Engaging, empowering and leading with life-changing research

Our exercise science and sport research is designed to advance health improvements in a rapidly evolving health sector where the challenges of an ageing population and increasing burden of chronic disease will require the expertise you’ll be able to provide.

Research within the discipline covers the spectrum from chronic disease to elite performance. The discipline has three main areas of research focus and strength.

Musculoskeletal conditions

The main musculoskeletal conditions being investigated are lower limb osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, tendinopathy and various orthopaedic conditions. Ongoing research themes include the below.

Exercise for bone health

Team leader: Professor Belinda Beck

The work of members of the Bone Densitometry Research Laboratory is primarily related to the effects of mechanical loading on bone, with particular focuses on exercise or vibration interventions for the prevention of osteoporosis and fracture across the lifespan, as well as the prevention and management of bone stress injuries in the military.  The recently founded Bone Clinic, an innovative research facility and health service with a focus on safe and efficacious exercise for osteoporosis, has expanded our scope to translational research.  We have developed and validated a range of research methods including the determination of bone-relevant physical activity exposure, a calcium-specific diet questionnaire and various functional tests of muscle strength.  The laboratory is equipped with state of the art equipment, including bone densitometry, peripheral quantitative computed tomography and ultrasonametry with which we are able to quantify bone, muscle and fat in standard and novel applications.

The personalised digital human

Team Leaders: Professor David Lloyd, Dr Chris Carty and Dr David Saxby

The personalised digital human (PDH) is a set of statistical and mathematical models based on medical imaging and motion capture which can be used to investigate the mechanobiology of musculoskeletal tissues. Personalised models are used to compute localised tissue stresses and strains that take account of individual differences in structure, movement and muscle activation patterns. The PDH is a platform technology that underpins much of the groups work in prevention and treatment of a wide variety of musculoskeletal conditions.

Lower limb musculoskeletal conditions

Teams leaders: Dr David Saxby, Dr Laura Diamond, Professor David Lloyd and Professor Rod Barrett

We are fusing medical imaging and motion capture to create Personalised Digital Humans with subject-specific neuro-musculoskeletal rigid-body models to compute the muscle force boundary conditions and continuum models to estimate localised stresses and strains in musculoskeletal tissues such as cartilage and tendon.

Virtual paediatric surgery

Teams leaders: Dr Chris Carty, Dr David Saxby and Professor David Lloyd

We are currently using personalised neuromusculoskeletal models to understand the relative contributions of bone deformity, bone alignment and soft tissue restraints to movement impairment for children with cerebral palsy, patellofemoral instability and following a slipped capital femoral epiphysis, and to plan virtual orthopaedic surgery.

Assistive rehabilitation devices

Team leaders: Dr Claudio Pizzolato and Professor David Lloyd

We are simulating the complex interaction between human and machine using real-time implementations of the Personalised Digital Human-driven by EMG and IMUs to create intuitive controllers and biofeedback for assistive rehabilitation devices.

Facilities

  • Two motion capture laboratories (12 Camera Vicon MX systems, force plates)
  • Instrumented treadmills
  • Wireless EMG systems (Zerowire)
  • Wireless IMU systems (Noraxon)
  • Peripheral Quantitative Computed Tomography (pQCT)
  • Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA)
  • Ultrasound systems (2D, 3D, elastography)
  • Computational and medical image processing software (Matlab, C/C++, Mimics, OpenSim, Vicon Nexus, CMISS, CEINMS)
  • Isokinetic dynamometers (Biodex)
  • 6DOF robotic test machine
  • High-performance computer clusters
  • 3D printers (multi-metal, polymer and biological)

