Jump to Content

Media Release

September 27 2007

UniSA gets under the skin to measure elite performance in sport

UniSA to develop new bio-diagnostic device to measure elite performance. Photo courtesy of The AustralianIt’s an old sporting term that the “one percenters” are what count in elite competition – well imagine if you could measure the biological and metabolic variables that make up good, better and best athletic performances while the competition was on.

A new $700,000 research project being undertaken at UniSA in partnership with Citech Research Pty Ltd is aiming to develop an implantable bio-diagnostic device that will provide real-time biological feedback on human metabolism as an athlete is training or competing.

Project leader from UniSA’s Ian Wark Research Institute, Professor Clive Prestidge says while the immediate application is for elite Australian athletes, once perfected the technology could have defence and civilian applications aimed at monitoring health and well being in a range of settings – from the battlefield to nursing homes.

The three year project has won support from the Australian Research Council under its Linkage Grant program for industry-partnered research and will draw together UniSA researchers in nanotechnology and biomedical engineering from The Wark and the Mawson Institute.

Industry partner and award-winning Adelaide based enterprise, Citech, has been a pioneer in the development of new biostats monitoring technologies with the development of a stick-on patch which can measure ECG, heart rate, body temperature, respiration and dehydration factors.

Professor Prestidge says the leap forward with the new research is to be able to deliver a system that will monitor lactate and other key performance-indicating biomarkers such as cortisol, estradiol, prolactin (PRL) and testosterone during training or competition in real-time.

Excessive lactate in the body can cause muscle damage in athletes and the rate at which an individual can clear lactate from the body is a strong indicator of recovery for athletes. Even with portable blood testing equipment the turnaround time between taking blood samples and getting results is an hour or more and each time a measure is taken it requires taking a new blood sample.

“The real-time factor is what will make this new technology so invaluable,” Prof Prestidge says.

“The project will involve the development of a highly sensitive biosensor platform able to detect and measure the different biomarkers. Then we need to develop an implantable version that is minimally invasive and a remote sensing system to feed the collected data back,” he says.

“It is a complex project that will rely on strong expertise in surface chemistry, biomedical science, micro electronics and computing and wireless technologies and that makes it particularly exciting.

“In the end we will have developed a prototype that will allow athletes and coaches to hone athletic performance even more finely and protect athletes form avoidable injuries by detecting vulnerabilities as they occur.

“The fact that the technology perfected in this project has potential for broader health applications is a real bonus.”

Congratulating the grant recipients UniSA Vice Chancellor, Professor Peter Høj and Pro Vice Chancellor Research, Professor Caroline McMillen, said the University was continuing to build its research capacity across a range of key research strengths including health and public health, particles science and surface chemistry, biomedical engineering, advanced manufacturing, sociology, psychology and IT development.

"In the past three years we have seen UniSA grow in research strength, including drawing new funding support from agencies such as the NHMRC and enhanced ongoing investment from the ARC to support a broader base for our research efforts," Prof Høj said.

"It is always exciting to see this kind of growth in research capacity, not only because it rewards the ongoing efforts of individual researchers and their teams, but because it is great for the innovative capacity and quality of life in Australia.”

More information about more of UniSA’s latest successful research grants is available online

Contact for interview

Media contact