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17 December 2009 | PR 09/177

Loughborough academics developing learning disability tests for London 2012

Computerised testing system for London 2012

Students working on the computerised testing system.

Academics at Loughborough University are working with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) to develop a robust computerised testing system to help classify athletes with a learning disability. 

The comprehensive computerised programme is being developed by Dr Stephan Bandelow and colleagues in the Applied Cognitive Research Centre, part of the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences (SSEHS), and was a key element in the IPC’s decision to consider the re-inclusion of athletes with an intellectual disability (ID athletes) to the Paralympic Games.  

The London 2012 Paralympic Games will be the first time ID athletes have been allowed to compete at an international multi-disability sports event since the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney, Australia.

Bandelow and colleagues independently developed the automated touch screen test and have analysed more than 700 athletes worldwide during competition and in training in order to validate it.

At the 2009 INAS-FID Global Games in the Czech Republic alone, a team of 13 volunteers tested more than 400 athletes over one week. Researchers have also enlisted help from specialist East Midlands schools and organisations including Mencap Gateway and the Linkage Community Trust in order to verify the functionality of the programme.

“We identified the need for a robust system to accurately classify athletes with an intellectual disability at the same time the IPC was demanding evidence-based classification for key sports,” explained lead researcher Bandelow.

“The programme tests reaction times, reasoning abilities, memory and concentration
and is designed to measure problems with information processing that are prevalent
amongst individuals with a learning disability.”

“We also aim to develop sport specific testing for sports including athletics, swimming and table tennis, based on the cognitive demands associated with each discipline.”

Bandelow and colleagues are working with sports scientists as part of the international IPC / INAS-FID research group which has been charged with developing a robust classification system for ID athletes. INAS-FID is the international federation for sport for athletes with an intellectual disability.

The Loughborough testing battery provides the psychometric element of a comprehensive ID Athlete Classification System designed to verify the eligibility of competitors. Medical records, IQ tests and in competition assessments will also be used as part of the process.

Upon announcing the IPC’s decision to re-include ID athletes in its competitions, IPC President Sir Philip Craven praised the work of the research group in developing a robust, evidence based classification system.

“Today’s achievement is the outcome of a unique and excellent co-operation between sports governance and the scientific community,” he said. “I want to thank all parties involved, especially the scientists, for their contribution and commitment over the last two years”.

The team is currently in the process of analysing data from the Global Games and other competitions which will help them determine entry criteria for each sport.

−ENDS−

For all media enquiries contact:

Amanda Overend
Sport PR Officer
Loughborough University
T: 01509 228686
E: A.J.Overend@lboro.ac.uk 

Notes for editors:

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 and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2009 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top five universities in the UK, and was named winner of the 2006, 2007 and 2008 Times Higher award for the UK’s Best Student Experience. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

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.

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