Loughborough continues to lead the way in Para sport research

As the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham edge ever closer, the eyes of the world will once again be on the top sporting talent vying for podium places.

Unique to the Commonwealth Games, the Para Sport programme is fully integrated into the competition with each medal win contributing to a nation’s overall tally.

A key pillar in the University’s strategy, Para Sport continues to go from strength-to-strength at Loughborough with research helping athletes, coaches, practitioners, and national governing bodies ahead of major championships and beyond.

As part of Loughborough’s Commonwealth Games campaign, we take a closer look behind the scenes.

"Para sport at Loughborough University has really come on leaps and bounds over the last couple of years through the Para sport strategy,” says Professor Vicky Tolfrey, Director of the Peter Harrison Centre for Disability Sport.

“I’m really proud to say that was embedded following the research here at Loughborough in Para sport.

“Now we've really had an impact, perhaps driven by London 2012 and the fact that the research for the Peter Harrison Centre is delivered out of the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine.

“We've got a tremendous lab, and we've got a tremendous community here at Loughborough and not only has the research led to more staff wanting to engage in the research, but we've got a local community feel around Para sport at Loughborough.

“It's great to see individuals who come into a laboratory and learn more about their health and wellbeing as well as guiding them to be an elite sportsperson.

“To see them have the success – come back with a silver or a gold medal, achieve a personal best – it makes me feel really proud that the members of the Peter Harrison Centre are behind the scenes and are contributing to some of that success.”

One athlete set to appear in Birmingham is Lynsey Speirs. Lynsey is a current PhD student at Loughborough (Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences) and was also part of Lightning Wheelchair Basketball’s Championship winning side.

Speaking to Loughborough Sport, Lynsey explained how she has benefitted first-hand from the research on offer.

“You look around, you never go anywhere where physical activity is geared towards you. You come into this area, and this is for me and people like me so we can be tested, and those results can be fed back to our coaching staff.

“All of that data is gathered through our PhD student, Pippa (Bailey), that works closely with the team. All of that is really instrumental in helping us be the best we can be and to get the most out of our performances.

“The more knowledge you can have about yourself, your body, your performances, the better.

“We are really, really happy that part of our facilities here includes this fantastic area and we've we're taking every opportunity to maximise that.”

Pippa Bailey explained the research process for athletes such as Lynsey and how this can enhance performances on the court.

“We went through what's called a sub-max exercise test on the treadmill. Basically, what that involves is three to five short duration stages where we crank the speed up at each one.

“At the end of each of those stages, we look to measure heart rate, perceived exertion using the scale, and blood lactate so we've got some little blood samples from her ear as well.

“Lynsey also had a mask on during the test. Essentially, this tells us what intensity different speeds are for her and then we can try and relativise training based off that.

“We want to make sure that we're optimising what we're doing in training and meeting the training level that we need to, to compete well at the Games and be as prepared as we can.”

Loughborough’s dedicated 2022 Commonwealth Games website features all the latest news, videos, and medal tables from Birmingham.