Collaborators

Orthopaedic Surgeons
Academic
  • Menzies Health Institute Queensland
  • Advanced Design and Manufacturing (ADAM) Institute
  • Auckland Bioengineering Institute
  • University of Western Australia
  • University of Melbourne
Lead researchers
PhD candidates
  • Arachchi, Shanika
  • Armstrong, Ellen
  • Barzan, Martina
  • Brierty, Alexis
  • Cerrito, Adrien
  • Davico, Giorgio
  • Devanaboyina, Pavan Teja
  • Devaprakash, Daniel
  • Fischbacher, Melanie
  • Harding, Amy
  • Higgs, Jeremy
  • Killen, Bryce
  • Lambert, Conor
  • Nasseri, Azadeh
  • Pahl, Rebecca
  • Savage, Trevor
  • Suwarganda, Edin
  • Watson, Steven
  • Wong, Joseph
Recent graduates
  • Dr Hoa Hoang
  • Dr Peter Bishop
  • Dr Leila Nuri
  • Dr Wencke Hansen
  • Dr Gavin Lenton
  • Dr Maria Constantinou
  • Dr Aderson Louriero
  • Dr Steven Obst
  • Dr Jason Konrath
  • Dr David Graham
  • Dr Simao Brito da Luz
Industry
  • QScan
  • The Bone Clinic
  • Phillips Healthcare
  • Noraxon
  • Orthocell
  • Materialise
  • Australian Institute of Sport
  • Ossur
  • Arthrex
  • Anatomics
  • Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital
  • Global Orthopaedics
  • Stryker
  • Defence Science Technology Group (DSTG), Australian Department of Defence

Physiology of exercise in health and disease

The Physiology research group comprises three main research laboratories: the Physiology of Exercise Research Laboratories (including Clinical Exercise Testing), Neural Control of Movement Research Laboratory and Biorheology Research Laboratory. The group encompasses a broad field of basic and applied research. Research themes include the below.

Cardiovascular, respiratory and metabolic health

We have established track records in research relating to cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, exercise and healthy ageing, the mechanisms of dyspnea and breathing mechanics, and exercise and cardiovascular function. The use of innovative and state-of-the-art measurement techniques such as ultrasonography and magnetic resonance imaging underpin many areas of our research. Our work traverses basic, laboratory-based studies, clinical trials and applied field research. Current areas of interest are: i) how acute and chronic exercise influences cardiovascular health and function; ii) investigating the relationships between systemic vascular function and the properties of blood (haemorheology – see Biorheology theme); iii) developing and interrogating models of exercise metabolism, fatigue and performance; iv) exercise and the environment (heat and altitude); v) understanding and managing exertional breathlessness; vi) heart-lung interactions in pulmonary artery hypertension.

Biorheology

Our team explores the physical properties of blood, and associated signalling processes, in response to mechanical and chemical stimulation. Applications of our research include: i) effects of acute and chronic exercise for modulating blood fluidity; ii) how chronic cardiometabolic disorders (e.g., diabetes; heart failure; sleep apnoea) influence primary determinants of microcirculatory function; and iii) how mechanical and oxidative stresses – which occur in mechanical circulatory support (e.g., cardiopulmonary bypass) – induce sublethal damage to blood, and potential implications for tissue perfusion. Our facility is the most equipped of its kind in the southern hemisphere, and we collaborate extensively with local and national leaders in medicine, engineering, and physiology. Recent and exciting developments include our first mapping of erythrocyte tolerance to mechanical stress, which may explain complications associated with mechanical circulatory support. We are also developing new methods for measuring physical properties of blood, and investigating blood conditioning devices to be used in clinical practice.

Neural Control of Movement

Researchers in the Neural Control of Movement Laboratory employ a range of techniques to study neural activity from the motor cortex to the muscle. There are three main themes in the NCM group: 1) how central and peripheral fatigue impairs the ability to activate muscles, 2) how neurotransmitters in the central nervous system influence the way that humans generate movement, and 3) how physiological and pathological tremor is generated. Together, each of these themes allow our researchers to develop exercise programs and pharmacological therapies to assist people who suffer from movement disorders.

Facilities

Physiology of Exercise Research Laboratories

Metabolic/Pulmonary/Stress: MGC Diagnostics Ultima CardiO2, MGC Diagnostics Ultima PFX (with Metabolic Hood), Cosmed Quark CPET, Cortex Metamax 3B, GE Case Stress System, oesophageal pressure balloons and pressure transducers, Bergström (4 & 6 mm) and micro- biopsy needles.

Ergometry: Lode Excalibur Sport, Lode Corival, Lode Angio, GE Echo-Bike, Trackmaster TM-425 treadmill, GE T2100 treadmill, Monark 828E & 874E cycle ergometers, handgrip & plantarflexion ergometers.

