Sports science: 25 years old

June 30, 2000

Tom Reilly, professor of sports science at Liverpool John Moores University, was a staff member at LJMU (then a polytechnic) when it set up Britain's first sports science degree in 1975.

The universities of Loughborough, Salford and Birmingham quickly followed suit.

Although sports science students today get a "multi-disciplinary scientific education in sport and exercise", the first students stuck to conventional sports subjects such as biochemistry, anatomy and biomechanics. Radical elements such as sports psychology and behaviour appeared later.

External and internal resistance was strong at first, and gaining accreditation for the new degree from the Council of National Academic Awards proved difficult.

"People were sceptical about its economic viability," Reilly recalls. "But today we have a whole range of courses that we would never have thought possible before. More people are coming into the subject at postgraduate level. We have 50 PhD students at the moment."

Professional links have proved invaluable. Reilly, one of the first students to have a masters in ergonomics, worked with Everton Football Club in the 1960s to evaluate levels of occupational stress in professional football. In 1991 LJMU launched a one-year diploma in sports science and Association Football and quickly converted it to a full degree programme that covers football skills, violence, performance and mental training.

The research assessment exercise acknowledged the validity of research into sports science in 1992, when it created a sports studies panel.

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