Sports scientists team up with West Ham to enhance footballers’ post-match recovery

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Premier League football club West Ham United is tapping into the knowledge and expertise of Swansea University academics and postgraduate students to help professional footballers’ post-match recovery.

‎‎Dr Liam Kilduff of Swansea University’s Research Centre in Applied Sports, Technology, Exercise and Medicine (A-STEM), Eamon Swift, Head of Sports Science and Matt Evans, Assistant Sports Scientist at West Ham United, and current Swansea University MSc student Tom Taylor have collaborated on a project which integrates a new recovery method into players’ recovery management practices post-game.

West Ham collaborationThe significance of this new study is highlighted by previous research, which has shown that players can take up to four days to fully recover following a competitive game and that during intense competition periods, players may be required to play five games in a two-week window.

Dr Liam Kilduff (pictured), who is based within the University’s College of Engineering, said: “Studies have highlighted that high-intensity running, sprinting, and change of direction are the main components of the game that impact on the physiological recovery of players.

Dr Liam Kilduff“The study we have just completed with West Ham use well established markers of recovery to examine how a new recovery strategy – based on increased muscle blood flow – may aid players’ recovery.

“Preliminary findings in rugby players have shown this technique to have a potential role in the recovery process, especially when coupled with the travel demands placed on professional athletes in the modern game.

“We already have a strong relationship with West Ham, with three of our Sports Science graduates now working at the club. Hopefully this relationship – built on collaboration and knowledge exchange – will continue to develop in the future to benefit the players, the club, and Swansea sports science research.”

Eamon Swift, who along with West Ham colleague Matt Evans is a Swansea Sports Science graduate, said: “Player recovery is a key area in professional football and one that we have been looking at for a number of years.

“When MSc student Tom Taylor joined us as an intern and the opportunity arose to work with Dr Liam Kilduff on a project of this nature, we were obviously very keen to be involved.

“Swansea University’s reputation in elite sport research is second to none – the research Dr Kilduff and his colleagues at A-STEM conduct has real impact in our environment.

“We feel this recovery strategy has great potential in our environment in particular around periods of intense scheduling and travel demands. A number of our senior players have reported back to me that they feel the recovery method has aided in their post-game recovery.”

MSc student Tom Taylor, who is with West Ham as an intern during the 2012-2013 season, added: “After completing my undergraduate Sports Science degree at Swansea, I decided to apply to study for an MSc degree and Dr Kilduff assisted me with securing an internship at West Ham United alongside my studies.

“I chose to focus on recovery in professional football players because after discussions with Eamon Swift, it was clear this was an area we felt we could make a real difference to the players’ preparation.

“The internship and the opportunity to work on this collaborative research project have allowed me to work with two world-class sports science teams. It has been an excellent experience and it has most definitely enhanced my skills and employability prospects for the future.”

Image caption: Left to right, Tom Taylor (Swansea University MSc student), Eamon Swift (Head of Sports Science, West Ham Utd), and Matt Evans (Assistant Sports Scientist, West Ham Utd).