Archives for posts with tag: Team GB

Some Paralympic athletes with spinal injuries use a technique called ‘boosting’ to improve their performance. This uses pain or discomfort to make their blood pressure jump higher – even as extreme as intentionally breaking a toe. This triggers autonomic dysreflexia (AD), which can be dangerous, and could even cause a stroke. The technique is banned, and will be monitored by checking blood pressure in people who look unwell.

Paralympic Games 29 Aug – 9 Sept

Stephen Hawking, the world-renowned theoretical physicist has opened the Paralympic Games at the age of 70, nearly 50 years after he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a form of motor neurone disease, and given just a few years to live. His narration included the words to inspire scientists and potential scientists: “Look up at the stars, and not down at your feet.”

Paralympic Games 29 Aug – 9 Sept

It’s the last day of London 2012, and Mo Farah is presumably still celebrating his 5,000 m win, coming only a week after the 10,000 m win, making him the first man to win both golds for Team GB. So, what’s behind the science of running? Exercise triggers the release of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). As BDNF helps the brain develop, it’s possible that as we evolved and began to pursue prey over long distances on foot, then the increased levels led to us developing bigger brains. So – exercise can keep your brain fit as well as your body!

Olympic Games 27 July – 12 August

Gender testing at the Olympics is controversial and complex because gender is complex. The rules on gender testing were originally brought in to prevent men competing in women’s events. Tests have previously used hair patterns, genes and chromosomes, or other factors, but these all have issues, and at this year’s Olympics, eligibility testing has been based on testosterone levels. Women generally have testosterone levels of somewhere below 3 nanomoles per litre, and the IOC is using the range of 7-30 nanomoles per litre (the normal male range). This takes the focus away from gender, pushing it towards the unfair advantage that the higher levels of testosterone would offer. However, this may still be unethical, as women with androgen insensitivity may have increased levels but cannot make use of the hormone.

Olympic Games 27 July – 12 August

So, are Olympic athletes genetically better at sport? According to an article in Nature, “almost every male Olympic sprinter and power athlete ever tested carries the 577R allele, a variant of the gene ACTN3“. This gene is expressed in skeletal muscle fibre and could have an effect on athletic performance – in total, more than 200 genes have been linked with athletic performance, including variants that improve endurance, or increase the numbers of red blood cells, so upping oxygen carrying capabilities in the blood. Read more on genetics at the Olympics in Genome Engineering.

London 2012 unveils anti-doping laboratory with laboratory service providers GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and laboratory operators King's College London

Source: London 2012

Olympic Games 27 July – 12 August

According to a piece on the BBC News website, Olympic cycling has taught us five science lessons…

  1. Slipstreaming saves energy – the cyclist in front uses about a third more energy than the one behind
  2. The centripetal force in a flat circular track would make it hard for cyclists to stay on track – so the velodrome is an oval and is banked
  3. Aerodynamics is important – by making themselves small, wearing sleek helmets and by riding bikes with solid wheels, the cyclists cut wind resistance
  4. Muscle makes a difference – cyclists build up different kinds of muscles for sprint (fast twitch muscle) and endurance cycling (slow twitch muscle)
  5. High tech clothing helps – once piece suits are designed not to soak up sweat and to smooth air flows

Olympic Games 27 July – 12 August

In the 2008 Olympics, Beijing managed to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 24,000 metric tons per day compared with the previous year. If this could be maintained, and if other large industrial cities did the same, this could make a big impact on global warming. During the Beijing Olympics, these reductions in air pollution were associated with improvements in biomarkers of systemic inflammation and thrombosis in young people (read the abstract).

Olympic Games 27 July – 12 August

Some of the Olympic venue sites have been cleaned up using bioremediation as part of one of the world’s largest brownfield regeneration projects. Brownfield sites are previous industrial sites and include the Aquatic Centre, where the ground was contaminated with lubricating oil. The process used indigenous microbes to aerobically biodegrade the oil, supported with REGENESIS’ Advanced Oxygen Release Compound, which released oxygen over 12 months.

Olympic Games 27 July – 12 August

According to a paper in British Journal of Sports Medicine, asthma and airway hyper-responsiveness (AHR) are the most common chronic diseases in Olympic athletes over the past five Olympic games, affecting around 8%. This could be caused by the intense training, perhaps supported by the fact that those athletes with asthma and AHR beat their colleagues.

Olympic Games 27 July – 12 August

Luc Fusaro, a French engineering and design student, has design a shoe that can be printed using a 3D printer. These  could be tailored to an athlete and the designer believes that it could shave 3.5% off a runner’s time.

Olympic Games 27 July – 12 August

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