Thermometry: Core (esophageal, rectal, ingestible telemetry) and skin temperature probes, sweat capsules, thermal chamber.

Haemodynamics: Oxymon NIRS (8-channel), MoorVMS Laser Doppler Flowmeter (2-channel), Sphygmocor Xcel, Finometer PRO, Nelcor Pulse Oximeters, Hokansen Rapid Cuff-inflators, strain gauges (plethysmography).

Imaging: GE Vivid E9 (with Echopac), GE Logiqbook, Vascular Research Tools (MIA-LLC), Cardiovascular Suite (Quipu). Exercise cardiac MRI in conjunction with The Prince Charles Hospital, Richard Slaughter Centre for Cardiac MRI.

Data acquisition: Powerlab (32-channel + Octal Bioamp + Quad Bridgeamp), Biopac (16-channel).

Biorheology Research Laboratory

Our laboratory is equipped to interrogate blood at various scales – whole blood, cell population-level, single cell – and analyse the physical and signalling mechanisms at cellular and subcellular levels. We routinely measure electrical charge of cells (electrophoretic mobility), biophysical properties of single cells (micropipette methods), signalling pathways within blood cells (immunofluorescence), and a comprehensive suite of dynamic physical process within blood samples. Our facilities include:

Cellular deformability & osomotic susceptibility: Laser Optical Rotational Cell Analyser, Mechatronics. Single cell analyses using micropipette aspiration and manipulation. We are currently developing an in-line ektacytometer for use in standardised flow loops

Erythrocyte aggregation: Light-Transmission & laser-backscatter methods (Myrenne & LORCA). We are currently developing a portable device for point-of-care measurements.

Fluid viscosity: Brookfield Cone-Plate DV-II+Pro Viscometer; Haake Rolling Ball Viscometer.

Analytics: Beckman FC500 Flow Cytometer; Beckman Coulter DXH600 haematology analyser; BMG Labtech FLUOstar Omega (fluorescent).

Imaging:  Olympus IX73 Inverted Fluorescent Microscope with Optimos High Speed Camera.

Data acquisition: National Instruments modular system for pressure and flow.

Neural Control of Movement Research Laboratory

MagStim BiStim2 Transcranial Magnetic Stimulators (MagStim Ltd, UK) with figure-of-eight and circular stimulating coils.

Digitimer DS7AH constant current stimulators (Digitimer Ltd, UK) for peripheral nerve or direct muscle stimulation.

A Delsys dEMG system for assessment of motor unit recruitment and discharge rate (Delsys Inc, USA), and modular NeuroLog systems (Digitimer Ltd, UK) for intramuscular and surface EMG acquisition.

OptiTrack 3D motion analysis system (NaturalPoint Inc, USA) with 8 infrared cameras.

Multiple software packages for data acquisition and analysis including Spike2, Signal (CED Ltd, UK), EMGworks (Delsys Inc, USA), Matlab (MathWorks, USA) and Labview (National Instruments, USA).

A range of high sensitivity torque transducers and accelerometers (X-Trans, Transducer Techniques, PT, Crossbow, Coulbourn) for assessing fine motor control of the upper and lower limbs.

Collaborators

Institutions
  • The Mayo Clinic, USA
  • Harvard Medical School, USA
  • Centre for Brain Research and Rehabilitation, Old Dominion University, USA
  • University of Southern California, USA
  • German Sport University Cologne, Germany
  • Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, USA
  • Menzies Health Institute Queensland
  • Menzies Institute of Medical Research
  • University of Tasmania
  • The University of Sydney
  • Gold Coast University Hospital (Cardiology, Respiratory Medicine, Intensive Care, Community Health)
  • The Prince Charles Hospital (Thoracic Medicine, Richard Slaughter Centre for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Heart and Lung Transplant, Intensive Care)
  • Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital
PhD candidates
  • Balmain, Bryce
  • Horobin, Jarod
  • Leo, Jeffrey
  • McNamee, Antony
  • Whitman, Mark
  • Lin, Aaron
  • Edwards, Natalie
  • Kathrada, Aneesa
  • Westgarth, Matthew
  • Adsett, Julie Anne
  • Kwiatkowski, Sharon Leanne
  • Franks, Lisa
  • Research Masters/Honours
  • Taylor, Georgia
  • Kuck, Lennart
  • Kelly, Bec
  • Bent, Zavier
  • Terreros, Juan Manuel Arrieta
  • O'Connor, Lauren
  • Peasey, Maureen Michelle
  • Baker, Amanda
  • Brotherton, Emily
  • Delahunty, Eden
  • Thorstensen, Jacob
  • Smith, Kristen
  • Mckeown, Daniel
  • Richardson, Kieren
  • Burton, Kate
Industry

