UCLan’s impact on London 2012 highlighted in new report

02 May 2012

Lyndsey Boardman

Universities Week report shows impact of universities’ research and sport development around the Olympic and Paralympic Games and UK sports industry

The University of Central Lancashire’s (UCLan) research is included in a new report showing the impact of universities’ research and sport development on the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and UK sport generally.

The report has been released as part of Universities Week (30 April – 7 May) which aims to increase public awareness of the wide and varied role of the UK’s universities.

The report, Supporting a UK success story: The impact of university research and sport development, highlights just some of the many ways in which research has helped Team GB limber up and prepare for London 2012. UCLan’s ‘RehabAngel’ project is highlighted in the report.

Professor Jim Richards and his research group at UCLan’s Allied Health Research Unit, based within the School of Sport, Tourism and The Outdoors, have worked directly with industry to develop and test new equipment designed to reduce joint pain and to improve rehabilitation.

The ‘RehabAngel’, the brainchild of NHS Specialist Podiatrist Neil Frame of Central and Eastern Cheshire Primary Care Trust, has been developed to treat tendon overuse syndromes.

Neil felt the device was unique but he needed scientific, evidence-based proof that the RehabAngel would deliver major health benefits for its users.

After extensive analysis within UCLan’s biomechanics lab, Professor Richards’ team determined that the device could indeed have major health benefits for those undertaking rehabilitation programmes.

Professor Richards explained: “We have a research specialism in graduated exercise and graduated rehabilitation so we were delighted to put the RehabAngel through its paces. The device offers graduated incline or decline angles which may be used for ankle stretching or knee rehabilitation. Through our research we’ve been able to determine how subtle changes in the angulation affect the patient and how these changes inform a graduated rehabilitation programme.

“The product offers a very controlled rehabilitation method for both stretching and squatting in a way that no other piece of equipment on the market can do. It offers something unique that’s of use to clinicians both in private practice and the NHS.”

Premier League football clubs Stoke City and Wolves already have the RehabAngel and more top clubs are expected to follow suit. There is also a lot of interest from the USA, Sweden and Switzerland and it is thought the product should be particularly helpful to skiers.

Mike Farrar, Chief Executive of NHS North West, and Sports Tsar to the Department of Health commented: "The NHS in the North West has the enviable reputation of being at the forefront of innovation in healthcare. The RehabAngel is a great example of the NHS working successfully in partnership with industry and academia to offer great benefits to patients recovering from sports-related injuries, knee surgeries and those whose health is impacted by long-term conditions."

The report highlights how research taking place at universities across the UK, including UCLan, is helping to give athletes that extra split second or millimetre advantage which can mean the difference between gold and silver medals in competitive sports.

It takes an in-depth look at how exploration and development in the areas of technology, health and wellbeing, design, sport development and participation and the Games past and present, have contributed to London 2012 and the UK sports industry.

Acting Dean of the School of Sport, Tourism and the Outdoors Dr Adrian Ibbetson commented: “Universities Week 2012 is an excellent opportunity to showcase some of the fantastic work universities are contributing to the world of sport, which is especially apt with the Games taking place this year. Here at UCLan we are heavily involved in London 2012 and have been officially named as a training camp for athletes from six Pacific countries in preparation for games.

“It’s also a great chance to invite people to experience university life first-hand, whether they’ve been to university themselves or not.”

Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive, Universities UK, said: “It is sometimes easy to forget when you watch an athlete or team compete just how much preparation has gone into their performance. This isn’t simply a question of training schedules and practice. These days, cutting-edge university research is used to support every aspect of Olympic sports – from nutrition and health to equipment, physiotherapy, rehabilitation and of course performance. For instance, the combination of design and technology can be immensely effective for top athletes so that the actual design of a kayak or bob-sleigh can be as important to athletes as their own skill and training.”

Karen Rothery, Chief Executive Officer, British Universities & Colleges Sport, said: “Sports development within our universities is encouraging greater participation in sport and activity across the student population and within the communities of universities. A variety of programmes and the support and development of a supporting workforce in volunteers and officials means that more people have the opportunity to be more active and enjoy the many benefits that brings.”

Copies of the full report are available on request from universitiesweek@fourcommunications.com