Exercise scientist explores where grass is greener

A love of both sport and science led to research project on the impact of synthetic sports surfaces.
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Exercise Scientist Gurpreet Singh is combining his love of sport, science and technology to forge an exciting career in research. His studies into athlete thermoregulation and heat strain have been published internationally and are being used to inform State government planning for public spaces.

As a Coffs Harbour local, his love of sport started with cricket. He enrolled in Southern Cross University’s Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science as a way to combine his interest in athletics and science.

“I really love being able to improve athletic performance through training and using scientific knowledge,” Mr Singh says.

Philosophical approach to sport-related studies

This passion led him to undertake an Honours year and hone his research skills through the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program.

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His current research is investigating the influence synthetic grass sports surfaces have on athlete thermoregulation and heat strain.

“In Australia, synthetic grass fields get really hot in summer. I’m investigating whether synthetic grass increases the risk of heat strain compared to natural grass for athletes,” Mr Singh says.

“They are becoming very popular because synthetic grass is more durable than natural grass and less susceptible to damage, meaning more matches can be played than on natural grass.”

His research has now been published in the International Journal of Biometeorology and as part of a review commissioned by the former NSW Minister of Planning and Public Spaces into the use of synthetic grass in public spaces.

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“To be a young researcher and have an outcome like that was huge,” says Mr Singh.

Seeking out fresh opportunities

When he saw that the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer was compiling a report on the use of synthetic grass in public spaces, he decided to take a shot and reach out.

“I didn’t think I would ever get a reply back, but we were asked to contribute to the review. I reported on the limitations and future directions for research assessing the risk of heat stress on synthetic grass, which has now been published,” he says.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I didn’t make that opportunity.”

Opportunities throughout his studies have been plentiful, including completing a placement experience with the NRL Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs first grade team in Sydney that gave Mr Singh a first taste of working with elite athletes.

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“I was taught how to use the GPS technology that athletes wear,” he says..

“The device measures the amount of running during a match or during training. The purpose is to prevent over-training and make sure the athletes are at peak performance before a game.

“I really like the use of technology in sport and how that can help coaches improve athlete performance.”

From sports scientist to researcher

He has now landed a role with the female Gold Coast Future Titans Rugby League academy and was a part of the Gold Coast Titans 2023 NRLW team.

Mr Singh says his undergraduate degree introduced him to career path in research that he otherwise would not have considered.

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After taking a swing in a new direction, Mr Singh looks set to enjoy a good innings as a researcher – a pathway he did not originally envisage for himself at the start of his degree.

“When I first started my studies, I always thought I wanted to become a sport scientist. I didn’t really know what research was until the later years of my degree,” he says.

“Now my goal is to become an established researcher in the field of athlete thermoregulation and athletic performance.”

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