ⓘ Sports science is a discipline that studies how the healthy human body works during exercise, and how sport and physical activity promote health and performance ..


ⓘ Sports science

Sports science is a discipline that studies how the healthy human body works during exercise, and how sport and physical activity promote health and performance from cellular to whole body perspectives. The study of sports science traditionally incorporates areas of physiology, psychology, anatomy, biomechanics, biochemistry, and biokinetics. Sports scientists and performance consultants are growing in demand and employment numbers, with the ever-increasing focus within the sporting world on achieving the best results possible. Through the study of science and sport, researchers have developed a greater understanding on how the human body reacts to exercise, training, different environments and many other stimuli.


1. Origins of exercise physiology

Sports science can trace its origins to ancient Greece. The noted ancient Greek physician Galen 131–201 wrote 87 detailed essays about improving health proper nutrition, aerobic fitness, and strengthening muscles.

New ideas upon the working and functioning of the human body emerged during the Renaissance as anatomists and physicians challenged the previously known theories. These spread with the implementation of the printed word, the result of Gutenbergs printing press in the 15th century. Allied with this was a large increase in academia in general, universities were forming all around the world. Importantly these new scholars went beyond the simplistic notions of the early Greek physicians, and shed light upon the complexities of the circulatory, and digestive systems. Furthermore, by the middle of the 19th century, early medical schools such as the Harvard Medical School, formed 1782 began appearing in the United States, whose graduates went on to assume positions of importance in academia and allied medical research.

Medical journal publications increased significantly in number during this period. In 1898, three articles on physical activity appeared in the first volume of the American Journal of Physiology. Other articles and reviews subsequently appeared in prestigious journals. The German applied physiology publication, Internationale Zeitschrift fur Physiologie einschliesslich Arbeitphysiologie 1929–1940; now known as the European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, became a significant journal in the field of research.

A number of key figures have made significant contributions to the study of sports science:

  • Edward Hitchcock, Jr., 1828–1911 Amherst College Professor of Hygiene and Physical Education, devoted his academic career to the scientific study of physical exercise, training and the body. Coauthored 1860 text on exercise physiology.
  • Austin Flint, Jr., 1836–1915 One of the first American pioneer physicians, studied physiological responses to exercise in his influential medical textbooks.
  • August Krogh 1874–1949 Won the 1920 Nobel prize in physiology for discovering the mechanism that controlled capillary blood flow in resting or active muscle.
  • George Wells Fitz, M.D. 1860–1934 Created the first departmental major in Anatomy, Physiology, and Physical Training at Harvard University in 1891.
  • Per-Olof Åstrand 1922–2015 Professor at the Department of Physiology, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm. Wrote a seminal paper which evaluated the physical working capacity of men and women aged 4–33 years.

2. Study of sports science

Higher-education degrees in Sports Science or Human Physiology are also becoming increasingly popular with many universities now offering both undergraduate, postgraduate and distance learning degrees in the discipline. Opportunities for graduates in these fields include employment as a Physical Education teacher, Dietician or Nutritionist, Performance Analyst, Sports coach, Sports therapist, Fitness center manager, Sports administrator, Strength and Conditioning specialist or retail manager of a Sports store. Graduates may also be well-positioned to undertake further training to become an accredited Physiotherapist, Exercise Physiologist, Research Scientist and Sports Medical Doctor.


3. Academic journals in sports science

  • Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise
  • International Journal of Computer Science in Sport
  • Sports
  • Journal of Swimming Research
  • Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research
  • Journal of Applied Biomechanics
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