility of prescribing activity intervention in such populations.
The Cardiorespiratory, Vascular and Metabolic effects of resistance exercise in individuals with Type 1 Diabetes
Doctor Richard Bracken
How the physiological responses to resistance exercise may influence biomarkers of cardiovascular disease risk in individuals with type 1 diabetes
PhD Title: Title Pending
Dr Camilla Knight
After studying at Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities for my undergraduate and masters degrees respectively, I began my PhD at Swansea in January 2016. With Dr Camilla Knight as my supervisor, my interest is in Parenting in Youth Sport. Specifically, my research is focused on what influences parental involvement in youth sport.
Acute Kinematic and Muscular Effects of Limb Loading in Maximal Velocity Sprinting
Acute kinetic, kinematic and muscle activity patterns during sprinting have been widely researched. The resulting knowledge has allowed coaches to tailor technical and resistance training methods with the ultimate aim of improving sprint performance. Sprint coaches and athletes have routinely used traditional resistance training in preparation for sprint competition, but they are continually seeking new ways of achieving competitive advantages. Light wearable resistance training is a novel method which could be applied in sprinters’ training programmes, however, little evidence exists to guide practitioners on how to programme this effectively.
This study therefore aims to critically evaluate the acute kinematic and muscular responses to light wearable resistance when it is incorporated during sprinting, with a particular focus on how different configurations specifically overload the hamstrings. This information will be used to develop guidelines which can be applied by practitioners to effectively utilise light wearable resistance training in their programming.
PhD Title: Title Pending
Dr. Melitta McNarry and Dr. Kelly Mackintosh
My current research aims to investigate the influence of maturity upon motor skill proficiency in children and adolescents, using wearable inertial measurement units.
Understanding the Musculoskeletal Demands of Kicking in Rugby Union: Implications for Injury Risk Management
Kicking contributes to match results in Rugby Union both directly through the scoring of points, and indirectly through territorial or tactical play. This project aims to understand the specific musculoskeletal demands associated with kicking through a series of investigations. Firstly, the epidemiology of injuries associated with kicking in professional players will be identified. The incidence of kicking injuries will be quantified; the most common types and location of injury will be established and the severity of these injuries will be determined.
The second investigation will quantify the exposure of professional players to each kick type and the specific match-play volumes players are typically exposed to. Finally, this information will direct an empirical analysis of the kinematics and activity of commonly injured muscles to understand the specific intensity of each kick type. This will assist with the identification of potential injury mechanisms, and ultimately will inform load management and conditioning practices.
PhD Title: Title Pending
Dr Kelly Mackintosh and Dr Melitta McNarry
My research area is Fundamental Movement Skills and I am undertaking a project to develop objective assessment methods using accelerometer devices to capture skill movements in children. Fundamental Movement Skills are basic movements that include locomotor skills and object control skills. Past research has found that children who are proficient in basic movement skills will have high beliefs regarding their physical competencies and therefore are more likely to sustain interest in physical activity.
As a Physical Education teacher working in the secondary sector over the last ten years, I am passionate about developing new research into the way children move and developing children as lifelong physical activity enthusiasts. My interests include movement assessment, physical competence and physical activity. I am a keen netball player, coach and selector and am dedicated to developing my work as a coach and mentor for young players.
PhD Title: Title Pending
Dr Camilla J Knight and Denise M Hill
I have a deep interest in understanding children’s sporting experiences and establishing ways to improve their overall sporting experience. Parental involvement in children’s sport has been a topic of research interest for decades now and it is clear that the relationship a child has with their parent is fundamental to their overall development and welfare. Therefore, I think it is important to understand how parents can enhance youth sport participation.
My current MSc research aims to explore children’s perceptions of their parent’s involvement in sport and what effect it has on their overall enjoyment.
Developing a Support Programme for Parents within Youth Football
Dr Camilla Knight and Dr Thomas Love
Understanding in greater depth the experience of parents within youth sport, enhancing the parent experience within youth sport and developing innovative ways in which parents can be supported.