Sports science

Last updated

Sports science is a discipline that studies how the healthy human body works during exercise, and how sport and physical activity promote health and performance from cellular to whole body perspectives. The study of sports science traditionally incorporates areas of physiology (exercise physiology), psychology (sport psychology), anatomy, biomechanics, biochemistry, and biokinetics. Sports scientists and performance consultants are growing in demand and employment numbers, with the ever-increasing focus within the sporting world on achieving the best results possible. Through the scientific study of sports, researchers have developed a greater understanding of how the human body reacts to exercise, training, different environments, and many other stimuli.


Origins of exercise physiology

[1] Sports science can trace its origins to ancient Greece. The noted ancient Greek physician Galen (131–201) wrote 87 detailed essays about improving health (proper nutrition), aerobic fitness, and strengthening muscles. [2]

New ideas upon the working and functioning of the human body emerged during the Renaissance as anatomists and physicians challenged the previously known theories. [3] These spread with the implementation of the printed word, the result of Gutenberg's printing press in the 15th century. [4] Allied with this was a large increase in academia in general, universities were forming all around the world. [5] Importantly these new scholars went beyond the simplistic notions of the early Greek physicians, and shed light upon the complexities of the circulatory, and digestive systems. [6] Furthermore, by the middle of the 19th century, early medical schools (such as the Harvard Medical School, formed 1782) began appearing in the United States, whose graduates went on to assume positions of importance in academia and allied medical research. [7]

Medical journal publications increased significantly in number during this period. In 1898, three articles on physical activity appeared in the first volume of the American Journal of Physiology . Other articles and reviews subsequently appeared in prestigious journals. The German applied physiology publication, Internationale Zeitschrift fur Physiologie einschliesslich Arbeitphysiologie (1929–1940; now known as the European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology), became a significant journal in the field of research.

A number of key figures have made significant contributions to the study of sports science:

Study of sports science

A notable amount of research in the field of sports science is completed at universities or dedicated research centers. [13] Higher-education degrees in Sports Science or Human Physiology are also becoming increasingly popular with many universities now offering both undergraduate, postgraduate and distance learning degrees in the discipline. [14] Opportunities for graduates in these fields include employment as a Physical Education teacher, Dietician or Nutritionist, Performance Analyst, Sports coach, Sports therapist, Fitness center manager, Sports administrator, Strength and Conditioning specialist or retail manager of a Sports store. Graduates may also be well-positioned to undertake further training to become an accredited Physiotherapist, Exercise Physiologist, Research Scientist and Sports Medical Doctor.

Sports science may also be useful for providing information on the aging body. [15] Older adults are aware of the benefits of exercise, but many are not performing the exercise needed to maintain these benefits. [16] Sports science provides a means of allowing older people to regain more physical competence without focusing on doing so for the purposes of anti-aging. [15] Sports science can also provide a means of helping older people avoid falls and have the ability to perform daily tasks more independently. [15]

In Australia the majority of sports science research from 1983 to 2003 was done in laboratories and nearly half of the research was done with sub-elite or elite athletes. [17] Over two-thirds of the research was done regarding four sports: rowing, cycling, athletics, and swimming. [17] In America, sports play a big part of the American identity, however, sports science has slowly been replaced with exercise science. [18] Sports science can allow athletes to train and compete more effectively at home and abroad. [18]

José Mourinho, a football manager who won UEFA Champions League twice, reflected his studies of sport science as "sometimes it is difficult to understand if it is sport or if it is science". [19]

Academic journals in sports science


A 2018 study criticized the field of exercise and sports science for insufficient replication studies, limited reporting of both null and trivial results, and insufficient research transparency. [20] Statisticians have criticized sports science for common use of magnitude-based inference, a controversial statistical method which has allowed sports scientists to extract apparently significant results from noisy data where ordinary hypothesis testing would have found none. [21]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aerobic exercise</span> Low to high intensity physical exercise

