Seven UCRISE Researchers to attend European Congress on Sports Science

Essen, Germany. Image courtesy of Wiki05

Seven UCRISE researchers will be taking their expertise to Germany for the 22nd Annual Congress of the European College of Sports Science (ECSS).

Held at the beginning of July, the ECSS is the largest sport conference in Europe with around 3000 delegates in attendance.

Researchers representing UCRISE include Professor Kevin Thompson, Professor David Pyne, Dr Naroa Etxebarria, Dr Ben Rattray, Kellie Toohey, Kristy Martin and Avish Sharma (PhD candidate).

“A big international conference is always a great opportunity for professional development, scientific presentations, networking opportunities, trade exhibits and social interaction,” said Professor Pyne.

“The UCRISE group will showcase the research activities of the University of Canberra in sport and exercise.

“We will also take the opportunity to meet with various existing research collaborators from other countries.”

The annual conference is held in a different European city each year and a wide range of disciplines are represented including sports medicine, physiology, psychology, biomechanics, nutrition, performance analysis and sports technology.

In recent years, UCRISE has been represented by a group of staff and research students which is developing the reputation of UC in Europe with regard to sport and exercise related studies,

UCRISE Director, Professor Kevin Thompson will be chairing a group symposium at the event which he has described as “world-class.”

The symposium titled “High Performance Sport Exercise: Balancing “Keep it Simple Scientist” with “the Chase for Marginal Gains?” includes a researcher who worked on the Nike 2 hour marathon project and the team doctor for the German national football team.

The congress starts on July 5 and runs until July 8, 2017.


UCRISE Presentations at the ECSS

A novel bitter solution can increase short-term power output in a 3 km cycling time-trial: N Etxebarria1 M Ross2,3 B Clark1 L Burke2,3

1 University of Canberra Research Institute of Sport and Exercise, Australia.

 2 Australian Institute of Sport, Australia.

3 Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research, Australian Catholic University, Australia.


Comparability of common fitness testing protocols in open water swimmers: D Pyne1,2  A Wallett1,2  R McKeon3 G Shaw2

1University of Canberra, Australia

2Australian Institute of Sport, Australia

3Swimming Australia, Australia


Effect of acute modafinil ingestion on cognitive and physical performance following mental exertion: B Rattray1 K Martin1 A Hewitt1 G Cooper1 W McDonald 1

1University of Canberra


Effect of intensified training on pacing in 4000 m cycling time-trials Authors:  KG Thompson1 A Wallett 1,2 A Woods 1,2N Versey2

1University of Canberra, Australia

2Australian Institute of Sport, Australia


Occupational cognitive load predicts maintenance of endurance performance with mental fatigue: K Martin1  R Keegan1  KG Thompson1  B Rattray1

1University of Canberra, Australia


Performance changes following live high train high at 1600 or 1800 m in national level runners:  AP Sharma1,2 PU Saunders1,2 LA Garvican-Lewis1 B Clark2 M Welvaert1,2 CJ Gore1,2 KG Thompson2

1Australian Institute of Sport, Australia

2 University of Canberra, Australia


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UCRISE renews partnership with Physical Activity Foundation


(L-R): Mr Shane Rattenbury (ACT Government), Professor Kevin Thompson (UCRISE), Professor Dick Telford (UCRISE), Mr Chris Currie (Miles Franklin School), Dr Richard Keegan (UCRISE), Ms Sandra Hall (Miles Franklin School), Ms Harriet Walker (PAF), and MsLucille Bailey (PAF).

The University of Canberra Research Institute of Sport and Exercise (UCRISE) has renewed its partnership with the Physical Activity Foundation (PAF) for the annual Active Kids Challenge.

This was formally celebrated on June 14 at Miles Franklin Primary School in Evatt, where UCRISE researchers met with school teachers, PAF representatives and ACT Education Minister Shane Rattenbury.

The objective of the Active Kids Challenge is to encourage more than 20,000 children in ACT primary schools to become more active for at least an hour a day over an eight-week period.

Under the partnership, which was first initiated last year, UCRISE will make its PLAY (Physical Literacy Activity Yearbook) resources available to teachers. These were developed at UCRISE as part of physical literacy research and provide 200 simple, fun activities that any teacher could use with their class.

The activities are described in detail, with supporting diagrams, and are designed to require minimal equipment.

“In Australia the cost of physical inactivity is estimated at up to $13 billion each year, and some extra activity every day, plus better food choices, could reduce obesity and the life-long health problems it creates,” UCRISE project co-ordinator, Dr Richard Keegan, said

UCRISE research published last year found that an alarming 25 per cent of Australian kids are overweight or obese, and that a small change, like cutting out the equivalent of one small chocolate bar and getting 15 minutes of exercise each day, could halve that rate.

