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Lord Coe sees the new facilities in use
Lord Coe sees the new facilities in use
Lord Coe gives a speech
Lord Coe gives a speech

Press Release - 12 September 2007

Lord Coe opens £1M sport science lab and national conference

Sebastian Coe, Chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, opened a new £1 million sport science laboratory and a national conference at the University of Bath today.

Lord Coe said: “It gives me great pleasure to open these fantastic new facilities today, here in Bath. As a former athlete, I know just how important that extra hundredth of a second can be and the facilities here will enable athletes to develop and hone their technique. Sport science laboratories such as this will enable them to be at the top of their game.”

The new £1 million ‘biomechanics’ facility opened by Lord Coe will be used to study how the human body moves, with the goal of improving performance and preventing injury, and will further develop the University’s expertise in sport and exercise science.

Research in the laboratory will help elite athletes perfect their running and jumping techniques and will also be used to explore ways of preventing older people from injuring themselves through falling.

Professor George Lunt, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University, said: “The University is delighted that this new facility is being opened on time and on budget.

“It provides greatly improved facilities for our staff in Sport & Exercise Science and what is particularly important is that it locates some of their excellent research within the environment of our world class Sports Training Village.

“There are tremendous synergies to be gained from better integration of top class academic research with world class coaching and training facilities.”

Equipment in the laboratory includes a ‘force plate’ which enables scientists to analyse the force exerted by an athlete’s limb on the ground surface at different stages of a sprint, jump or sideways turn.

Information collected through this analysis can help athletes perfect their performance or can pinpoint how a turn could put them at risk of injury.

“We can also use force plates to look at recovery strategies that people use when they trip,” said Dr Grant Trewartha, from the University’s Sport & Exercise Science group in the School for Health.

“When someone trips, they often compensate by stepping quickly to stop themselves from falling and moving their arms to regain their balance.

“The elderly sometimes find this kind of movement difficult, and the result is that they are seriously injured by their fall and have to spend many months recovering in hospital.

“By understanding these recovery strategies better, we can identify those people who are most at risk of injury through tripping.

“We can then work with them to strengthen their muscles and modify response times to improve their trip recovery abilities and reduce their risk of injury.”

In all sport and injury studies it is also important to understand how muscles function to control movement. Dr Polly McGuigan uses new developments in ultrasound imaging to measure muscle and tendon behaviour during walking, running and jumping activities.

She said: “Combining measurements of how muscles actually contract during human motion with information on the movements that they produce can help answer questions relating to the limits of human performance and why people get injured.”

A state-of-the art digital media room will enable scientists to use high resolution video footage to track movements and techniques in order to make improvements in athlete performance.

Dr Aki Salo works with the GB sprint team, and uses this kind of technology to assess running styles and technical aspects of athletics, such as sprinting and hurdling techniques and relay handovers.

He said: “Having access to a state-of-the-art facility will be very useful, both in terms of fundamental research into the mechanics of motion and applied work with some of the world’s top athletes.

“Using video analysis you can closely monitor the minute details of a runner’s technique and we can use this information to help them make the split-second improvements that are crucial in modern sport.”

Although the facilities unveiled by Lord Coe will be used by both researchers and students, some of the students will have a special interest in the new resources available to them.

For example, Craig Pickering, who has just returned from the World Athletics Championships in Osaka, will hope to benefit from the insight it can give on his performance as he strives to make the GB team for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

As a sport science degree student at the University and member of the GB sprint and relay team, Craig will both use the equipment and be one of the subjects of research.

Dr Dylan Thompson, Head of Sport & Exercise Science at the University, said: “We are delighted that Lord Coe has been able to open this new facility and welcome delegates to the British Association of Sport & Exercise Sciences annual conference.

“He has achieved much as a record-breaking athlete and his efforts in helping secure the 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games for London further established his reputation as one of the biggest names in sport.”

More than 500 sport and exercise scientists will take part in the conference, which covers sports performance in elite athletes, physical activity for public health and coach education and professional development.

The University of Bath is ranked first for sports science in The Guardian newspaper league table.

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