The School of Health Sciences has a vibrant research environment, with a particular emphasis on interdisciplinary research.
The £8.5m Health Sciences Building opened in 2016 houses excellent research facilities and specialised laboratories for its active research groups in the main fields of Sport & Exercise Science, Nutrition & Food Science, and Applied Biomedical Health.
All academics within the School of Health Sciences are research-active and work very proactively towards the next REF exercise in 2021.
In January 2016 the Health Sciences Building was launched, housing the Sport Science research facilities. The development of this £8.5m facility produced more than 320m2 dedicated to research, including specialised laboratories: Sport Biomechanics, Sport & Exercise Physiology, Cardiovascular Physiology, Sport Performance, Body Composition, and Sport Psychophysiology.
More than 100m2 of further space is dedicated to research across separate rooms to support specialist areas of Exercise Physiology & Sport Performance, Cardiovascular Physiology, Psychophysiology, and Body Composition. These areas are supported by specialised equipment invested into the unit. Primary research equipment includes: eye tracking system (ALS), further 8-channel wireless EMG system (Delsys), transcranial magnetic stimulator (MagStim), 3 online, breath-by-breath expired gas analysis systems (LoveMedical), near infrared spectrometer (Oxiplex), cardiac ultrasound (VividQ), vascular ultrasound (Terason), Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (GE Lunar iDXA)), pulse wave velocity (?), motorised (h/p/cosmos) and non-motorised (Woodway Curve) treadmill, isokinetic dynamometer, programmable (Lode Excalibur Sport with pedal force measurement, Lode Corival, Tacx) and non-programmable (SRM trainer) cycle ergometers, cardiac stress-test / supine ergometer table (Lode Angio), automated desktop systems for blood lactate and glucose concentration (Biosen) and standard haematology.
The Health Sciences Building houses dedicated dedicated research space and specialised nutrition teaching laboratories focused around clinical nutrition, nutritional biochemistry, food sensory analysis and food product development. There are also research facilities for the biosciences, representing a shared space with other units of assessment for analysis of human blood samples. This 309m2 space includes a dedicated phlebotomy suite and facilities for the measurement of metabolic and molecular markers of human function in a regular biosciences area. Two most recent additions to these labs include a semi-automated clinical chemistry testing system (RX masino, RANDOX) and a sophisticated Biochip Immunoanalyser (Evidence Investigator, RANDOX) both have broad applications is Sport and Exercise Science research. Measurement techniques via HPLC, colorimetry, ELISA and biochip array technology are supported.
The Health Sciences Building was supplemented by further investments of £7.7m in on-campus indoor and outdoor sport facilities (sports building including modern gym and strength & conditioning suite, 3G football pitch, tennis/net ball courts, rugby pitch) and on-site physiotherapy and sport rehabilitation clinic). The University explicitly dedicated these resources not only as leisure facilities for students, but for research space for the academics.
This research group formed in late 2013 has since been established a strong multidisciplinary research group evidenced by undertaking several research projects, important collaborations, conferences, PhD projects, and internal/external funding applications. The activities of this group have been continuously strengthened as a result of solid research collaborations with external researchers and formal institutional collaborations such as English Institute of Sport and Royal Liverpool Broadgreen University Hospitals, and Aintree Hospital NHS Trust. While shoulder / upper limb research has strategically been a key strategic theme for this research group to focus and grow, investigating the impact of various interventions to improve musculoskeletal health in older adults with or without clinical conditions has been another area of research focus. Below are some examples of associated research activities underpinned by a strong interdisciplinary approach.
A. Upper Limb / Shoulder Research
The School of Health Sciences has strategically established an internationally recognised research environment in the field of Shoulder and Upper Limb Research since 2013. This has led the School’s research to receive national and international recognition. Some key activities/achievement include:
Organising and hosting a biannual international Shoulder Rehabilitation Conference at Liverpool Hope University (1st conference in Nov 2017 and 2nd one in Nov 2019), this conference is increasingly being recognised as a credible event in the field of shoulder rehabilitation due to its trending themes and strong line of speakers. Furthermore, the conference has produced a reasonable income, which has been utilised to promote shoulder research, for example by providing shoulder PhD scholarships. Both conferences received an extremely positive feedback from the delegates.
