The athletes and their coaches aren’t the only members of the Irish team who have arrived in London for the 2012 Olympic Games. It also includes medical officers, doctors, sports psychologists and other scientists.
Dr Sharon Madigan is the team nutritionist. A University of Ulster graduate, she has worked with Ireland’s boxing team since 2003, as well as the Irish rugby team, Ulster rugby, rowing and judo athletes, and the Dublin, Derry and Donegal GAA teams. This is her first Olympic Games.
Dr Marie-Elaine Grant is the official monitor of all physiotherapy activities and facilities for the 205 nations participating in London. Ireland will have 20 physiotherapists supporting 14 sports at training camps and Olympic villages and sports venues.
Many of the athletes themselves are sports science graduates or studying the subject at college. For example, Fionnuala Britton (women’s 10,000 metres) has a first in sports science from DCU, and Irish swimming champion Melanie Nocher is in her final year of a sports science degree at Loughborough University. Here’s a short video in which Melanie talks about sports nutrition.
What is sports science?
There are a growing number of third-level courses in sports science in Ireland. The discipline involves the application of scientific principles and techniques, from physiology and biomechanics to psychology, in order to understand and improve sporting performance. Sports scientists also look at ways to improve health and fitness for the general population.
Some top sports scientists have become famous in their own right for their work with the world’s top athletes, golfers, leading sports clubs and even astronauts.
Even if you don’t become a star “Performance Consultant”, a sports science degree can prepare you for a very wide variety of careers, as a coach, PE teacher, sports therapist, health promotion officer or fitness centre manager, or you might even decide to undertake further study and become a physiotherapist or dietician.