Actelion Pharmaceuticals

Sports physiology and performance

Sports physiology and performance covers three main areas of research, expanding into the field of training, nutrition and environment. With strong partnerships in industry and state-of-the-art equipment this area of research is advancing rapidly.

Training, nutrition, environment

Sports physiology and performance research investigates the manipulation of training, nutrition, and the environment of elite athletes to be able to provide the optimal stimulus for adaptation, performance, and recovery. We underpin our research with robust mechanisms to understand the response to exercise and interface with new technologies to provide cutting edge applications in elite sports performance. We have successfully demonstrated the use of dietary supplements such as caffeine, sodium bicarbonate, and beta alanine to improve performance during severe-intensity exercise. Also we have examined performance outcomes, cognitive function, and immunological responses to severe-intensity exercise in hypoxic and hot environments.

Female sports performance

For several years now, we have maintained an important focus on the unique responses to exercise and adaptations to training in women. Our findings in the area of female athletic performance have gained momentum and recent attention from elite sports teams. We are currently examining the effect of natural (natural menstrual cycle) and synthetic (hormonal contraceptives) female sex-hormones on the response to exercise and training, elite performance, injury prevalence, and recovery. Our research group is committed to identifying performance barriers specific to women, and enabling the implementation of female-specific strategies. Our projects in the area of female sports performance have brought together new, and strengthened existing, collaborations between our research groups and other university and industry partners.

Sports performance analysis

We use commercially available products (i.e., video analysis and athlete tracking systems) to collect data about the movement demands of various sports including: Australian-rules football, Rugby League Football, Football (Soccer), to provide sports scientist and coaches with meaningful data about the physical and physiological demands of the sport. These data are then used to help understand how the integration of new training, nutritional, and/or environmental interventions can be applied to improve adaptations, performance and recovery. We are currently designing a new metric that is hoped to be integrated into a commercially available GPS product to better understand fatigue in football.

Facilities

  • Griffith Sports Physiology laboratory
  • Strength-training gym
  • IAAF accredited synthetic athletics track and field facility
  • FINA accredited 50-m Swimming pool

Equipment

  • Parvo metabolic, CosMed, CosMed K4 metabolic measurement system
  • Woodway, HP Cosmos treadmillsVelotron, WattBike cycle ergometers
  • VASA swim-bench, Concept II rowing ergometers
  • VX Sport GPS system
  • CR3000, Gymaware, Lactate Pro 2
  • Biodex isokinetic dynamometer
  • Olympic lifting platforms

Collaborators

Industry
  • Gold Coast Football Club - WiL, Research, Service
  • Gold Coast TITANS - WiL, Research, Service
  • Brisbane Roar Football Club - WiL, Research, Service
  • Manly Warringah Sea Eagles - Research
  • Swimming Australia Limited - Research
  • Ghent University, Professor Wim Derave (Adjunct Professor, Griffith University) - Research
  • Australian Institute of Sport Dr Tom Vandenbogaerde (Adjunct Lecturer, Griffith University) - Research
  • Queensland Academy of Sport - Research
  • Commonwealth Games Federation - Research
Community Engagement
  • Southport Sharks
  • Robina Roos Australian Rules Football Club
  • The Southport School
Lead researchers
PhD candidates
  • Ferris, Daniel
  • Griffin, Jesse
  • Mallett, Adam
  • Morrison, Jaime
  • Quinn, Karlee
  • Wells, Matthew
Research Masters
  • Tim Newans
  • Mitchell Whalen
  • Nathan Ashworth