Aerobic exercise is physical exercise of low to high intensity that depends primarily on the aerobic energy-generating process. "Aerobic" is defined as "relating to, involving, or requiring oxygen", and refers to the use of oxygen to meet energy demands during exercise via aerobic metabolism adequately. Aerobic exercise is performed by repeating sequences of light-to-moderate intensity activities for extended periods of time. Aerobic exercise may be better referred to as "solely aerobic", as it is designed to be low-intensity enough that all carbohydrates are aerobically turned into energy via mitochondrial ATP production. Mitochondria are organelles that rely on oxygen for the metabolism of carbs, proteins, and fats.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Exercise physiology</span> Physiology of physical exercise

Exercise physiology is the physiology of physical exercise. It is one of the allied health professions, and involves the study of the acute responses and chronic adaptations to exercise. Exercise Physiologists are the highest qualified exercise professionals and utilise education, lifestyle intervention and specific forms of exercise to rehabilitate and manage acute and chronic injuries and conditions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kinesiology</span> Study of human body movement

Kinesiology is the scientific study of human body movement. Kinesiology addresses physiological, anatomical, biomechanical, pathological, neuropsychological principles and mechanisms of movement. Applications of kinesiology to human health include biomechanics and orthopedics; strength and conditioning; sport psychology; motor control; skill acquisition and motor learning; methods of rehabilitation, such as physical and occupational therapy; and sport and exercise physiology. Studies of human and animal motion include measures from motion tracking systems, electrophysiology of muscle and brain activity, various methods for monitoring physiological function, and other behavioral and cognitive research techniques.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Warming up</span> Part of stretching and preparation for physical exertion

'Warming up' is a part of stretching and preparation for physical exertion or a performance by exercising or practicing gently beforehand, usually undertaken before a performance or practice. Athletes, singers, actors and others warm up before stressing their muscles. It is widely believed to prepare the muscles for vigorous actions and to prevent muscle cramps and injury due to overexertion.

Overtraining occurs when a person exceeds their body's ability to recover from strenuous exercise. Overtraining can be described as a point where a person may have a decrease in performance and plateauing as a result of failure to consistently perform at a certain level or training load; a load which exceeds their recovery capacity. People who are overtrained cease making progress, and can even begin to lose strength and fitness. Overtraining is also known as chronic fatigue, burnout and overstress in athletes. It is suggested that there are different variations of overtraining, firstly monotonous program over training suggest that repetition of the same movement such as certain weight lifting and baseball batting can cause performance plateau due to an adaption of the central nervous system which results from a lack of stimulation. A second example of overtraining is described as chronic overwork type training where the subject may be training with too high intensity or high volume and not allowing sufficient recovery time for the body. Up to 10% of elite endurance athletes and 10% of American college swimmers are affected by overtraining syndrome.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Strength training</span> Performance of physical exercises designed to improve strength

Strength training or resistance training involves the performance of physical exercises that are designed to improve strength and endurance. It is often associated with the lifting of weights. It can also incorporate a variety of training techniques such as bodyweight exercises, isometrics, and plyometrics.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sports medicine</span> Branch of medicine for sports injuries

Sports medicine is a branch of medicine that deals with physical fitness and the treatment and prevention of injuries related to sports and exercise. Although most sports teams have employed team physicians for many years, it is only since the late 20th century that sports medicine emerged as a distinct field of health care. In some countries, sports medicine is a recognized medical specialty. In the majority of countries where sports medicine is recognized and practiced, it is a physician (non-surgical) specialty, but in some, it can equally be a surgical or non-surgical medical specialty, and also a specialty field within primary care. In other contexts, the field of sports medicine encompasses the scope of both medical specialists and also allied health practitioners who work in the field of sport, such as physiotherapists, athletic trainers, podiatrists and exercise physiologists.

Athletic training is an allied health care profession recognized by the American Medical Association (AMA) that "encompasses the prevention, examination, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of emergent, acute, or chronic injuries and medical conditions." There are five areas of athletic training listed in the seventh edition (2015) of the Athletic Training Practice Analysis: injury and illness prevention and wellness promotion; examination, assessment, diagnosis; immediate and emergency care; therapeutic intervention; and healthcare administration and professional responsibility.

