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Summer Research Scholarship looks at sport recovery

8 August 2014

Summer Research Scholarship looks at sport recovery

With more and more sporting events held at night, it’s hard for athletes to get to sleep afterwards.

They’re often wound up following such intense and strenuous activity, not to mention the adrenaline rush from playing in front of large crowds. Yet sleep is known to be essential for athletic recovery and night games mean a nightmare for sleeping patterns.

Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic netball coach Julie Fitzgerald and Senior Lecturer Dr Matt Driller from Waikato University are working together to study aspects of recovery in players from New Zealand’s number one netball franchise.

Ms Fitzgerald and Dr Driller, a sports physiologist, worked together at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in Canberra, and now, both based in the Waikato, are working together again.

Dr Driller has secured a Waikato University Summer Research Scholarship for a student to work with him during the Magic’s pre-season training to monitor aspects of recovery. To test sleep patterns, the netballers will go to bed wearing an actigraph, like a wrist-watch embedded with accelerometers that can pick up the slightest of movements.

“We’ll be able to tell how long a person takes to fall asleep, how many times they wake in the night and how long they sleep for, allowing us to assess both quality and quantity of sleep,” says Dr Driller.

Another thing they’ll be looking at is recovery boots. Dr Driller used them with a number of elite athletes in Australia, where he introduced Ms Fitzgerald to the concept. The boots, which inflate in four sections from the foot up, are used to speed up the removal of metabolic waste from the muscles and enhance blood circulation following exercise, aiding the recovery process.

Dr Driller says most of the evidence that the boots work is anecdotal. “Athletes swear by them, but we need actual data to determine their effectiveness in a recovery setting.”

They’ll use a number of different performance, physiological and perceptual measures to test the recovery of players after hard training sessions both with and without using the recovery boots.

Students can now apply to be part of the University of Waikato Summer Research projects. Applications close on 31 August 2014. The programme is open to students enrolled at a New Zealand or Australian university, and gives promising final year undergraduate, honours year and first-year masters degree students the chance to experience the challenges and rewards of research, working alongside senior University of Waikato academics.

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