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Research Centre for Applied Sport, Physical Activity and Performance

The UCLan Research Centre for Applied Sport, Physical Activity and Performance is the home of world-class research that brings together expertise from across the University in science, engineering, rehabilitation, performance, sociology and health and wellbeing.

We are a vibrant, enthusiastic community of researchers who are externally facing, which allows us to address global issues and challenges. Our research looks at the challenges that connect sport and activity for social good. Seeking to enhance success in sport and its connected fields we continue to work on improving rehabilitation methods for those participating in sport, exercise and physical activity. We are responding to the need to develop an active nation, and we use sport as a vehicle to address global inequalities.

We aim to:

  • build on our world-class sports research and world-leading reputation by producing a stronger identity in sports research by establishing a network of world-class centres
  • provide transferability to other research areas from sport
  • provide a continuum through physical activity, physical exercise, recreational sport, to performance sport and world-class sport from a multi and inter-disciplinary perspective
  • address challenges in sustainable development and inequalities, locally, nationally, and internationally

The centre brings together four distinct strands of research.

This strand provides research excellence in the application of science and technology to sport and rehabilitation for the benefit of individual athletes, whether they are elite, amateur, para or an active member of the public. This includes research from the Centre for Applied Sport and Exercise Sciences CASES and the Allied Health Research Unit AHRu in biomechanics, musculoskeletal modelling, product development, strength and conditioning, rehabilitation, recovery, sports injury, and nutrition. To find out more please contact Dr Jonathan Sinclair or Professor Jim Richards.

This is a multi-disciplinary strand which uses sport in society to engage with the creative and cultural disciplines, as well as the social, economic, philosophical and political sciences. This also includes a significant role in histories and cultural tradition, and ongoing work in the International Football Institute IFI. Research in this strand includes; policy, economics, community, volunteerism, race and ethnicity, gender, arts, history, mega-events, management, museum and heritage, sport fandom and sport as international development. To find out more please contact Professor Alethea Melling or Professor John Hughson.

This strand encompasses three distinct research areas; physical activity and exercise for long-term conditions:  physical activity and exercise for mental health and wellbeing; and physical activity for paediatric populations.  All of these research areas have a health and wellbeing focus - aiding rehabilitation, reducing the burden on health providers, and improving physical and mental capacity for positive wellbeing. To find out more please contact Matthew Reeves.

Through the lens of ‘sport’, this theme engages with innovative research to maximise the potential of individuals, teams and organisations across the performance spectrum from grass-root sport to elite high-performance sporting settings. Our research considers the bio-psycho-social aspects of sport at an individual and team level, within the context of the performance setting and organisational values. This strand supports the exploration of the cutting-edge of theoretical and professional knowledge across the sports continuum, covering the dichotomy from physical activity to exercise, and the progression into recreational sport and elite competitive sport and includes ongoing projects within the Institute of Coaching and Performance ICaP. To find out more please contact Dr Pamela Richards.

In 1921 the English FA banned women and girls from playing on Club grounds. In defiance, the game continued in an unstructured manner. This was due to the tenacity of the Dick, Kerr Ladies AFC players. By the 1960’s women’s football was becoming more organized, slowly evolving into the game we know today. However, a hundred years later, despite the games rapid increase in popularity, many women and girls around the world still struggle for the Right to Play. This conference examines barriers and how they may be mitigated.

  • Dick, Kerr Ladies’ Virtual Centre for Women’s Football Studies – coming live 2021

This virtual platform seeks to engage practitioners, players, and academics from around in the world in sharing knowledge about key social developments in the game relating to structural barriers, culture, mental health, sport psychology, gender/transgender issues and so forth.

  • Redesigning Higher Education: A Pedagogy for Global Knowledge Exchange (workshop series coming Semester 1, 2021)

Using best practice from UCLan's Sport in Action Partnership, Zambia, and UN SDGs Community of Practice Case Study, Letters from Lesvos Refugee Project, we propose a Pedagogy for Global Knowledge Exchange is integrated within Sport’s Education curriculum. Thus, engaging students in in meeting the UN SDGs by co-creating new knowledge with peers silenced by the epistemic violence of structural inequality (Fricker, 2009). This workshop series is developed in partnership with the Freire Institute, Sulitest and the UN HESI.

  • Student Sports Volunteering: the importance of Russian University Volunteer Centres in addressing the UN SDGs

This project workshop is funded by the Eurasian People’s Assembly taking place in Ufa, the Capital City of Bashkiria, in the Ural Mountains, Southwestern Russia, September 2021. The project workshop purpose is to build on learning from the UCLan knowledge exchange collaboration in Sochi 2014 OCOG and FIFA 2018 World Cup, Moscow, particularly in relation to the development of the University Volunteer Centres in Russia. The aim of the Eurasian People’s Assembly event is to engage effectively with the UN SDGs : "A world without poverty and hunger, a world of inclusive growth, environmental sustainability and social justice".  

