Sport and Human Performance

Sport and Human Performance is an established research theme within the PESS department Research Strategy and provides a vital research grouping to facilitate the research interests of researchers based in PESS Department, and with UL and external collaborators. This theme delivers research in sport and other human endeavours where the emphasis is on achieving high level or optimal performance. The theme includes performance related research in sports such as rugby, athletics, golf, swimming, rowing and E-sports and other areas where physical or psychological performance is undertaken with  an emphasis on producing optimal performance. The work in this area embraces the domains of Physiology, Biomechanics, Psychology, Strength and Conditioning, sports injuries and rehabilitation, skill aquisition and performance analysis.  In 2021, the Sport and Human Performance Research theme was formally recognised as the  Sport and Human Performance Research Centre (SHPRC).  It has two co-directors Prof. Drew Harrison ( and Prof. Giles Warrington (



The core mission of the SHPRC is to advance interdisciplinary research in sport and human performance. It is closely aligned with the UL@50 Strategic Plan and will support the delivery of the “UL@50” Strategy, build on our existing reputation in Sport and Human Performance and seek to extend collaborative networks across UL, both nationally and internationally.


Research Themes

Currently, the Sport and Human Performance Research currently focuses on five key themes:

Theme 1 - Esports: Theme Lead – Prof Mark Campbell
Theme 2: Rugby Science:  Theme Leads – Prof Ian Kenny & Dr Tom Comyns
Theme 3: Athletic Science: Theme Lead – Prof Drew Harrison 
Theme 4: Weight Category Sport Science  - Prof Giles Warrington
Theme 5: Endurance Sports Science  - Dr. Frank Nugent

Theme 1 - Esports Science

The Esports Science theme focuses on deriving and evaluating key performance indicators in esports and has been funded for the past 6 years mainly through Science Foundation Ireland. The esports theme plans to grow its remit and influence in the wider fields of Sport and Human Performance. Currently a team of 8 fulltime researchers across the domains of psychology, neuroscience, computer science and software engineering contribute to the Esports Science theme.


  • Carry out ground breaking and influential empirical work in esports science  
  • Secure funding and capital investment beyond the 2024 current funding timeline
  • Grow the knowledge base of esports science and train and upskill expertise in SHPRC members
  • Grow the inter and intra disciplinary team expertise in esports science


Theme 2 - Rugby Science

Rugby Science aim is to provide a mechanism to bring together the expertise of academics and professionals working in the game, sharing good Rugby science practice and enhancing the scientific study of the game to bridge the gap between research and practice where possible. The Irish Rugby Injury Surveillance (IRIS) Project is an active project within this theme, partnered with the national governing body for Rugby (IRFU). The project aims to enhance the health and welfare of Rugby Union players across the domestic game in Ireland by providing information on injury patterns that can impact on IRFU policy regarding injury prevention measures.


Irish Rugby Injury Surveillance


  • Provide rugby science and injury epidemiology research expertise to bridge the gap between clinical, coaching, and playing practices.
  • Establish a long-term academic partnership with the national governing body in Rugby Injury Science.


Theme 3 - Theme 3 - Athletics Science

This theme focuses on applications of science in athletics and related training activities. Currently, the ‘Feasibility Analysis of Sprint Start Technologies” (FAAST) Project is the key research being undertaken in this theme. The FASST project revisits the technology used to detect false starts in athletics which is currently based on starting block sensor technology. These sensor technologies have been used to detect false starts in athletics competitions since 1985, however research has demonstrated that the detection methods and determination of the 100 ms minimum response time are based on limited evidence. There is a clear need to provide a mapping of the sprint start response sequence, to develop new technologies to detect the athletes’ first response and provide new algorithms to automatically determine the first response with precision and high reliability. The FASST project seeks to develop new technologies based on the determination of hand force response times for the optimal determination of sprint start responses in competition and improve the objectivity and fairness in the event. To date, the research programme has generated two patents for the technology and a new event detection algorithm.


  • To provide technology that supports athletics officials in their endeavours to make the sprint start fair to all athletes.
  • To maximise objectivity in judgements of disqualification.
  • To provide the strongest possible scientific support for the application of World athletics competition rules.


Theme 4 - Weight Category Sport Science

The focus of the Weight Category Sport Science Research theme is to develop high quality applied and impactful research on weight category sports as well as other sports were body composition, nutrition and energy availability may play an important contributory factor in health, safety, wellbeing and performance.


  • Build on existing extensive research in Jockeys and expand the research programme and collaborative partnerships to include other weight category sports including light weight rowing, boxing and other combat sports.
  • To investigate and conduct research in other sports where body composition, nutrition and energy availability may play an important role in health, physiological function and performance.
  • Create additional national and international research collaborations and partnerships with researchers and national governing bodies.
  • Increase research funding, ISI research publications and the number of funded researchers in the weight category sports science research theme.
  • Conduct high quality applied research which provides an evidenced based approach to influencing and enhancing current and future policies and practices for improving the health safety and wellbeing of athletes in weight category sports.
  • Link with the other research themes in SHPRC and collaborate on strategic research initiatives where natural synergies exist.


Theme 5 – Endurance Sports Science

The focus of the Endurance Sports Science research theme is to develop high quality, applied and impactful research across endurance sports. This will involve multi-disciplinary research   collaborations across sports science disciplines with researchers and other key partners including sporting national governing bodies (NGBs). The aim of the Endurance Sport Science research theme is to enhance the health, well-being, training practice and performance of endurance athletes and coaches in Ireland through multi-disciplinary research.


  • Expand the current research programme, building additional national and international research collaborations and partnerships with NGBs.
  • Extend the boundaries of applied multi-disciplinary research in endurance sports.
  • Increase research funding, ISI publications and the number of funded researchers in endurance sports science.
  • Conduct high-quality, applied research that informs and enhances national and international policies and practices aimed at improving the health, well-being, and training practices of endurance sports athletes.


Funding and Collaboration
The members of the SHPRC have obtained more than €7.02 m in research funding since 2018 and have been successful in recruiting >20 Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarships. The members of the SHPRC have already established several industry, professional, national governing body and community links nationally and internationally to support the research activities of the research theme and facilitate outreach and translational research activity.


See a number of  Sport and Human Performance Research Activities reflected in the PESS Research Annual Report 2021


SHPRC Membership

Full details on how to join the SHPRC can be accessed here


View Sport and Human Performance Publications