Sports Physiology

Sports Physiology Facts

Sports Physiology [spȯrts] [fĭ-zē-'ä-lə-jē]

The study of how the body works and functions during athletic activities.

What Makes An Athlete?

Team and their trophy

Are they born as record breakers? In sports, making it to the top requires hard work and dedication at many levels. There is no one thing that will make you a great athlete. It is a combination of many factors that make a great athlete!

Being fit, eating right, having talent, and a desire to succeed are some of the factors involved in being a great athlete. And yes, even Science!


Kids biking

There are many forms of exercise — riding your bike, playing ball, rollerblading, or taking a hike. The possibilities are endless. Besides making you into a great athlete, exercise is good for you! Exercise makes us healthy by increasing our strength, endurance, and flexibility.

Kids exercising

In addition to these benefits, exercise increases the blood flow throughout your body. By exercising you make your heart, lungs, and body stronger and healthier. These are all very important components of becoming a great athlete!

Eating Right


For your body to be strong and healthy you need to eat right! One way to do this is to eat a variety of foods from all the food groups. But not everybody needs the same kind or amount of food.

Your body's needs are dependent upon your age, your level of activity, and your general health. Please visit Choose My Plate to find out what foods are right for you and your family. Then enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables along with whole grains and lean meats. Milk and milk products are always part of a healthy diet. The USDA also encourages people to limit fats and sugars.

Healthy food

For more information visit the Science Trek Nutrition site.

Having Talent and Desire

Soccer Practice

Sure it takes talent to be a great athlete. But that talent is usually backed by years of practice.

Great athletes are not created overnight. You have to practice, practice, and practice some more. Persistence is the key.

The desire to succeed comes from having a healthy mind, body, and attitude!

More Desire


Sometimes having the desire is not enough to make an athlete successful.

Being an athlete and wanting to do your best takes a certain amount of positive thinking and mental focus. Coaches and other athletes can be a great resource for improving your game. Be sure to listen to their expert advice — but listen to your parents too. They know you better than anyone. And most of all have fun.

Science in Sports


So how does science relate to sports? Take the example of throwing a football. Throwing relies on principles of physics such as velocity (speed), mechanics (how things move), force (energy applied to an object), and the list goes on and on! Check out the scientific principles behind many sports-related activities at the Science Buddies' Sport Science site.

Science is also involved in the prevention and treatment of injuries related to sports. Athletic trainers, coaches, and physical therapists train athletes on how to exercise safely to prevent injuries based upon research on how the body moves and heals. If you do get injured playing sports, science will come to the rescue in the form of doctors and physical therapists who will treat your injury and help you rehabilitate so you can get back to playing your favorite sport!


Many scientists, sports physicians, and physical therapists study how the body works and moves. This field of study is known as biomechanics. What these researchers and trainers learn about biomechanics enables them to help athletes jump higher, run faster, dive deeper, and hit harder. And, by using computers, scientists are able to try out and model different kinds of movements in a virtual environment and then advise athletes on the movements that will best improve their performance in the real world!

So . . . with a little science, you can become a better athlete!

Top 10 Questions

September 2011

Thanks to Barrie Steele, Head Athletic Trainer, University of Idaho; Caroline Faure, Assistant Professor of Sports Science and Physical Education, Idaho State University; and Marc Paul, Head Athletic Trainer, B for the answers.

  1. What is a good way to prevent hurting your body while playing sports?

    Sport is stress, so you need to prepare your body to handle that stress. It can be done mentally, physically and nutritionally. Working on flexibility, strength and endurance, as well as rest and hydration, gradually will help your body manage the stress. Hydration is huge in helping to prevent injury. (From Carleigh)

  2. Is it ok to exercise and not eat a lot?

    No, it is not ok to exercise a lot and not eat a lot. The nutrition you get from food is what fuels your body and gives you energy. It's important to eat well-balanced meals from all the food groups and to hydrate regularly. (From Amber in Mrs. Schweitzer's class at Riverside Elementary School in Boise)

  3. What sport is best for your body: soccer, football, or baseball?

    As a kid, the sport that is best for your body is the one you enjoy the most. Just make sure you eat well, hydrate, get the right amount of rest, play safely and follow the rules. (From Luke in Mrs. Schweitzer's class at Riverside Elementary School in Boise)

  4. What do the head coaches of teams expect from the athletes in training?

    Coaches expect athletes to prepare properly, both physically and mentally. Having a good attitude and being willing to work hard are very important. Athletes need to be "coachable," able to listen and accept advice from everyone around them who is interested in helping them improve and be the best they can be. (From Jackson at Liberty Elementary School in Boise)

  5. What happens if you exercise or run and have asthma?

    If you have asthma, it's important for you to follow your doctor's orders. Pay attention to the warning signs and if an attack comes on, step back, use your inhaler and slow down your activity for a little bit. It's safe for you to play, just play smart. (From Nate in Mrs. Rice's class at Purple Sage Elementary School in Middleton)

  6. How can I prevent myself from getting concussions?

    It's hard to prevent a concussion. If you use proper techniques, pay attention to where the other players are, and be aware of your surroundings you can help to minimize them. The most important thing is that if you feel you may have a concussion (nausea, headache, light sensitivity, lightheaded, or you just don't feel right), you need to tell somebody and remove yourself from the game. (From Olivia at Hidden Springs Elementary School in Boise)

  7. If you get injured in a game, when do you know if you should go back in or not?

    If you have an injury that involves a physician or medical professional, let them make the call. Otherwise, when you are able to perform the activity well, and your parents and coach feel it is safe for you to return to the sport, then go ahead and gradually get back into it and start again. (From Harrison in Mrs. Schweitzer's class at Riverside Elementary School in Boise)

  8. How do you give your ankles more support?

    At the collegiate level, we do a lot of strengthening exercises. Kids are growing fast and going through a lot of changes, so don't worry about getting into a weight room and lifting weights. There are some light strengthening things you can do. Also, kids' ankles are sometimes taped, or we can provide them with braces that they can wear. (From Hunter)

  9. How do you be a better blocker?

    Listen to your coach. You are going through a lot of physical changes as a kid and you need to be open to suggestions and willing to learn. (From Rowdy at Trail Wind Elementary School in Boise)

  10. What should you eat before a big game?

    You should make sure you eat a well-balanced meal with protein and carbohydrates. Also, make sure you hydrate. Many people don't start drinking water until they are thirsty, but that's really too late. Start drinking water about an hour and a half before you engage in physical activity in order to hydrate your body properly. (From Ashton and Eva in Mrs. Hunt's class at Cynthia Mann Elementary School in Boise)