#LoveIrishResearch BLOG: “Faster, Higher, Stronger”

Claire Brady is an IRC Employment Based Programme Postgraduate Scholar, based at the University of Limerick and is working in partnership with the Sport Ireland. She is developing a bespoke strengthening and diagnostic system to support injury prevention, rehabilitation and welfare amongst Olympic and Paralympic athletes. 

The Olympic motto is “Citius, Altius, Fortius” which is Latin for "Faster, Higher, Stronger." It is also an appropriate motto for my research which focuses on measuring how fast, explosive and strong athletes can possibly be. Sport is marvellous, from the good, the bad and the ugly it captivates audiences of all ages from all around the world. The Olympics is particularly special. Olympians display exceptional levels of athleticism and determination, but we must remember that behind every athlete is a team of people who have done everything possible to get that athlete into the best condition to give his or her greatest performance. This includes, not only the coach, but physiotherapists, massage therapists, psychologists, analysists, physiologists, doctors, mentors, nutritionists, financial sponsors and managers to name but a few. It also includes my love and passion; the strength and conditioning coach.Strength and conditioning primarily focuses on the physical development of athletes as well as preventing injury and rehabilitation in order to improve elite sporting performance.

Strength and Conditioning coaches play an integral part in their athletes’ training regimes. It is well recognised that strength and power are critical components of athletic performance and can have the greatest impact on the individualisation of training programmes and on the reduction of injury risk.  The design and implementation of strength and power programmes is a central aspect of the strength and conditioning coaches’ role. There are a number of ways in which strength and power levels can be assessed, such as identifying the maximum force an athlete can produce. The results from these tests allow coaches to plan and tailor programmes to suit the athlete’s needs; “you can’t manage what you don’t measure”.

My research centres on the development of a bespoke diagnostic system in the Irish Institute of Sport to identify the strengths and weaknesses of athletes, to guide the rehabilitation process, monitor an athlete’s fatigue levels, avoid overtraining and measure the chronic responses to training interventions. The results will provide research based direction on the use of the system to enhance health, wellbeing and athletic performance of Irish Olympic and Paralympic athletes. This diagnostic system will be used to assess an athlete's strength and power profile, to help plan interventions to target athletes’ individual needs and improve athletes’ welfare and performance. I love the fact that both the athlete and coach will both benefit highly from this research. Currently, there is a wide variety of tests from which the coach can choose, which can be perplexing, but my research aims to limit the variety and allow the coach to know which test will be most specific to a sprinter, rugby player, hockey player or marathon runner, and to be able to identify where the athlete stands compared to others in the same sport. My system will also give athletes a score from the result of a test which they can improve upon in the lead up to competition.

The closing ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games will take place on the evening of Sunday 21st August in the Maracanã Stadium, Rio de Janeiro and not long after attention will turn to Tokyo 2020. The four year cycle will begin again and those aiming for the next Games will be eager to find that extra percent to qualify and perform on the greatest sport stage of the world, the Olympic Games. I am very excited that my research will help these athletes identify the areas which they can work on to help them achieve their lifetime ambition and goal, so let’s get behind our athletes and #LoveIrishResearch.