Researchers at the University of South Wales have developed novel understandings of mechanisms and interventions which can enhance effective service provision in sport. Working with government agencies, national governing bodies of sport, and education providers, this research has informed improvements in the education and performance of professional sports coaches, support staff and athletes nationally and internationally.
Dr David Adams, Technical Director of the FAW Trust explains the impact of the research on players and coaches
Sport has been advocated as a domain in which people can learn transferrable skills that will help them in all areas of their lives. However, little is known about how life skills are developed through sport. Research in reflective practice led by Brendan Cropley, Professor of Sports Coaching, has informed the Football Association of Wales Trust (FAWT) and UEFA coach education programmes and influenced coaching practice across Wales to enhance the personal development of players.
Working closely with the British Association of Sport & Exercise Sciences (BASES) and UK Coaching, USW’s research has also influenced coach education programmes across a wide range of sports and been made available to a worldwide audience. Between 2014 and 2020, this research has directly influenced the service delivery of over 4000 coaches working in Wales, over 100 elite football coaches working across the world, and over 100 sport science support staff.
Beyond sport, this research has been used to inform workforce development e.g. at Coleg-y-Cymoedd where it was used to improve academic service delivery by transforming workforce development for 800 members of staff.
The psychological preparation of coaches, support staff, and athletes is a recognised predictor of successful performance in competitive events. Collaborative research in performance psychology and biofeedback led by David Shearer, Professor of Elite Performance Psychology has been used by Sport Wales to prepare over 100 elite athletes to deal with the pressures encountered at major world-level sporting events e.g. at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, and Gold Coast 2018 where Team Wales had their best ever medal performances at an international level. Collaborative research with Swim Wales has changed competition culture, from grassroots to elite international competition, and influenced swimmer development and preparation.
Chris Chapman, Learning Experience Manager from UK Coaching, talks about the contribution of this research
Hamstring strain injuries (HSI) account for around 16% of all injuries in athletes and are the most prevalent cause of lost time from competition. In addition to the associated physical issues, hamstring strain injuries have a significant psychological impact on athletes who are forced to miss some, and potentially all of their competitive seasons. Alongside the associated performance issues, the financial consequences can be considerable. However, incomplete understanding of hamstring strain injury and re-injury risk has led to poor diagnosis, and limited preventative measures and rehabilitation programmes.
To address this need, an international collaboration founded by Dr Morgan Williams, University of South Wales (USW); Dr Anthony Shield, Queensland University of Technology, and Dr David Opar, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, was established. Research by the group has been used to provide an evidence-based framework to inform diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of HSI (as well as other common lower extremity muscle injuries in sport) and has transformed HSI prevention and rehabilitation in multiple sports worldwide.
The research identified the need for a field-based hamstring testing system which led to the development of a novel prototype device for conditioning, monitoring and screening athletes for hamstring strain injury risk. This innovative technology was patented and commercialised by Vald Performance as the NordBord in 2016. Since its commercialisation, the NordBord has become the gold standard for field-based hamstring testing. Core to the commercial success of the device, and its integration into athletic, clinical, personal, and applied practice, is the group’s underpinning body of empirical research that supports it use.
The NordBord is now used by hundreds of clients worldwide to reduce hamstring strain injury occurrence and improve athlete performance, including professional sports teams from the English Premier League football; Rugby Union, Major League Baseball, American Football, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League; Australian professional rugby league, Australian Rules Football, national governing bodies across a wide range of sports and countries, as well as Universities, clinics and medical research centres. You can read a review of the Nordboard here.
Vald Performance have rapidly expanded into a multi-national company specialising in the development of laboratory-grade technology to support the welfare and performance of athletes, with offices in Australia, USA and the UK.
Researchers at USW have found that professional rugby union players can experience a reduction in blood flow to the brain and cognitive function over the course of a season. The research team at USW’s Neurovascular Research Laboratory looked at the effects on the brain function and cognitive ability of the rugby players, which included the ability to reason, remember, carry out mental tasks and formulate ideas. All players that took part in the study saw a decline in brain function when comparing pre and post-season results.