Upper limb research collaboration with the English Institute of Sport since July 2018 – Two main papers have been published from a collaborative project and a new project is currently in progress)
Research collaboration with the Liverpool Upper Limb Unit at the Liverpool Royal and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust involving five upper limb consultants and three upper limb physiotherapy specialists with the latest collaborative project currently ongoing in relation to the shoulder joint reverse arthroplasty.
Organising and hosting upper limb clinical research workshops such as shoulder ultrasound, upper limb kinematics and kinetics, exercise prescription, return to sport, and profiling shoulder performance around the time of 2nd Shoulder Rehabilitation Conference.
Undertaking several shoulder/upper limb research projects involving academics and PhD/MRes students (e.g. The influence of Kinetic Chain sequencing on throwing performance in athletes with and without shoulder injuries; the pathophysiology of subacromial impingement syndrome; neuromuscular profiling of the throwing shoulder; kinematics and muscle activation profiles in reverse shoulder arthroplasty; the effect of vibration on shoulder muscle activation and fatigue; a randomised controlled trial of a group-based, gaze training intervention for children with developmental coordination disorder; electromyographic analysis of shoulder girdle muscles in swimmers with shoulder pain. A new upper limb project looking at the impact of Calisthenic exercises on shoulder activation is currently being developed in collaboration with the English Institute of Sport and School of Calisthenics.
Establishing a high-quality research environment equipped with first class equipment (e.g. 2 X full 3D motion analysis, 2 X 16 channel EMG systems, specific upper limb dynamometers and myometers, double height research area for overhead motions, high-impact wall for throwing motions, 2D motion analysis) for shoulder/upper limb research within the biomechanics labs
Shoulder/upper limb PhD scholarships (2 successful funded PhD scholarships offered in 2018 – both students have a well-established national/international profile in the field of shoulder research
A comprehensive research publication profile in the field of shoulder/upper limb
Organising workshops on shoulder fine-wire EMG (e.g. the Noraxon 2018 User Group meeting at Liverpool Hope University)
Supervising several shoulder/upper limb PhD projects
Some examples of recent publications:
Patterns of Muscle Coordination during Dynamic Glenohumeral Joint Elevation. (2019) PLoS One, doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.021180
Gaze training supports self-organization of movement coordination in children with developmental coordination disorders. (2019) Scientific Reports-Nature, 9:1712
Can grip strength be used as a surrogate marker to monitor recovery from shoulder fatigue? (2019) J Electromyography and Kinesiology, 41:139-146.
(Impact of Upper Limb Vibration on Shoulder Muscle Activation profile. (2019) European Journal of Applied Physiology 119(8):1789-1798
Electromyographic analysis of shoulder girdle muscles in swimmers with shoulder pain. (2019) Sports Biomechanics, 18:1-11.
Subacromial Impingement Syndrome: An Electromyographic Study of Shoulder Girdle Muscle Fatigue. (2018) J of Electromyography and Kinesiology, 38: 136–142.
Postural Alterations in Patients with Subacromial Impingement Syndrome. (2017) International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 12(7):1111-1120
Electromyographic Assessment of Forearm Muscle Function in Tennis Players With and Without Lateral Epicondylitis (Review). (2015) Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology. 25(6):876-86.
B. Tennis and Health (Musculoskeletal Health Benefits of Tennis)
This comprehensive interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research (Musculoskeletal Health/Exercise and Vascular Physiology/Nutritional Sciences/Sport Psychology) started in 2016 following a successful funding application of £40,000.00 through the HEIF (Higher Education Innovation Found). It aimed to gain a broad knowledge of the health benefits of tennis in senior players by measuring their musculoskeletal health (ranging from skeletal muscle mass and strength measurements to sophisticated muscle activation and 3-D motion analysis) together with physiological, nutritional and psychological well-being. With a holistic view, the project encompassed multiple aspects of health in order to not only produce an in depth understanding of the benefits of tennis but to also generate an impactful outcome through the scientific community. The study recruited more 90 participants who took part in a broad range of musculoskeletal measurements and completed the data collection in 2018.
