Ergonomics in Sport and Physical Activity: Enhancing Performance and Improving Safety

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Ergonomics in Sport and Physical Activity: Enhancing Performance and Improving Safety is the first text to provide an in-depth discussion of how the principles of ergonomics can be applied in the context of sport and other physical activities to reduce injury and improve performance. The text blends concepts from biomechanics, physiology, and psychology as it shows how ergonomics is applied to physical activity.


This comprehensive text outlines methods for assessing risk in and procedures for dealing with stress, eliminating hazards, and evaluating challenges posed in specific work or sport environments. It discusses issues such as the design of effective equipment, clothing, and playing surfaces; methods of assessing risk in situations; and staying within appropriate training levels to reduce fatigue and avoid overtraining. The text not only examines sport ergonomics but also discusses ergonomic considerations for physically active special populations.


 Ergonomics in Sport and Physical Activity explains what ergonomics is, how ergonomists solve practical problems in the workplace, and how principles of ergonomics are applied in the context of sport and other physical activities when solving practical problems related to human characteristics and capabilities. The text shows readers how to improve performance, achieve optimal efficiency, enhance comfort, and reduce injuries by exploring topics such as these:

  • Essential concepts, terms, and principles of ergonomics and how these relate to physical activity
  • Physical properties of the body and the factors limiting performance
  • Interactions between the individual, the task, and the environment
  • Injury risk factors in relation to body mechanics in various physical activities
  • Injury prevention and individual protection in the review of sports equipment and sports environments
  • Comfort, efficiency, safety, and details of systems criteria in equipment design


This research-based text uses numerous practical examples, figures, charts, and graphs to bring the material to life. In addition, descriptions of technological advances show where we have been and how technology has advanced the field. Through the book’s discussion of the various stressors and adaptive mechanisms, readers will learn how to cope with various environmental conditions. They will also learn how various training modes can be used to alter sport-specific capabilities and enhance performance.


Presenting a wide range of approaches, theoretical models, and analytical techniques, Ergonomics in Sport and Physical Activity: Enhancing Performance and Improving Safety illustrates the potential for ergonomics to be extended across recreation, competitive sport, and physically active work environments. Bridging the gap between ergonomics and exercise science, this unique text will assist both health care and exercise professionals in developing an improved awareness of how human capabilities are best matched to physical activities.


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Editorial Reviews

Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: Ted Scheck, BA, MS, Certified, G&T(Sidener Academy for High Ability Students)
Description: The book tackles head-on the concept of the human operator (the athlete) at the center of the sports ergonomic model, with the athlete interfacing with an array of equipment to maximize his energy and his use of both forces and environment to achieve his immediate or long-term goal.
Purpose: The introduction maps out the major areas of thought; a laundry list of publications, with its two disciplines - applied and human ergonomic factors - paralleling one another. Ergonomic journals burst on the scene in 1957, the most recent in 1999, covering a range of topics from cognition, technology, and work to man-machine studies. Primary concepts map out aging to fitness assessment to training responses to equipment design. Physiological capacity is an interesting addition. The objectives are worthy because the scope and magnitude — bridging the gap between sport and workplace — is worthy of more study. The book more than meets the author's objectives, raising and discussing deeper questions and concerns.
Audience: The book is written for serious researchers in many different areas, from orthotists and orthopedic surgeons to designers of fabric and shoes for athletes, to the curious who want to satisfy a cognitive itch, to those in the field of ergonomics. It is written at a very high technical level, so those unschooled in ergonomics, biomechanics, or a high level of math and science might find it intimidating. The author has spent many years teaching and doing research in the fields of both occupational ergonomics and sport science all over Europe. He has coached elite athletes and was himself an elite athlete.
Features: This statement from the author is a good place to start and is an excellent foundational caveat: "The mind-set of competitive athletes is to extend the boundaries of performance, challenge existing records, and train to extremes. By adopting optimal training programs, athletes overcome their limitations and improve their performance capabilities." The book is about the research into the idea of the optimal conditions under which the human body performs. Everything flows from the author's statement. I rephrased the quote to suit my own levels of expertise and experience: "With the mindset of children from ages 7-14, the goal is to teach them to learn to be efficient and exploratory movers, who will, with guidance, teaching, and nonjudgmental critiques, extend the boundaries of their own performance. They might get into competitive sports, or they might just choose to recreationally compete against their own inner standards, always striving to improve." I enjoyed reading about limited capacity and VO-2 max. The regular ergonomic concepts — safety, fatigue, stress in its many forms, efficiency, comfort, work applications, exercise and sport, the OWAS method, analyzing postural stress in the workplace — are covered in a thorough and thoroughly readable fashion.
Assessment: Although much too technical for my needs, this book is a goldmine for reasons other than the combined sport science/ergonomics perspective. I picked up numerous usable nuggets from the author. His dedication to both fields is evident, and the book shines. I have not found any other book that interweaves two concepts so successfully.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780736069328
  • Publisher: Human Kinetics Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/22/2009
  • Pages: 274
  • Sales rank: 1,408,624
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Reilly, PhD, DSc, FErgS, FIBiol, was a professor of sport science in the Research Institute for Sport & Exercise Sciences at Liverpool John Moores University in Liverpool, United Kingdom. Reilly’s research focused on the field of sport ergonomics. He conducted research for a wide range of companies and organizations, including GlaxoSmithKline, Mars, the Football Association, the International Olympic Committee, Health and Safety Executive, the European Commission, and various professional soccer clubs and equipment manufacturers. In 2008, Reilly and his research team were awarded the President’s Medal from the Ergonomics Society.