Electrical muscle stimulation (EMS), also known as neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) or electromyostimulation, is the elicitation of muscle contraction using electric impulses. EMS has received an increasing amount of attention in the last few years for many reasons: it can be utilized as a strength training tool for healthy subjects and athletes; it could be used as a rehabilitation and preventive tool for people who are partially or totally immobilized; it could be utilized as a testing tool for evaluating the neural and/or muscular function in vivo; it could be used as a post-exercise recovery tool for athletes. The impulses are generated by a device and are delivered through electrodes on the skin near to the muscles being stimulated. The electrodes are generally pads that adhere to the skin. The impulses mimic the action potential that comes from the central nervous system, causing the muscles to contract. The use of EMS has been cited by sports scientists as a complementary technique for sports training, and published research is available on the results obtained. In the United States, EMS devices are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, is a sports medicine and exercise science membership organization. Founded in 1954, ACSM holds conferences, publishes books and journals, and offers certification programs for personal trainers and exercise physiologists.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Progressive overload</span>

Progressive overload is a method of strength training that advocates for the gradual increase of the stress placed upon the musculoskeletal and nervous system. The principle of progressive overload suggests that the continual increase in the total workload during training sessions will stimulate muscle growth and strength gain. This improvement in overall performance will, in turn, allow the athlete to keep increasing the intensity of their training sessions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pull-up (exercise)</span> Upper-body compound pulling exercise

A pull-up is an upper-body strength exercise. The pull-up is a closed-chain movement where the body is suspended by the hands, gripping a bar or other implement at a distance typically wider than shoulder-width, and pulled up. As this happens, the elbows flex and the shoulders adduct and extend to bring the elbows to the torso.

Exercise prescription commonly refers to the specific plan of fitness-related activities that are designed for a specified purpose, which is often developed by a fitness or rehabilitation, or Exercise medicine specialist for the client or patient. Due to the specific and unique needs and interests of the client/patient, the goal of exercise prescription should be focused on motivation and customization, thus making achieving goals more likely to become successful. Exercise prescription should take into account the patient's medical history, and a pre-examination of a patient's physical fitness to make sure a person has the capacity to perform the exercises.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Elastic therapeutic tape</span> Pseudo-medicine product; elastic cotton strip with an acrylic adhesive

Elastic therapeutic tape, also called kinesiology tape or kinesiology therapeutic tape, Kinesio tape, k-tape, or KT is an elastic cotton strip with an acrylic adhesive that is purported to ease pain and disability from athletic injuries and a variety of other physical disorders. In individuals with chronic musculoskeletal pain, research suggests that elastic taping may help relieve pain, but not more than other treatment approaches, and no evidence indicates that it can reduce disability in chronic pain cases.

A strength and conditioning coach is a physical performance professional who uses exercise prescription to improve the performance of competitive athletes or athletic teams. This is achieved through the combination of strength training, aerobic conditioning, and other methods.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Per-Olof Åstrand</span> Swedish professor of physiology

Per-Olof Åstrand was a Swedish professor of physiology at the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences (GIH) in Stockholm 1970–1977, and 1977–1988 at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and a member of the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet (1977–1988). Åstrand is considered a "pioneer", "legend" and one of the "founding fathers" of modern exercise physiology.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gideon Ariel</span> Israeli authority in biomechanics

Gideon Ariel is an Israeli authority in biomechanics, as well as a former Olympic track and field athlete who competed in the discus throw.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Flywheel training</span>

Flywheel training is a type of strength training where the resistance required for muscle activation is generated by the inertia of a flywheel instead of gravity from weights as in traditional weight training.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Standing cycling</span> Cycling method

Standing cycling or cycling out of the saddle is a form of cycling in which the rider stands up while applying force to the pedals.

The Nordic hamstring curl (NHC) is an exercise in which a person kneels with their feet fixed in position and lowers their body by extending the knee. It reduces hamstring injuries in athletes, and is commonly used as a form of injury prevention. NHC increases strength of the hamstrings and length of the fascia, sprint speed, and change of direction ability. It is debated whether NHC is an open or closed chain exercise. NHC has been compared to the razor hamstring curl.


