UWI Sports Academy focuses on research

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter

Friday, October 06, 2017

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The UWI Mona Academy of Sport says it is committed to maintaining a focus on sports research, as an integral ingredient for continued growth, development and success in its academic programme.

Commenting on the commitment to sports research, head of the academy and former researcher in the Faculty of Medical Sciences, Dr Sharmella Roopchand-Martin, says that the focus on research will assist in increasing its intake of graduate students in the coming years.

“Our physicians and physical therapists who are pursuing their Master's degree in Sports and Exercise Medicine are required to complete a research project, which may take the form of surveys or interventions, focused on improving athletic performance,” she said.

She added that the programme will soon be transferred to the academy, where it is intended to increase the scope and quality of research being produced by the students.

Doping and supplement use in sports have been explored by UWI students in Barbados and in the Bahamas. In Barbados, research has shown how easily an athlete could be found to have a positive drug test, as most physicians surveyed never asked about sporting involvement of their patients prior to prescribing medications.

The Faculty of Sport is currently collaborating with lead researcher Dr Sophie Turfus, a toxicologist in the Basic Medical Sciences Department, to explore use of supplements by Jamaican high school students and their knowledge about doping in sports. In addition, Dr Turfus will be testing common supplements used for banned substances.

Dr Roopchand-Martin indicated that students in Trinidad and Jamaica are also currently working on research proposals to further explore this area.

Sleep and its impact on sporting performance is said to be a poorly researched area and, over the next year, the Mona academy will be focused on developing sleep research, in collaboration with partners from the United States.

The academy aims to establish a sleep centre, which will allow them to move from surveys to interventional research in this area. This year, they will be looking at relationships between sleep and anxiety among athletes.

Aquatic training is another research focus of the academy, and aquatic programmes have been used for many years in the rehabilitation of injured athletes.

In recent times, there has been an emergence of aquatic programmes for routine training; however, research on the impact of aquatic programmes on performance has been limited. Prior to moving to the academy, Dr Roopchand-Martin supervised the completion of short projects, comparing aquatic power training programmes with land based programmes in field hockey players in Jamaica and footballers in Guyana.

She says that these short duration projects will be expanded to longer duration training programmes at the academy.

Active videogames have been shown to meet the exercise requirements for obtaining health benefits, however there has been limited research with regards to their application in sports and rehabilitation.

“A few of these games appear to have the potential to improve reaction timing, coordination, agility and balance and are worth exploring as an option to providing variety in training programmes,” Dr. Roopchand-Martin said.

She explained that, for this reason, the academy will be focusing some of its research on video-gaming applications in sport rehabilitation and training.

In July, the UWI named Dr Akshai Mansingh, current director of the Division of Sports Medicine, to serve in the capacity of dean of the newly created Faculty of Sport, effective August 1. This marked the first faculty to be added to the institution in 40 years, the Faculty of Law having been the last.

According to Dr Mansingh there are major challenges to conducting sports related research in the region, which includes a lack of finances, inadequate resources, lack of personnel trained in sports related research and small samples.

“A Faculty of Sport with academies on the four campuses is a positive step towards addressing some of these challenges, as we look towards the pooling of resources,” Dr Mansingh said.

He said that in addition to working with graduate students and maintaining collaborative relationships with other faculties at the UWI, the development of partnerships with other regional and international institutions will be an important factor for enabling the Faculty of Sport to produce high quality research.

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