Sport research

Our research addresses the needs of society though an impact approach based on collaboration and partnership. We work closely with stakeholders to identify, undertake and disseminate research serving beneficiaries from marginalised communities to elite professional sport.

We benefit from our status as ‘Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence’, which connects us to priority research and knowledge needs within sport, health and exercise; facilitates partnerships with funders, users and disseminators of our research, including sport agencies based on campus; provides excellent networks for impact and knowledge exchange; and offers a unique high quality physical infrastructure supporting research from physical activity community participation to elite sports performance.

Our research focuses on three inter-related domains - In Sport, Through Sport, and in the health and exercise sciences Beyond Sport:

  • In Sport research focuses on sport itself, addressing sport experiences and delivery from diverse disciplinary perspectives including sport management, sport coaching, sport governance and policy, and sport and exercise science. These studies span recreational to elite sport, and community to global organisations and structures.

  • Through Sport research is focused on the social contributions of sport, addressing sport as a context within which social, economic and cultural challenges are addressed.

  • Beyond Sport research is focussed on the benefits of sport, health and exercise sciences to individual health outcomes, economies and populations. 

Our research

Physiology, Exercise and Nutrition Research Group (PENRG)

We conduct innovative research from cells to systems that improves human health and performance.

Sport Social Science Research Group (S3RG)

Learn how we apply expertise in management, psychology, sociology, social policy and coaching studies to research sport as an individual, group, community, organisational and societal phenomenon, in the UK and internationally.

Stirling Physical Activity Research, Knowledge and Learning Exchange (SPARKLE)

We focus on Physical Activity research across the lifespan, including child activity, diabetes/obesity, workplace wellbeing and healthy ageing.

School children running in the playground

Research Spotlight

Our research showed that a simple local solution could improve the fitness of school pupils. Now 10,000+ schools have adopted The Daily Mile approach.

Featured research

Video: Exploring the true impact of heading a football

Watch Stirling's Dr Angus Hunter discuss aspects of the University's world-leading research into the small but significant changes in brain function found in footballers immediately after routine heading practice. You can also read more about the impact of our research and how it triggered a global debate around the safety of heading.

eSports research for the International Olympic Committee

S3RG academics are at the forefront of international research into the rapid development of eSports globally and have recently undertaken work for the IOC examining how eSports players perceive the availability of organisational support focused on their mental and physical health.

Enhancing elite athletic performance

We partner with sportscotland Institute of Sport from laboratory to field to improve elite athletic preparation and performance through neural measurement. Our research has helped to create a gold-standard model for achieving evidence-based practice with sportscotland. We are also represented on the steering committee of the Athlome Consortium - a global research network which aims to collectively study the genotype and phenotype data currently available on elite athletes.

Anti-doping expertise

Stirling research on anti-doping approaches, prevalence, and athlete experiences has been used by sport policy makers in the UK and USA to ensure fairness and the protection of rights for athletes during the entirety of their careers. Our academics play key roles within the International Network of Doping Research.

Reducing menstruation stigma

Stirling has a strong tradition in exploring the role of sport in international development research. Dr Sarah Zipp cotinues this work with her research into what can be done to help reduce menstruation stigma. Dr Zipp's wider work explores how menstrual health impacts the experience of sport and physical activity from adolescence through menopause, and how sport might serve as a platform for menstrual health education globally.

COVID-19 study: Impact of social distancing on older adults

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on social contact, loneliness, wellbeing and physical activity in older adults will be the focus of a new University of Stirling study. The project – funded under the Scottish Government’s Rapid Research in COVID-19 programme – will provide a crucial understanding of the negative impacts of social distancing in over 70s and explore strategies that could enhance social engagement and physical activity during the crisis.

PhD opportunities in Sport

Sports Studies PhD

As Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence and Sports University of the Year 2020, we pride ourselves on game-changing research. We’re shedding light on the risks posed by heading footballs, informing the conversation around anti-doping and inspiring the next generation to form healthy habits. Sport is in our DNA, and our research reflects our passion to make an impact on the global stage.

Our campus is home to Olympic athletes, national academies for tennis and swimming and unique five-star facilities – creating a dynamic environment where theory and practice are closely interlinked.

PhD studies in Sport and Exercise Science can be undertaken in diverse contexts from high performance sport to population health. Staff specialisms include genetics and molecular biology, nutrition and hydration, neuro-muscular function and physical activity. Doctoral students join a dynamic, internationally recognised academic community carrying out innovative studies that improve human health and performance and address global challenges.

Meanwhile, our expertise in Sport and Social Sciences allows doctoral students to conduct original studies across diverse sub-disciplines including sport coaching, sport psychology, sport policy, sociology of sport, and sport management, governance and economics. Our strong connections across the sport, health and exercise sectors allow students to address key issues in sport including anti-doping policy, coach education, sport for social change, sport and identity, and sport mega events. Our expertise includes the role of sport in contributing to health and wellbeing, including active lifestyles and workplace health.

Read more about how to apply and see entry requirements What's the difference between a PhD and an MPhil?