The research has been substantially underpinned by public engagement and has been recognised nationally due to its innovative and interdisciplinary approach. As such it has been featured in BBC Breakfast live programme and several other media channels such as BBC Northwest, BBC Radio Merseyside, BBC Coventry, Echo Daily, and Good News Liverpool. Recently it was one of the selected Case Studies presented in the House of Commons in relation to the broader impact of Sport & Exercise Science on the economy. During its conduction, the research team has established some significant collaborations and networks both locally (e.g. Liverpool International Tennis Tournament, Local Tennis Clubs, and Local governing and health bodies) and nationally (e.g. Lawn Tennis Association). Several activities have been undertaken over the past few years to maximise the research impact by disseminating musculoskeletal/physiological health benefits of playing tennis as an adjunct to the recommended physical activity including multiple presentations at different meetings/conferences, organising and hosting two Tennis Symposiums at Liverpool Hope University (2018 and 2019 - inviting policy makers, health care professionals, local tennis club members, and public), and scientific publications in main-stream journals. During a major conference (European College of Sport Science annual meeting 2018), the study was chosen as one of the top two research projects due to its merit, innovative approach, and comprehensive range of measurements. The study has shown to be impactful according to the available evidence:
The musculoskeletal health benefits of tennis: A cluster analysis of the musculoskeletal health of tennis players versus healthy active non-playing controls. [Accepted on 23rd July 2019: Sport Health]
Clustered cardiometabolic risk is lower in tennis players compared to matched physically active counterparts. [In Preparation for Submission].
The health benefits of tennis: A comparison of the physiological characteristics of senior players and non-players. Proceedings of the 22nd Annual Congress of the European College of Sport Science, Essen, Germany
C. Healthy Ageing – Liverpool Hope University Sarcopenia RCT
This project involved two PhD scholarships to run an interventional Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) in older adults (>65 years old). With an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approach, the study recruited more than 100 participants into four intervention groups (Exercise training, Protein Supplement, Exercise Training + Protein Supplement, and Control) to investigate their impact on musculoskeletal health and function by means of a broad range of measurements including Bio-impedance (Skeletal Muscle Mass, Muscle Strength of upper and lower extremities, Neuromuscular Fatigue and Activation of key upper and lower extremity muscles (EMG), Blood Biomarkers, 3-D gait and balance analysis, measurements of physical performance, and validated questionnaires. In addition to musculoskeletal health and function, researchers from Nutrition and Psychology disciplines were also involved in this project to enable correlational analysis between musculoskeletal health and other potential factors. In addition to producing comprehensive data on musculoskeletal health of older adults with the likelihood of sarcopenia in general and in response to interventions.
Since the completion of data collection in late 2018 and subsequent primary analysis, the team has initiated the dissemination of findings by means of scientific publications, conference presentations, and educational events and workshops for older adults (e.g. Exercise and nutrition recommendations for older adults: An interactive workshop; An interactive talk for the public/older adults in Liverpool’s Central Library; a presentation during Randox Health Week; a talk at the North-west Frailty Unit NHS England; and invited talk to British Dietetic Association, an educational talk at the American academy for Nutrition and Dietetics in Washington).
Exercise and Dietary-Protein as a Countermeasure to Skeletal Muscle Weakness: Liverpool Hope University-Sarcopenia Ageing Trial (LHU-SAT). [2019; Frontiers in Physiology- org/10.3389/fphys.2019.00445].
Effects of exercise and whey protein on muscle mass, fat mass, myoelectrical muscle fatigue and health-related quality of life in older adults: a secondary analysis of the Liverpool Hope University, Sarcopenia Ageing Trial (LHU-SAT) [2020; European Journal of Applied Physiology - 10.1007/s00421-019-04293-5].
D. Musculoskeletal Health in common clinical conditions
Moving forward with the musculoskeletal research, it has increasingly become a strategic target to gravitate towards investigations in common clinical conditions affecting older adults. This has been in one of the focused research themes: Musculoskeletal Health in Older Adults. The main rationale for this was that within a rapidly ageing population, maintaining functional capacity, physical performance, and independence in older patients affected by clinical conditions will likely become a priority in the near future. An external funding of £208,000.00 was achieved in late 2018 through a pharmaceutical company for a 3-year investigation on the impact of intravenous iron therapy on musculoskeletal function and health in older adults with iron deficiency anaemia (LHU-FERIDA). More importantly, this project has led to the formation of a strong collaboration with the clinicians in one of the city’s main NHS hospitals (Aintree University Hospital NHS Trust).