  1. Victoria and Albert Museum, Online Museum (2011-07-14). "Health & Medicine". Retrieved 2022-04-29.
  2. Berryman, Jack; Park, Roberta (1992). Sport and Exercise Science. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press. pp. 14–19. ISBN   0-252-01896-6 . Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  3. Mesquita, Evandro Tinoco; de Souza Júnior, Celso Vale; Ferreira, Thiago Reigado (2015). "Andreas Vesalius 500 years - A Renaissance that revolutionized cardiovascular knowledge". Revista Brasileira de Cirurgia Cardiovascular. 30 (2): 260–265. doi:10.5935/1678-9741.20150024. PMC   4462973 . PMID   26107459.
  4. "Background: The Printing Press and the Spread of Ideas |". Retrieved 2022-04-29.
  5. "Universities". obo. Retrieved 2022-04-29.
  6. "History of the Stomach and Intestines". Retrieved 2022-04-29.
  7. Flexner, Abraham (1910-06-01). "Medical Education in America". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2022-04-29.
  8. McArdle, William; Katch, Frank; Katch, Victor (2006). Essentials of Exercise Physiology (3 ed.). United States of America: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. p. 8. ISBN   0-7817-4991-3 . Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  9. Sweet, William. "150 Years Ago: Amherst Established Nation's First College Health Program". Amherst College. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  10. McArdle, William; Katch, Frank; Katch, Victor (2006). Essentials of Exercise Physiology (3 ed.). USA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. p. 9. ISBN   0-7817-4991-3 . Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  11. "August Krogh Biographical". The Nobel Prize Organization. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  12. Astrand, Per-Olof; Rodahl, Kaare; Dahl, Hans; Stromme, Sigmund (2003). The Textbook of Work Physiology (4th ed.). USA: McGraw-Hill. pp. 260–288. ISBN   0-7360-0140-9 . Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  13. Williams, Stephen John; Kendall, Lawrence R. (2007-08-01). "A profile of sports science research (1983–2003)". Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 10 (4): 193–200. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2006.07.016. ISSN   1440-2440. PMID   17000134.
  14. Nuzzo, James L. (2020-07-02). "Growth of Exercise Science in the United States since 2002: A Secondary Data Analysis". Quest. 72 (3): 358–372. doi:10.1080/00336297.2020.1736106. ISSN  0033-6297.
  15. 1 2 3 Tulle, Emmanuelle (2008-12-01). "Acting your age? Sports science and the ageing body". Journal of Aging Studies. The anti-aging enterprise: science, knowledge, expertise, rhetoric and values. 22 (4): 340–347. doi:10.1016/j.jaging.2008.05.005. ISSN   0890-4065.
  16. Goggin, N. L.; Morrow, J. (2001). "Physical Activity Behaviors of Older Adults". Journal of Aging and Physical Activity. 9: 58–66. doi:10.1123/JAPA.9.1.58. S2CID   140851467.
  17. 1 2 Williams, Stephen John; Kendall, Lawrence R. (2007-08-01). "A profile of sports science research (1983–2003)". Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 10 (4): 193–200. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2006.07.016. ISSN   1440-2440. PMID   17000134.
  18. 1 2 Stone, Michael H.; Sands, William A.; Stone, Margaret E. (April 2004). "The Downfall of Sports Science in the United States". Strength & Conditioning Journal. 26 (2): 72–75. doi:10.1519/00126548-200404000-00014. ISSN   1524-1602.
  19. "José Mourinho: Talking Porto, Chelsea, Inter and his future management plans". The Coaches' Voice, Youtube. 2019-06-30. p. 4m20s-4m50s. Archived from the original on 2021-12-22.
  20. Halperin, Israel; Vigotsky, Andrew D.; Foster, Carl; Pyne, David B. (2018-02-01). "Strengthening the Practice of Exercise and Sport-Science Research". International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance. 13 (2): 127–134. doi:10.1123/ijspp.2017-0322. hdl: 10072/383414 . ISSN   1555-0273. PMID   28787228. S2CID   3695727.
  21. Aschwanden, Christie; Nguyen, Mai (2018-05-16). "How Shoddy Statistics Found A Home In Sports Research". FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved 2018-05-16.