  • 2021 Society for Endocrinology Grant

We were awarded £9992 from the Society for Endocrinology towards research assessing the influence of cold application upon markers of bone health. Traditionally cold application is used as an analgesic for skeletal/muscular associated pains, however, research in animals has shown regular cold exposure to be detrimental to bone health. Our investigation will look to assess the influence of acute and chronic cold exposure, via cold water immersion, upon local and systemic markers of bone health in healthy humans.

  • 2021 Prince Faisal Bin Fahad Award

Dr Matthew Reeves and colleagues from UCLan were awarded £80,000 in the inaugural Prince Faisal Bin Fahad award for sports research to examine the talent identification and development in soccer. The programme of research will examine multiple facets of the talent pathway in soccer in Saudi Arabia and make a series of recommendations to enhance their future soccer aspirations.

  • 2021 Prince Faisal Bin Fahad Award

Dr Jonathan Sinclair, Dr Robert Allan and colleagues were also awarded £115,000 to examine the effects of a home-based physical activity program on blood biomarkers and health-related quality of life in Saudi Arabian type-2 diabetes mellitus patients. The WHO ranks Saudi Arabia as having the 7th highest rate of type-2 diabetes in the world and importantly, physical activity has been shown to improve disease symptoms and overall health in patients with type-2 diabetes. However, findings relating to the prevalence of physical inactivity in the Saudi population confirm that a sedentary lifestyle is on the rise, within physical inactivity levels in adults being as high as 80%. Therefore, as public modesty, traffic, poor air quality and environmental factors are known barriers to physical activity in Saudi Arabia; a home-based programme may be an ideal solution to increase physical activity. Our project, conducted within the Jazan region of Saudi-Arabia will therefore be a randomized control trial to test whether a home-based physical activity program can improve diabetes symptoms.

  • 2021 Morris Animal Foundation Fellowship Training Grant

We were awarded $101,695 USD from Morris Animal Foundation for a research fellowship to measure and compare muscle function in association with the resulting limb and upper body movements during normal equine locomotion and during unilateral forelimb and hindlimb lameness. A lame horse attempts to relieve pain in the affected limb by redistributing the weight-bearing responsibility from the painful limb onto the non-lame or less lame limbs. This mechanism is assumed to require adaptations in muscle contraction and coordination, but these neuromuscular changes have yet to be measured. Our study will use a non-invasive technique called surface electromyography (EMG) to measure and compare muscle function during non-lame and unilateral lameness conditions in horses. For more information, please see MAF and Delsys.

  • 2021 Military Children’s Voices: Equine Assisted Coaching

A partnership including UCLan College for Military Veterans, TFB Coaching and Eccleston Equestrian Centre received £5,000 of funding from the Armed Forces Covenant . The purpose of this study is to understand, ‘how useful is Equine Assisted Coaching in supporting the emotional well-being of young people from military families who must deal with regular and significant transitions in their lives related directly, and indirectly, to conflict situations.

  • 2019 British Blind Sport

In 2019, Dr Matthew Reeves and Dr Jess Macbeth were awarded £16,000 from British Blind Sport and Thomas Pocklington Trust to investigate the influence of motor competence in young people with visual impairment and their engagement in physical activities. The work will also consider the implications for mental health and wellbeing and the impact of family upon physical activity engagement.

  • 2019 Cherry Marketing Institute

We were awarded £38,000 to examine the effects of taking a twice daily tart cherry drink on patellofemoral pain symptoms in recreational athletes. Patellofemoral pain is regarded as the most common chronic injury in sports medicine and physiotherapy clinics and is characterized by pain and inflammation. Therefore, this condition is typically treated using anti-inflammatory medications, although alternative approaches have increasingly been sought due to the potential cardiovascular and gastrointestinal effects associated with regular use of these medicines. Montmorency tart cherries are known to exhibit significant anti-inflammatory and pain mediating effects making them a potentially important natural remedy for chronic conditions such as patellofemoral pain. The primary purpose of our study was therefore, using a randomized control trial to test the ability of a Montmorency tart cherry juice blend to provide symptom relief in recreational athletes with patellofemoral pain.

  • 2018 FEI Para Dressage Classification Research Grant

We were awarded £107,083 from the Fédération Équestre Internationale (FEI) to develop a comprehensive understanding of the effect of different physical impairment types on performance in dressage, which will inform recommendations for an evidence-based, sport-specific Classification system for Para Dressage. Advanced quantitative methods will provide novel biomechanical data from able-bodied and Para-equestrian athletes across all eligible impairments. Findings will ensure that the FEI Para-Equestrian Classification system for dressage is in line with the International Paralympic Committee’s Classification Code mandate for evidence-based systems of classification.

Contact us

To find out more about the Centre please contact the Centre Director, Dr Sarah Jane Hobbs.