Reilly was a founding member of the European College of Sport Science, established in 1996. He was also a founding member of the Society of Sports Science, which became the British Association of Sport & Exercise Sciences. He was a fellow of the Ergonomics Society, the Institute of Biology, the European College of Sport Science, and the British Association of Sport & Exercise Sciences. Reilly was the founding editor of the Journal of Sports Sciences, holding this position from 1982 to 1997. He served as an editor for special issues in sport ergonomics for the Journal of Applied Ergonomics and Ergonomics.

From 1992 to 2005, he was the chair of the Exercise Physiology Steering Group of the British Olympic Association. Reilly also served as chair of the British Association of Sport & Exercise Sciences from 1994 to 1996 and as chair of the Scientific Committee of the European College of Sport Science from 2003 to 2008.


Tom Reilly passed away on June 11, 2009, as this book was nearing publication.


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Table of Contents




Part I. Risk Factors


Chapter 1. Physical Properties of Human Structures

Monitoring Activity Demands

Assessing Individual Characteristics

Assessing Physiological Capabilities

Assessing Mental Load

Overview and Summary


Chapter 2. Health and Safety


Predisposition to Injury

Overtraining and Overreaching


Risk Assessment

Risk Taking and Fun

Spectator Safety

Human Ethics and Risk

Overview and Summary


Chapter 3. Environmental Stress



Air Quality


Overview and Summary


Chapter 4. Circadian Rhythms

Training and Time of Day

Sleep–Wake Cycle

Travel Fatigue and Jet Lag

Sleep Deprivation or Disruption

Nocturnal Shift Work

Overview and Summary


Part II. Sport Ergonomics


Chapter 5. Ergonomics Models and Training Modes in Sport and Leisure

Fitting the Task to the Person

Generic Models

The Training Component

Technological Training Aids

Overview and Summary


Chapter 6. Competitive and Training Stress in Sport

Physiological Loading

Spinal Loading

Physical Loading

Psychological Loading

Overview and Summary


Chapter 7. Sports Equipment and Playing Surfaces

Sports Implements

Sport Surfaces

Sports Clothing

Sport Shoes

Protective Functions of Sports Equipment

Personal Protective Equipment

Overview and Summary


Part III. Ergonomics in Physical Activities


Chapter 8. Fitness for Work

Military Personnel

Prison Officers

Police Officers


Bus Workers and Postal Workers


Ambulance Workers

Forestry Workers

Beach Lifeguards

Professional Divers

Workplace Fitness Programs

Overview and Summary


Chapter 9. Special Populations

Young People


Elderly People

Athletes With Disabilities

Match Officials

Overview and Summary


Chapter 10. Clinical Aspects

Predispositions to Injury

Musculoskeletal Loading


Warming Up and Cooling Down

Recovery Process

Prophylactic Measures

Supplements in Clinical Contexts

Artificial Neural Networks

Overview and Summary


Chapter 11. A Holistic and Nutritional Ergonomics Perspective

Participatory Ergonomics

Human Enhancement Technologies

Performance and Cognitive Enhancement

Historical Perspective on Drug Use

From Clinic to Gymnasium

Nutritional Supplements and Over-the-Counter Drugs

Global Ergonomics

Overview and Summary





About the Author


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