Waiariki & University of California Davis to Research Endurance Sport Recovery

03 Feb 2016

Most runners will agree that a massage following a race makes them feel better, but what they don’t know is whether that post-performance treatment translates to faster, if any, recovery and repair of the muscles.

Four Waiariki Institute of Technology staff members are working with an international team to try to determine just that after being approached by The University of California Davis.

The “2016 Ultra Running Research: Effect of massage and pneumatic compression on recovery in ultramarathon runners” project is being funded by Waiariki and directed by Dr Amanda Heapy (PhD), head of department for health and sport at Waiariki, alongside Dr Martin Hoffman (MD) of UC Davis.

Heapy’s diverse and highly qualified Waiariki team comprises academic staff member and qualified physiotherapist Pavitra Dhamija; registered nurse and senior academic staff member Mary Cooper; and Sam Thompson, manager of Waiariki Academy of Sport. Supporting them is Oriwa Hepi, a recent Waiariki graduate of the Bachelor of Nursing, who will be drawing blood from the research subjects.

Dr Clarke Raymond (PhD), head of department, Business, Research and Enterprise at Waiariki, says the research project benefits the institute as well as the community.

“Over the last few years Waiariki has taken great strides in the development of its research activity and this project is an excellent example,” Raymond says. “It’s exciting for us to be involved in a project with some really valuable outcomes for the sporting community, and that showcases the expertise of staff involved in our sport and health qualifications. The partnership with UC Davis has been incredibly valuable in terms of sharing their experience and expertise in this type of work. It’s also great for Waiariki and Rotorua to be associated with an internationally recognised institution.”

Waiariki was approached by UC Davis to collaborate on this research in conjunction with the 2016 Tarawera Ultramarathon and modify their research from the 2015 Western States 100-mile Endurance Run.

Heapy says UC Davis’ research treated runners with massage or compression only once at the end of the race. At the Tarawera Ultra, the follow-up treatment and functional analysis times will be extended.

“There is no information about how massage effects your return to performance. The more training you do can relate to higher performance levels so you want to be able to train well. So, as an athlete, you want to know if the recovery method you use will enhance your ability to recover to return to sport performance. For example, you want to know if your legs can actually run again well, not just feel better, so you can do the next training session or enter in the next event.”

Up to 70 volunteers who complete the race will be randomly assigned to receive either a massage therapy protocol, pneumatic compression, or instructed to rest, on race day and for three consecutive days.

Pavitra Dhamija will be joined by massage therapist Fiona Sandford of QE Health, and Rotorua rehabilitation specialist Heidie Verhagen of Fortebody Reconditioning to coordinate and implement the massage intervention protocol.

As the research director, Heapy is thrilled to be able to select and rely on a large bank of Rotorua-based businesses and organisations, showcasing to UC Davis, national and international research reviewers, and even the local community the talent that is available in our own backyard. Even the special-edition t-shirt that research participants will receive was designed and printed locally. 

“Working with local providers gives us an opportunity to enhance collaboration with industry experts who, in the future, will be able to support the delivery of our courses and development of our qualifications here at Waiariki as well as be involved in future research projects.”

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Page last updated: 02 May 2017