No place in big game

September 12, 2003

I was pleased to see your upbeat spread on sports science (Subject special, THES September 5). But you overegg the pudding. The number of applications is steady and acceptances are rising, suggesting standards are falling. But it is difficult to defend curricula or standards of some courses that contain large slices of swimming-pool management.

When it comes to the benefits of sports-science research, there is evidence for Richard Caborn's view that departments fail to use developments to benefit the public, although this is changing. But it is even difficult to find evidence that sports science has done elite sports performance much good (possibly with the exception of glycogen loading, creatine supplementation and the understanding of dehydration/rehydration, the major work for which was done in physiology institutes). Inflated research assessment exercise ratings make a mockery of the assessment system in terms of scientific rigour and comparability.

Sports science has a chance to perform well thanks to the English funding council. But this is an applied subject providing graduates with limited skills. Unlike mathematicians and scientists, they will not help us face the challenges of the 21st century.

Michael J. Rennie
Professor of physiology
University of Dundee

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