USC academic to address Paralympic technology debate

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USC academic to address Paralympic technology debate


10 January 2013

Controversy about the role of technology and equipment in Paralympic sport, prompted by events at London 2012, will be addressed by a University of the Sunshine Coast academic at a global conference this year.

USC Professor of Sport Science Brendan Burkett has been announced as the first keynote speaker for VISTA 2013, a conference for scientists and experts in Paralympic sport to be held in Bonn, Germany in May.

The announcement was made recently by conference organiser, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

Professor Burkett will discuss changes in rugby and basketball wheelchairs and prosthetic legs and how these have enhanced athletes’ abilities to perform.

He said more research was needed to allow informed decisions to be made.

“If you do a straight mechanical test on (South African double leg amputee sprinter) Oscar Pistorius’ prostheses, you find that as a pure anatomical function it would perform better than an anatomical foot,” he said.

“But the thing that’s difficult to quantify is that he has to control that device with his residual limbs and that doesn't give him any advantage – it’s actually a disadvantage – compared to his able-bodied athletes.”

Professor Burkett is a Paralympic swimming champion and a member of the IPC’s Sports Science Committee.

He said his selection for the conference was prestigious because it recognised USC’s leadership role and expertise in an important current issue.

“It’s exciting to be a keynote speaker at this conference,” he said. “USC has been involved in a number of international research projects and this is another step. For example, we currently have four industry-funded PhD scholarships that focus on Paralympic sport.”

The VISTA conference, to be held from 1-4 May, promotes and advances the mission, goals, objectives and reputation of the IPC and provides a platform for expert speakers in sport for athletes with impairments.

“Technology and equipment is critical for Paralympic athletes, whether it’s for allowing them to do their daily tasks or something sports-specific that meets the requirements of that sport and allows them to perform in that sport,” Professor Burkett said.

— Julie Schomberg

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