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Centre for Human Performance

The Centre for Human Performance brings together researchers with expertise in sport and exercise physiology, biomechanics, psychology, perceptual-motor control, orthopaedic medicine, nutrition and biochemistry. Our research in underpinned by our collaborative approach which allows us to integrate ideas and techniques from different disciplines in order to optimise human performance and well-being.

Our research spans basic science conducted in our laboratories through translational science on the track, on the pitch and in the mountains. We recognise that knowledge exchange between academic researchers and policy and practice communities is crucial to developing evidence-informed policy and practice. This ethos has inspired our innovative, integrated research-practice model; developed and implemented with various professional sports clubs, national governing bodies and organisations.

Although we are interested in optimising human performance, we believe this should never compromise wellbeing and welfare. Therefore, our research offers a critical understanding of the psychosocial, moral and cultural dimensions of sport.

Research Themes

Rugby Science and Practice
We apply a research-practice model that is aimed at developing applied and translational research for enhancing policy, and coach and player development within the sport of rugby. Based upon key relationships with external partners (including the Rugby Football League, Rugby Football Union, Leeds Rhinos Rugby League club, Yorkshire Carnegie Rugby Union club, Wasps Rugby Union club) an established programme of research has been developed implementing scientific methods within an applied environment. Areas of interest include player development, fatigue, training and match-play analysis, strength and conditioning, and nutrition.

Performance in Extreme Environments
This interdisciplinary theme brings together experts from the fields of biochemistry, endocrinology, cardiovascular function, energy metabolism, aviation medicine, exercise physiology, nutrition, psychology and biomechanics. Our research examines human responses to altitude exposure at ‘terrestrial altitude’ and within simulated (hypobaric and normobaric hypoxic) environments, as well as thermoregulation and the application of apnoeic principles. A high proportion of our field research has been supported by our close working relationship with the Defence Medical Services and Carnegie Great Outdoors, who we have worked with on several research expeditions in recent years.

Doping Prevention and Sporting Integrity
Researchers interested in understanding the complexity of doping and integrity in sport are brought together in order to inform anti-doping policy and practice. We have established a programme of research investigating the use of prohibited and permitted substances from multiple stakeholder perspectives (e.g. athlete, athlete support personnel, recreational user) in order to critically examine and modify the ‘dopogenic’ environment.

Health and Wellbeing in High Performance Settings
This theme develops and disseminates 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. Our research spans fundamental and applied research relating to athletes, coaches and support staff.

Movement and Technique Analysis
Encompassing expertise and techniques developed by the need to understand and quantify human movement and the mechanisms underlying skill learning, our experimental approaches cover the whole spectrum of movement analysis paradigms, from a traditional discrete biomechanical examination to processes pertinent to motor learning and coordination. Our research philosophy is to study real-life problems by employing advanced laboratory techniques, and by interpreting findings and data in a clear and functional style that allows their direct application to performance improvement strategies.

Optimising Endurance Performance
This theme brings together an interdisciplinary team of experts from the fields of exercise physiology, energy metabolism, nutrition, biochemistry, cardiovascular function, psychology and biomechanics. Our research spans fundamental science and the application of knowledge into practice, with one focus: to optimise endurance performance. In particular, our research focuses on exercise performance, exercise metabolism, training adaptation, deception, pacing strategies, exercise induced asthma, athlete nutritional education and cycling positioning. The historical and current expertise in this area enables us to provide meaningful support and advice to athletes, coaches and organisations at all levels through our applied clinics and support work.

Musculoskeletal and Orthopaedic Sports Medicine
The understanding and evaluation of the musculoskeletal and neuromechanical factors underpinning sports performance and injury are central to this interdisciplinary theme. The same extrinsic and intrinsic factors affecting human performance are also contributors to the stress-strain relationship that is fundamental in understanding sports injury. This theme is supported by orthopaedic surgeons and sports scientists, all having a common interest in improving human performance by maintaining a healthy musculoskeletal system. The approach and analysis techniques adopted and applied by the research team vary depending upon the nature of the investigation, with medical imaging and laboratory practices being at the forefront.

We have worked closely with the following organisations:

  • Rugby Football Union
  • Rugby Football League
  • World Anti-Doping Agency
  • UK Anti-Doping
  • England and Wales Cricket Board
  • English Institute of Sport
  • Leeds Rugby Club
  • International Amateur Athletics Federation
  • British Athletics
  • British Badminton
  • World Badminton
  • British Triathlon and the Yorkshire Triathlon Academy