Sports science covers any kind of scientific study that can be used to explain and improve sporting performance. This could include everything from technique, to training, to what athletes ought to have for breakfast. Sports scientists and performance consultants are in high demand to help professional sportsmen and sportswomen to achieve the best results.
Sports science may have been invented by the ancient Greeks who were interested in improving the health, strength and fitness of Olympic Athletes over two thousand years ago. They realised the importance of having a good diet, of training the muscles and of improving cardiovascular fitness.
Scientists today measure the abilities of athletes under different conditions, to find out the importance of things like hydration (whether they’ve had enough to drink), temperature and humidity (whether they’re in a warm, moist climate), how much fat and muscle they have, the size of their lungs and hearts and even whether they’ve taken performance enhancing drugs (many of which are illegal).
Scientists can even come up with new ways of training, such as altitude training which takes athletes to a high-altitude environment with very little oxygen in order to improve their breathing and circulation so that they can get oxygen to their muscles more efficiently.
Physiology is all about how the body works and why. It is used by scientists who support athletes to devise new ways of training, like altitude training to improve their breathing and circulation.
Understanding the physiology of individual athletes can help create a training programme that achieves the best results for them. Physiology can also explain why certain body types are best for particular sports – for example, why good lung capacity is so important in cycling and rowing.
Biomechanics is another element of sports science. This is basically the physics of sports, and would consider things like thrust, gravity, pivots, momentum and aerodynamics. This could help work out the best golf swing, for example.
Psychology is also important for athletes. Coaches sometimes focus on four main qualities that they hope will enable their athletes to perform better: concentration, confidence, control and commitment.