Physical literacy campaigner and long distance running legend Professor Dick Telford is a key part of the UCRISE team that has been developing and enhancing the resources, with funding provided by ACT Sport and Recreation Services.

“We’re thrilled to be involved again this year because it’s such an important annual event for schools. Not only does it get kids more active but it also teaches them about the benefits of physical activity and at UCRISE we’re providing the scientific evidence to back this up,” Professor Telford said.

The Active Kids Challenge will runs for eight weeks, from July 25 to September 16, in more than 800 ACT classrooms.

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Can biomechanics research reduce firefighter injuries?


Study participant Lloyd O’Keefe is wired up with sensors as he prepares to jump in his regular firefighting boots, while supporting weight on his back.

In a groundbreaking study, UCRISE researchers are applying the principles of biomechanics, supported by advanced monitoring technology, to investigating the causes of firefighter muscle and joint injuries.

The project was initiated by recent UCRISE PhD graduate and experienced firefighter, Dr Anthony Walker, who has long been concerned about the injuries sustained by his colleagues and what might be done to reduce them.

By reviewing compensation claim data over the last ten years, Anthony found that a staggering 75% of injuries occurred in the lower body, for example, in the lower back, hip, knee, and ankle. This is in contrast to injuries commonly suffered in other emergency services, such as the ambulance, and may be partly due to the solid construction of firefighter boots.

Clearly, the boots do need to be solid to prevent injury to the foot, due to nails and other hazards, however, having a steel plate in the sole, even more steel for toe protection, and having a rigid shaft prevents flexion and locks the ankle in place.

Project leader and UCRISE biomechanics researcher, Dr Wayne Spratford, explains the consequences of this.

“One function of an ankle, with its wide range of motion, is to act as a shock absorber. For example, when you land on your feet they ideally should plantar flex (toes striking the ground first) to soak up the force. But if you land flat-footed, the shock waves travel along the leg and can cause injury further up. This is what skiers often experience too, due to ski boot construction.”

The study is being conducted by UCRISE biomechanics honours student Vy Vu, under the supervision of Wayne and Anthony.

Over a two-week period, more than twenty firefighters will be tested in the new state-of-the-art Sports Tek lab at UCRISE. They will be fitted with sensors and monitored by the Vicon motion capture system as they carry out a range of typical activities, including jumping.

This will provide force and kinematic (movement) data, which will allow the stresses acting on joints to be calculated.

Each participant will be tested under two conditions: wearing the current, standard issue, constrained firefighter’s boot and wearing a sand shoe (which would allow complete freedom of ankle movement).


The research team. (L-R): Dr Anthony Walker, honours student Vy Vu, and Dr Wayne Spratford in the new UCRISE Sports Tek facility.

So what does this study hope to achieve?

“We’re not sure of the final outcome,” explains Anthony. “At this stage we’re just gathering data but it might result in further improvements in boot design. These days there are boots starting to use lightweight Kevlar instead of steel in the base, and strong plastic for toe protection, which is a good start.”

A number of boot manufacturers have already expressed interest in the project and its capacity to provide a more scientific basis for their boot design.

“We might also look at whether the Australian Standard needs changing because the boots that seem to be causing injury are currently compliant with the standard. If they’re hurting people, maybe they shouldn’t be,” Anthony said.

And for honours student Vy?

“I never expected this and the project is like a dream come true. I’m fascinated by analysing human movement, especially in how it relates to the general population, and this gives me the chance to research an issue that could make a real difference to people. It’s totally inspiring.”

Future work by the research team aims to look at extending this type of research to other emergency services, such as the police and ambulance, to see how their injury profile might also be reduced.

This project is being conducted by UCRISE in partnership with ACT Fire & Rescue and the Justice and Community Safety Directorate Work Health and Safety Team and their assistance is appreciated.

For further information, please contact the project team via the email links below:

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Meet the researchers: Gordon Waddington

Professor Gordon Waddington is the Theme Leader for Sport and Exercise Medicine.

In this 3-minute video Professor Waddington describes his role, current research areas, key partners, and fellow researchers.

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Improving firefighter safety through research

Firefighters face stress from both external and internal heat, trapped by their PPC.

Firefighters face stress from both the external heat of the fire, and the internal heat trapped by their PPC.

One of the biggest challenges for firefighters is keeping cool while wearing Personal Protective Clothing (PPC). The heavy clothing prevents the cooling effect of sweat evaporation, making conditions uncomfortable, and even dangerous, for the firefighter.

