Biosport Project

The Project

The project

The Biosport Project is a research and ethical debate project supported by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council.  Its official name is ‘Emerging intersections of biomedical technology and elite sport: institutions, practices and ethics’.

The Biosport project's official abstract on the Economic and Social Research Council website.

Aims and objectives

Bioscience and biotechnology are advancing and are impacting on elite sports medical, therapeutic and surgical practices, and elite sports are a major potential user of emerging techniques. The research aims to systematic ally investigate the intersections of these fields and their significance for sports and sports ethics, the biomedical economy and life science sector, and society more broadly. 

The project examines the development and application innovative biomedical technologies relevant especially to musculoskeletal injury. We are mapping emerging interactions between the elite sports of football (soccer) and cycling with biomedicine, with a UK focus. We seek to identify and assess  the effects of sports patronage and collaboration on biomedical innovations, and conversely, how biomedical research and innovation impact on elite sports and its athletes.  Second, we aim to clarify the ethical issues raised by these developments and how different groups within society and stakeholders understand and evaluate them.  Issues raised include the tensions between elite performance demands and athlete welfare, athlete health after retirement, and the 'human enhancement' debate, raised by some of the so-called ‘regenerative’ therapies.

Methods and data collection

The research uses several research and analysis methods. Football and cycling are taken as case studies, chosen partly because of their different injury profiles, sports organisations and funding regimes. Our ‘data’ are being collected via documents (journals; magazines), interviews and discussions with a wide range of participants and interested parties, and observations (e.g. at sports' medical and science conferences). Alongside this we are undertaking ethical analysis of current practices and policies, and are undertaking public discussions through interactive online debate (on this website) and focus groups to clarify issues of concern, and to inform and elicit public opinion and the views of groups such as retired players, medical and therapeutic practitioners, medical educators, club and team officials and sports authority members.

Biomedical technologies of interest include: biological techniques used in surgery, for example stem cells, growth factors and bio-scaffolds; platelet-rich plasma; prolotherapy; articular cartilage implantation (ACI)  and matrix-induced  ACI;  microfracture stimulation; viscosupplementation;  injectable bone materials; nutraceuticals and ketogenics;  nanoscopic materials.

The main intended beneficiaries of the research include:  policymakers and entrepreneurs in emerging innovative biomedicine sectors; - sports institutions, sports authorities, clubs and their medical and other advisers;  the general public and sports players both professional and amateur;  sports injury, diagnosis and rehabilitation providers and their planners and representative bodies;  educational institutions  and public sector research centres undertaking scientific and clinical research in molecular diagnostics and regenerative medicine in sports-related and musculoskeletal applications; educational institutions providing courses such as Sports Injury; and private and public intermediaries entering the sports injury, diagnostics, therapy and rehabilitation marketplace.

Research ethics: the project has formal ethical approval and we adhere to strict professional codes of conduct on confidentiality and anonymity in publications. We do not approach currently active named elite level professional players/performers.

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Alex Faulkner, Mike McNamee, Jon Gabe, Katie Coveney.