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Impact of Brunel University's research on London 2012 highlighted in new report


A revolutionary training product conceived and developed at Brunel University has been included in a new report showcasing the impact of universities on the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and on UK sport in general.

Released as part of Universities Week (30 April – 7 May), the report aims to increase public awareness of the wide and varied role of the UK’s universities, and describes some of the ways in which research has helped Team GB prepare for London 2012. Professor Alison McConnell’s research into breathing training and the resulting development of the POWERbreathe® device, which is now widely used by elite athletes, is highlighted in the report.

As little as 10 years ago breathing training was not considered to be an essential part of athlete preparation, but recent advances in our understanding of respiratory limitation in exercise performance have reversed this view. The research conducted by Professor McConnell and her team at Brunel began with studies to record the physiological and performance effects of breathing training on athletes and patients, and understand the underlying mechanisms behind these effects. The resulting insights led to the development of new training products and protocols.

In 1994 Professor McConnell launched the first breathing training product for sports people, and since then POWERbreathe® has created a new market in the sports sector for breathing training, underpinned by her research. POWERbreathe® is a simple mechanical device that helps athletes to train and strengthen the diaphragm and thus improve their breathing. It has been used by Olympic and World Champions, including England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup winners (as well as their Australian rivals in the final), and is also increasingly employed in medical setting to treat patients with breathlessness.

Working with colleagues in the School of Engineering and Design, and with POWERbreathe® International Ltd., a revolutionary new product has recently been developed through Knowledge Transfer Partnerships. The POWERbreathe® K-Series was launched in 2011, and is already in use in a multicentre international trial of inspiratory muscle training in patients with lung disease. Professor McConnell commented: “POWERbreathe’s® latest product innovation has been a great team effort, and is a fine example of universities working collaboratively with industry to bring good ideas out of the lab and into people’s lives”.

Professor McConnell’s research exemplifies the report’s focus on how research taking place at universities across the UK is helping to benefit not only elite athletes but also UK society as a whole. Entitled Supporting a UK success story: the impact of university research and sport development, the report highlights research areas ranging from physical endurance to urban regeneration, and examines exploration and development in the areas of technology, health and wellbeing, design, sport development and participation.

Chief Executive of Universities UK Nicola Dandridge said:  “It is sometimes easy to forget when you watch an athlete or team compete just how much preparation has gone into their performance.  This isn’t simply a question of training schedules and practice. These days, cutting-edge university research is used to support every aspect of Olympic sports – from nutrition and health to equipment, physiotherapy, rehabilitation and of course performance.”

Find out more

Copies of the full report are available on request from universitiesweek@fourcommunications.com and for download from www.universitiesweek.org.uk

To find out more about Universities Week visit www.universitiesweek.org.uk or join the debate on Twitter via #UniWeek and #BUCSChamps.

Watch UK sports stars include Brunel University graduate Perri Shakes-Drayton discuss the importance of a university education: www.youtube.com/universitiesweek2012

Watch Alison McConnell discuss her teaching and research: http://youtu.be/qelK5NS6h5A

Notes to editors

For media enquires please contact Sarah Reardon or Susie Dullard on 020 3023 9934 /9035 or email universitiesweek@fourcommunications.com.

About Universities Week 2012

Universities Week is a partnership between Universities UK, the representative organisation for the UK’s universities, and BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport), the national governing body for higher education sport in the UK. It is supported by universities across the UK and a wide range of organisations including Podium, the National Union of Students, Research Councils UK, the Universities Marketing Forum, the Higher Education Funding Council for England and many more.