Recent UCRISE PhD graduate and experienced firefighter, Dr Anthony Walker, has been conducting research on the thermal stress experienced by firefighters for many years and his latest study has appeared in the April 2016 edition of Asia Pacific Fire Magazine.

Dr Walker’s research involved 145 volunteers from ACT Fire & Rescue completing a 20-minute search and rescue task in a specially-built heat chamber, with the temperature set at 100 degrees Celsius. This was followed by a 10-minute recovery period where they removed their jackets and drank cool water.

Their heart rate, skin, and core temperature were monitored electronically and they were asked two self-report questions every five minutes: “how hard are you working?” and “how hot do you feel?”

The research found that several firefighters experienced dangerously high core temperatures of more than 40 degrees Celsius and that the heart rates of participants reached approximately 90 per cent of their maximum, due to elevated core temperatures.

Another significant finding was that, during the recovery period when they were asked “how hot do you feel”, with their jacket removed, they reported lower levels than were indicated by their core temperature measurement.

Their self-report, however, was tied to their skin temperature measurement, which did not provide a true indication of their core temperature.

Self reports of temperature during a break, with jacket removed, are used in the industry to determine whether a firefighter is ready be sent back to work and this research suggests that the practice may be unsafe and that a cost-effective tool for measuring core temperatures in the field is needed.


For more information, email:

Full Article

To read the full article, see: Asia Pacific Fire Magazine (Issue 57, April 2016)

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Could heat training improve performance on the field?

AFC player Damian Bowles trains in the Environmental Chamber, supervised by PhD Candidate Rachel Gale.

AFC player Damian Bowles trains in the Environmental Chamber, supervised by PhD Candidate Rachel Gale.

An innovative research project that seeks to determine whether heat training can improve athlete performance has been conducted at the UCRISE environmental chamber.

The project is a joint venture between UCRISE and the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), and participants are members of the Ainslie Football Club (AFC).

Participants undertook training sessions in the environmental chamber under extreme conditions, with the temperature set at 35 degrees Celsius and the humidity set to 50 per cent.

The theory underpinning the project is that when an athlete trains under extreme conditions of heat and humidity, the body adapts to these conditions, and is able to deliver a performance boost under normal conditions.

Before the training sessions all participants were baselined so changes in performance could be measured.

“We compared their core body and skin temperature, heart rate, blood lactate levels, how hot they were feeling and the exertion they used to complete the exercise at the start and then again after their training program,” project leader, Dr Naroa Etxebarria, said.

PhD candidate Rachel Gale said the initial indications were encouraging.

“Within a few days, the adaptions we started to see included a reduction in core body temperature and heart rate, improved cardiovascular function and earlier onset of sweat at lower core body temperatures, among other changes,” she said.

This research may also be of interest to people who would like to obtain additional exercise benefits by training in warmer weather (using adequate hydration, of course).

With the 2016 AFL Canberra season having recently started, the researchers will be watching the outcome of this year’s games with interest.


  • Assistant Professor Naroa Etxebarria (UCRISE)
  • Professor David Pyne (AIS)
  • Ms Rachel Gale (UCRISE & AIS PhD candidate)


ABC TV video story (1:15)

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UCRISE researcher cited in New Scientist feature

CoverHighlightA feature story in the January 30, 2016 issue of New Scientist cites research conducted by UCRISE Director, Professor Kevin Thompson, that investigated the extent to which our brains can influence our athletic endurance. Not at the physiological, but at the mental level. In other words, how does our thinking affect endurance?

Entitled “Hidden Stamina”, the New Scientist feature story includes a description of several studies conducted by Professor Thompson between 2011 and 2014.

The first of these began by having a group of cyclists complete a 4 kilometre time trial on an indoor exercise cycle as quickly as they could (i.e. at their best pace).

Then, in the next phase, the cyclists completed the trial again, only this time they were watching themselves racing against an on-screen avatar which, they had been told, was going at their best pace.

In truth, the avatar was riding with a power output 2 per cent higher than that of the cyclists’ best pace and amazingly, the riders kept up, cycling more quickly than ever before.

When the same experiment was conducted with different riders, and with the power output of the avatars set to being 5 per cent higher, the riders could not handle it.

The study was replicated three years later, and this time athletes were told that they had been deceived by the avatar and asked whether they wanted to race again. At the 2 per cent level they still managed to keep up, even while knowing they were being deceived.

“Overall, the studies suggest that the body has an energy reserve of between 2 and 5 per cent which can be tapped by tricking the brain,” Professor Thompson said.

Could this type of approach push athletic performance to new extremes?


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