Researchers paving the way for future Olympic success

Posted: 11 August, 2016

Researchers currently working in Ireland are paving the way for future Olympic success stories.  That’s according to the Irish Research Council, which today released details of innovative sports research projects underway in universities nationwide.

The research topics range from injury prevention and rehabilitation for Olympic athletes to mimicking sunlight in order to improve the growth and exercise capacity of thoroughbred horses.

Researchers include Martin O’Reilly, a member of Ireland’s Olympic Handball team which is aiming to qualify for the Euro 2020 Championships. Based at University College Dublin and working in partnership with Shimmer and Realtime Technologies Ltd., Martin is investigating the effectiveness of performance monitoring and bio-feedback in resistance training, an integral element of elite athletes’ fitness regimes.

Other sports-focused researchers funded by the Irish Research Council include the following scholars. Be sure to click on their names to read more about their ongoing research.

  • Claire Brady, based at the University of Limerick, who is working in partnership with Sport Ireland to develop a bespoke strengthening and diagnostic system to support injury prevention, rehabilitation and welfare amongst Olympic and Paralympic athletes.
  • Conor Molan, based at Sport Ireland, who is working in collaboration with University College Dublin to develop a performance management framework to assist national sports governing bodies in better evaluating Olympic and Paralympic programmes.
  • Fiona Bradley, based at the National Greyhound Laboratory, and working in collaboration with Limerick Institute of Technology to develop a robust, sensitive and reliable series of drug screening methods for detecting doping.
  • Vinny Hammond, based at the Irish Rugby Football Union, who is working in collaboration with University College Dublin to identify methods to better analyse and predict successful athletic performance at senior level.
  • Aileen Carter, based at University College Dublin and working in collaboration with Equilume, is exploring how optimised photo-stimulation that mimics sunlight can improve the growth and exercise capacity of maturing thoroughbred horses.
  • Lindsay Sullivan, based at NUI Galway, who is focusing on increasing awareness of sports-related concussion, and reducing the consequences of such injuries.

Insights from an Irish Olympian

Jessie Barr, a PhD researcher in Sports Psychology at UL, has been helping the Irish Research Council to promote sports research and has written a blog about her own Olympics experience as part of the #LoveIrishResearch campaign.  Ms. Barr competed in the 4 x 400-metre relay in the 2012 Olympics in London, and said her research is strongly influenced by her experience there.

“In my research, I am focusing a number of my studies specifically on Olympic athletes: both athletes who have been to the Games and those who came very close to qualifying,” she explained.

“The pressures and challenges, defeats and triumphs that an Olympic athlete has to encounter pre, during and post Games can leave them vulnerable to depression and other mental health issues, unless they are psychologically equipped, in advance, with the right coping mechanisms.

“As a researcher, I am lucky that I can combine my academic pursuits with an area I am so passionate about. I hope that, with my insights and experiences, I can bring a unique perspective to this area where research has, so far, been limited.”

‘Key role of research in driving the development of sports’

Commenting today, Dr. Eucharia Meehan, Director of the Irish Research Council, said: “Ireland has a long and proud sporting tradition, and our sports fans are highly regarded internationally.

“What many fans may not realise is the key role research plays in driving the ongoing development of sports, ranging from GAA and rugby to show-jumping and greyhound-racing.

“The research being conducted in Ireland at present is enhancing sports at all levels, from local community games right up to the Olympics and other international competitions.

“The Irish Research Council is proud to fund researchers who are contributing to the ongoing success of Irish sports, as well as the enhanced safety and skill of our sportspeople.  We are also delighted to collaborate with a range of key sporting organisations on our Enterprise Schemes, including Sport Ireland, the Irish Rugby Football Union and Leinster GAA, who are new partners to the scheme in 2016.”

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