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17 July 2008 PR 08/113

Shielding sportsmen and women from impact and injury

Tae Kwon Do masters and international cricketers are working with Loughborough University to create the next generation of high-tech customised sports Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Experts from the University’s Rapid Manufacturing Research Group and the Sports Technology Institute are investigating ‘SCUTA’ – a unique customised sports body armour that will protect wearers from heavy blows and ball strikes. The £2 million project is being funded by the University’s Innovative Manufacturing and Construction Research Centre (IMCRC), with a £1 million contribution from industry partners.


Research associate Ruth Goodridge works on the latest prototype of SCUTA.

SCUTA – Latin for a type of shield – uses tailored energy absorbing structures to form a protective, yet flexible, layer around key areas of the body where injuries through sport are likely. To create the perfect ‘customised’ fit, the research team are working to import body scan data, which is then used as the basis to Rapid Manufacture protective clothing that fits like a second skin.

As well as preventing injuries, it is anticipated the new PPE will help improve performance by giving sportsmen and women a lightweight and flexible alternative to existing, more cumbersome, protective clothing.

The research team are also investigating whether the unique design of SCUTA could be developed for high-impact ballistic body armour in the future. This would provide the police and armed forces with more practical protective clothing, which because of its design, would be easier to wear and operate in.

Professor Richard Hague, who is based in the University’s Wolfson School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, is leading the project. He said: “This is an exciting project which has the potential to revolutionise the way sportsmen and women are protected from impact.“

Rapid Manufacturing has opened up amazing opportunities and has already led to massive developments in design and manufacturing capabilities. At Loughborough we want to utilise these capabilities to create a made-to-measure product that will not only prevent injuries but also aid performance, which at elite level sport is of vital importance.

“Our partnerships with leading sporting bodies gives us access to real sportsmen and women to ensure SCUTA can tackle problems with existing sports body armour, such as fit, flexibility and, above all, protection.”

Dr Guy Jackson, who is manager of the National Cricket Performance Centre based on the Loughborough campus, represents the England and Wales Cricket Board’s involvement in the project. He said: “ECB are collaborating in a number of projects with sports engineers at Loughborough University and are very interested in the potential of SCUTA, particularly in terms of increasing the effectiveness of key types of protective clothing. This is highly topical in cricket right now.”

For the next phase of SCUTA’s development, the research team will undertake detailed biomechanical analysis of athletes in action, to examine how their bodies move and investigate what happens to the body during impact. This will enable them to not only ensure that SCUTA moves with the body, but that it also effectively dissipates force across the body to reduce impact.

The research team includes experts in the University’s Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, who will fit electronic sensors to SCUTA. This will enable the level of impact to be monitored, as well as aid scoring in sports such as Tae Kwon Do and provide an extra tool for referees and umpires in a variety of other sports.


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Notes for editors:

  1. An image of SCUTA can be obtained from the Public Relations Office.

  2. The research project is being funded by Loughborough University’s Innovative Manufacturing and Construction Research Centre (IMCRC). The centre brings together a multi-disciplinary group of more than 40 academic staff undertaking leading-edge collaborative research to enhance the processes, products and competitiveness of the UK’s manufacturing and construction industries. The IMCRC is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

  3. The Loughborough research team are working with a number of industry, academic and sporting bodies on the project, including: adidas; Dunlop Slazenger; the University of Nottingham; Cranfield University; the England and Wales Cricket Board; and the British Tae Kwon Do Control Board.

  4. Rapid Manufacturing allows physical parts to be created immediately, directly and automatically from a 3D representation, known as a 3D computer-aided-design (CAD) model. It works by breaking down a 3D model into 2D sections, which are built up layer by layer by high tech machines.

  5. Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry and unrivalled sporting achievement.

    It is a member of the esteemed 1994 Group – a set of internationally recognised, research intensive universities – and has a reputation for the relevance of its work. Its degree programmes are highly regarded by professional institutions and businesses, and its graduates are consistently targeted by the UK’s top recruiters.

    Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

    In the 2007 National Student Survey, the University was voted fourth in the UK, with 23 out of 29 of Loughborough’s subject areas being ranked in the top ten for overall satisfaction. Loughborough is also ranked in the top fifteen of UK universities in national league tables. It was named winner of the 2006 and 2007 Times Higher award for the UK’s Best Student Experience and winner of the 2007 award for Outstanding Support for Overseas Students. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes – an achievement bettered by no other university.

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