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Title: Modelling the effect of technology on elite sport
Author: Foster, Leon Ian
Awarding Body: Sheffield Hallam University
Current Institution: Sheffield Hallam University
Date of Award: 2012
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Sporting equipment, and its associated set of rules, is used to facilitate athletic competition. As a result, sports technologies inevitably influence sporting performance. The level of this influence is dependent on the mode of technology used, as well as the type of sport in question. This study aims to model sporting performance, gauging the extent to which particular improvements can be attributed to technology. This information should assist in rule-setting by governing bodies regarding the use of technology in their respective sports. Yearly top-25 performances were collected for men’s and women’s sporting events from 1891. These were validated using a number of different sources. Historic trends of the mean performance were plotted, revealing that there have been many anomalous rises and falls in performance, set against an underlying improvement trend. The periods of World Wars I and I) are associated with a fall in performance. To avoid the data being skewed, performances from the period 1948 to 2010 were chosen to be examined in this study. A performance improvement index (Pll) was found to be a useful tool with which to normalise changes in athletic performance across different sports, and to allow for comparisons. The Pll was applied to running performances using 1948 as a baseline. An exponential function was then used to model the underlying improvement. This global improvement function was augmented with additional functions to account for the various interventions witnessed in each sport. In order to select functions to be applied, key dates of interventions were found from the literature. A manual stepwise fitting procedure was used to assess the appropriateness of selected functions, and a final model specified for each event. This method was applied to 88 different men's and women's events, in four separate sporting disciplines; running, field, freestyle swimming and speed skating. Technology was found to be one of many interventions influencing performance; others included the increasing participation of different global populations within international sport, and the impact of the Olympic Games. It was found that from 1948 the maximum performance improvement ranged from 11.0% in the men’s long jump, to 138.4% in the women’s 3,000 m speed skating. The median improvement across all sports examined was 46.2%. These improvements can be attributed to underlying factors, such as developments in training techniques and globalisation. The greatest effect of technology was seen in long course speed skating, which showed an average technological influence of 80.0 % (mostly due to the introduction of clap-skates). Running demonstrated a negative influence from technology, with an average effect of -1.1 % (due to the introduction of fully automated timing), Overall women’s performance has been found to display a greater influence from technology than men’s. Performance-enhancing drugs were found to improve performance, but the impact of these appears to have declined in recent years. In conclusion, technology has played a major role in the development of athletic performance, but has not been the dominant factor. Historically, gains in performance due to technology can be seen to have had a lesser impact on performance, with gains obscured by the natural development of the sport. However, any technological changes occurring towards the end of the natural evolution of sport are likely become more prominent, and their effects more significant. This means that in order to keep sports fair, the regulation of technology in sport should become more relevant than ever before.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available