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Our Research

The Centre for Sports Performance has a large and thriving cohort of research-active staff and students. Our aims are to conduct research with clear impacts on the performance, health and well-being of sports performers and athlete support personnel; addressing issues of importance to sports national governing bodies, international federations, policy-makers and practitioners.

Internationally recognised for our research on the psychosocial factors underpinning doping and nutritional supplement behaviours in sport, we have founded links with prominent professional-and industry-based partners, such as the World Anti-Doping Agency, UK Anti-Doping, the Rugby Football Union, UK Athletics and the International Athletics Foundation.  This collaborative approach is also mirrored in the science of rugby theme, where basic research is complemented by collaborative translational science with national governing bodies and professional rugby clubs. Eleven postgraduate researchers are currently investigating the science of rugby, of which eight are externally funded. Enabled by high resolution, dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), identifying and quantifying injury risk and consequences for the athlete, so that evidence-based guidance and prevention strategies can be developed is also a research strength in the Centre for Sports Performance.

A multidisciplinary team are actively engaged in research evaluating the physiological and psychological responses to altitude exposure at ‘terrestrial altitude’ as well as within simulated (hypobaric and normobaric) environments. This research is developed in close collaboration the Defence Medical Services Hypoxia study group. Academic staff and associated PhD students are also actively engaged in research evaluating the effect of carbohydrate ingestion on fuel use, glycogen repletion and endurance performance. The use of isotope ratio mass spectrometry through our collaboration with the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre ensures this work is cutting edge. Further, we have utilised 13C magnetic resonance spectrometry and muscle biopsies to establish in vivo liver and muscle glycogen concentrations. 

Uniting our team of sport and exercise psychologists is a desire to further our understanding of the social psychology of high performance sport. Researching life stories in sport has helped to develop and disseminate richer understandings of the complex and sometimes contradictory experiences of those who live within the highly pressurised and sometimes unhealthy environments of high-level sport.  Complementing this work is a more specific focus on stress and coping and an examination of common stressors among coaches and athletes (e.g., injury or drug use), as well as different professional groups (e.g., surgeons, bus drivers, and first responders). Our psychomotor research team examines the mechanisms underpinning skill failure and develops interventions to promote resilience. 

Our biomechanists, aided by our data capture facilities and equipment integrated within our sports facilities, are researching aspects of training, technique and performance across a range of sports, including cricket, golf, gymnastics, kayak paddling, race walking, rugby and sprint running. A focus on studying real-world problems by employing advanced laboratory techniques (e.g. infrared motion analysis, Electromyography) and by interpreting findings and data in a clear and functional style allows their direct application to performance improvement strategies. As such, the team provides applied sport science support and coaching interventions for World and Olympic level athletes. 

Many of our staff also work with and contribute to other research centres in the Institute and University, particularly the Active Lifestyles Research Centre, led by Professor Jim McKenna, given the common ground between our sport and exercise scientists. Our sport and exercise science researchers also continue to work alongside medical and physiotherapy staff and coaches in providing a wide range of scientific support services to sports performers, clubs and organisations particularly throughout the region but increasingly both nationally and internationally.

Current Projects

  • Evaluation of the physiological demands of being an adolescent rugby player (CARR project: collaboration between Yorkshire Carnegie Rugby Union Club, Leeds Rugby, Independent Schools based in Yorkshire, the Rugby Football Union and Leeds Beckett University). 
  • Movement demands and effect on decision marking during match play (collaboration with the Rugby Football League).
  • Male adolescent use of performance and image enhancing substances in England (in partnership with the Rugby Football Union). 
  • A cross-cultural (US/UK) comparison of risk and protective factors for doping in university level track and field athletics (Funded by the International Athletics Foundation).
  • An experimental study to examine the roles of moral disengagement and emotion in the regulation of doping in sport (Funded by the World Anti-Doping Agency).
  • Physiological Changes at High Altitude and the Prevalence of Acute Mountain Sickness.
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism on Acute Exposure to High Altitude. 
  • Biomechanics of Elite Race Walking
  • Movement Variability and Performance Outcome in Golf
  • Mechanical Considerations in Optimising Cycling Performance