This research group encompasses research that explores the physiology of exercise from both a performance enhancement, and health perspective. Since the last REF, the group has produced nearly 50 peer-reviewed papers, had very successful PhD completions and submitted a number of internal and external grant funding applications. In addition, research from the team has been presented at a number on national and international conferences including the British Association of Sport & Exercise Science (BASES), the European College of Sports Science (ECSS), and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). The two main, overarching areas of research that sit within this research group contain a number of continuing or developing projects that are focused on either; Exercise & Health, or Exercise Performance.
The Exercise & Health strand of the group has members involved in projects exploring the impact of university life on markers of health (CONTINUUM), the impact of a community-based football project (Manwell) on markers of cardiometabolic health and disease risk, and health benefits of tennis. Further, a recent PhD completion explored the impact of type 1 diabetes on VO2 kinetics and exercise performance, and has helped lay the foundations for further research in this area.
The Exercise Performance strand of the group also has a number of research projects at various stages, from initial development and those nearing completion. These studies include the impact of different training periodisation strategies on exercise performance and markers of fatigue as well as a study looking to validate an ‘on-field’ test of critical power for use in applied sport. In addition, future studies are also being developed to assess the impact of training load and type on performance and recovery in combat sports as well as studies exploring the impact of personalised compression garments on exercise recovery.
Examples of recent publications:
Hyperoxia speeds pulmonary oxygen uptake kinetics and increases critical power during supine cycling [Experimental Physiology, doi: 10.1113/EP087599].
Workload and injury in professional soccer players: Role of injury tissue type and injury severity [International Journal of Sports Medicine - doi: 10.1055/a-0997-6741].
Utility of three anthropometric indices in assessing the cardiometabolic risk profile in children [American Journal of Human Biology Doi: 10.1002/ajhb.22934].
Countermovement Jump Performance Is Not Affected During an In-Season Training Microcycle in Elite Youth Soccer Players [Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000701].
‘Global ventricular structure, function, perfusion and fibrosis in anabolic steroid users: a multi parametric cardiovascular magnetic resonance study’. [Eur J App Physiol, 114(5), 921-928].
Elevated baseline work rate slows pulmonary oxygen uptake kinetics and decreases critical power during upright cycle exercise[ Physiological Reports 6(14):e13802. doi: 10.14814/phy2.13802].
This research group [CW, JR, SK, and GW (external member), and a PhD fellow] was reformed in 2017 to collectively explore and incorporate areas surrounding human movement science, sport and exercise psychology, and sport coaching and pedagogy. The group is comprised of faculty members with expertise in each of the said areas. In addition, postgraduate students that are undertaking research surrounding these areas are also invited to the group during their time of study. Group meetings take place at least once per semester (biannual).
The principle aims of the group are (1) networking: members share ideas and find common themes within each other’s work. This activity is ultimately intended to enhance the potential of generating ideas for joint, multi-disciplinary research projects, and; (2) peer review: members have the opportunity to present their work (e.g., conference presentations, postgraduate viva voce preparation, etc) with a view to receiving feedback and advancing their research.
Current research includes projects exploring the mechanisms and learning efficacy of motor imagery. examining the equivalence between imagery and execution, The Effect of Action Observation and Motor Imagery Combinations on Upper Limb Kinematics and EMG during Dart Throwing, and Simultaneous and alternate action observation and motor imagery combinations improve aiming performance.
Motor imagery – Caroline Wakefield and James Roberts - This project broadly seeks to explore the mechanisms and learning efficacy of motor imagery. Currently, there are 2 publications, 1 submitted manuscript, and 3 further experiments being conducted for this project.
Roberts, J. W., Welsh, T. N., & Wakefield, C. J. (2019). Examining the equivalence between imagery and execution - do imagined and executed movements code relative environmental features? Behavioural Brain Research, 370, 111951 doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2019.111951
Romano-Smith, S., Wood, G. Roberts, J. W., Coyles, G. & Wakefield, C. J. The Effect of Action Observation and Motor Imagery Combinations on Upper Limb Kinematics and EMG during Dart Throwing. Manuscript submitted to Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports
Romano-Smith, S., Wood, G. Wright, D. J., & Wakefield, C. J. (2018). Simultaneous and alternate action observation and motor imagery combinations improve aiming performance. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 38, 100-106.
This section will be updated soon.
Major Areas of Research: Nutrition Research team explores the interrelationship between food, nutrients and health and wellbeing in individuals and populations. Research interests include energy balance, micronutrient requirements of individuals & populations, biomarkers of micronutrients and non-nutritive substances and the link between dietary intake and cardio-metabolic health.