Growing Futures

How to measure sports performance

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How to measure sports performance

Sports performance is a complex factor to measure, as Science Group Leader Roger Hurst explains:

We have developed three human exercise models through which we monitor exercise performance and recovery. Each model is defined to mediate biochemical events we might be interested in monitoring, e.g. oxidative stress (e.g. a 30-minute row) or muscle damage (e.g. repeated eccentric leg extensions) using a Biodex computer muscle testing machine which also allows us to look at muscle force production dynamics. Depending on the exercise we also ask volunteers to undertake separate exercises to assess performance (e.g. the running beep test).

We take and handle samples depending on what we might be specifically targeting in the trial. We typically take blood samples (venous puncture or ear prick) before, during and after the exercise. We measure biochemical markers of oxidative stress (e.g. protein carbonyls), muscle damage (e.g. creatinine kinase), and indicators of muscle metabolism/performance (e.g. lactic acid). We are able to measure, from the blood, indicators of muscle inflammation and changes in immunity (e.g. immune cytokines). We can also isolate the immune cells from the blood and we assess their functionality by measuring cytokine responses, receptor expression and functional responses (e.g. oxidative burst) to challenges applied to the cells in the laboratory.  

Additionally, we have the capability in Plant & Food Research to measure the major compounds of fruits and vegetables and their metabolites in blood from volunteers who have consumed products of interest – this gives us valuable insights into the profiles of potential active molecules.