Chelsea FC’s sport scientist joins ACU for PhD

A juggernaut premier league team like Chelsea Football Club doesn't expect to receive cutting-edge advice on managing its player workloads from halfway across the world yet it has turned to ACU’s team of internationally recognised sports scientists to do just that.

Chelsea FC’s first team sport scientist Chris Searle, who has been with the club for the past eight years, has joined ACU’s SPRINT research centre as a PhD candidate.

It follows his completion of ACU’s Master of High Performance Sport online where he undertook a three-day intensive course at Leeds Trinity in the UK.

It was here he met Associate Professor Rich Johnston, now his PhD supervisor, and other ACU colleagues.

When deciding to undertake a PhD project, he was drawn to the work completed by the SPRINT research team and its reputation in managing the health and wellbeing of elite athletes.

His role at Chelsea FC involves managing and reporting on player workloads to a range of coaching, physical performance, and medical staff.

SPRINT Researcher Associate Professor Rich Johnston said Chelsea FC are keen to hone their workload monitoring – ensuring that it was informed by evidence. The research will directly influence how they manage player workloads across the season.

“Chris will examine the metrics collected using wearable microtechnology including GPS and heart rate and the relationship to measurements of oxygen uptake,” Associate Professor Johnston said.

“This will be investigated during a football drill designed to simulate movements which occur during training and competition.’’

The research will investigate which metrics commonly used in training load monitoring have the strongest relationship to oxygen uptake and how this varies at different exercise intensities. It will also examine these metrics within regular training and competition in elite football players.

These metrics will be examined across different training drills and in relation to contextual variables which occur during competition.

Chris recently visited ACU’s Brisbane campus to complete the data collection for one part of his PhD research.

This involved recruiting participants who regularly take part in team sport. Participants had to wear a COSMED K5 portable gas analyser, GPS unit and a heart rate unit.

They completed a football simulation activity circuit including sprinting, change of direction, jogging, walking at various intensities as well as a maximal sprint test and fitness test.

Data collected will be used to guide how GPS information is used within elite team sport - to understand what the metrics provided by this technology reveal about the work completed by elite athletes.

This will impact the way in which training and competition load monitoring is completed within an elite sport setting to enhance performance.

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