U of T's Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KPE) has extended its partnership with the Canadian Sport Institute Ontario (CSIO) to support Ontario’s top athletes while providing hands-on experience in applied sport science for students and researchers.
Working alongside leading scientists and researchers, the partnership will allow students to perform tests, ranging from biomechanical analyses with underwater cameras to aerobic endurance tests on top Canadian athletes.
Professor Ira Jacobs, dean of KPE, sees the partnership as a natural extension of U of T’s commitment to generating and disseminating knowledge across the entire physical activity spectrum, including high performance sport.
“This is a great experiential learning chance for students,” says Jacobs. “We are fortunate to be able to work with CSIO to help train the next generation of scientists while bringing our unique perspective, experiences and research skills to help the region’s best athletes succeed on the international stage.”
KPE has community partnerships with over 150 organizations, with 220 students in placements per year at the undergraduate level alone. At the graduate level, an additional 30 students from the master of professional kinesiology program are in placements each year.
Erica Gavel is in her first year of a master’s degree in exercise physiology under the supervision of KPE Professor Scott Thomas. She has been working on a project at CSIO to increase athletes' performance in the heat.
“When people exercise in the heat, their core temperature goes higher and when it gets to a certain point, it sends a signal to the brain to tell the body to slow down,” she says. “My research is looking into changing the perception of your brain of how hot you actually are to increase performance.”
Gavel has a special interest in helping athletes improve performance. An athlete herself, she plays wheelchair basketball for Team Canada and has competed in the 2014 World Championships, the 2015 Parapan Am Games in Toronto and the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“I was fortunate enough to go to Rio in 2016, so I understand how the environment can influence people at those major games,” she says. “At the end of the day, the difference between a gold, silver and bronze medal can be a hundredth of a second. With Tokyo 2020 coming up, also in a hot environment, I’m trying to help athletes improve their performance when they’re competing in extremely hot conditions.”
Fourth year KPE student Adam Pinos worked on several projects at CSIO, including examining the validity and reliability of Inertial Measure Units (IMUs) for tracking trunk flexion in wheelchair athletes. Naomi Maldonado Rodriguez, also in her fourth year, researched acute physiological responses to sprint training in high altitudes.
CSIO is part of a national network of sport centres that provide personal and professional services to high performance athletes and coaches, including access to experts in a variety of areas, from trainers to chiropractors and sport psychologists.
“We are extremely excited and honoured to continue our partnership with the University of Toronto,” said Debbie Low, CSIO’s chief executive officer. “Our experience with U of T staff and students has enabled us to develop future world-class sport scientists that will push boundaries and help to propel Canadian athletes to podium performances.”