Sports Science


Sports, exercise and health science Sports, exercise and health science (SEHS) is an experimental science that combines academic study with the acquisition of practical and investigative skills. It is an applied science course within group 4, with aspects of biological and physical science being studied in the specific context of sports, exercise and health. Moreover, the subject matter goes beyond the traditional science subjects to offer a deeper understanding of the issues related to sports, exercise and health in the 21st century. Apart from being worthy of study in its own right, SEHS is a good preparation for courses in higher or further education related to sports fitness and health, and serves as useful preparation for employment in sports and leisure industries.

The attainment of excellence in sports is the result of innate ability or skill and the dedicated pursuit of a programme of physical and mental training accompanied by appropriate nutrition. Training programme design should not be left to chance. Rather, it should be designed thoughtfully and analytically after careful consideration of the physiological, biomechanical and psychological demands of the activity. This is the role of the sports and exercise scientist who, regardless of the athletic event, should be equipped with the necessary knowledge to be able to perform this task competently. Furthermore, in a world where many millions of people are physically inactive and afflicted by chronic disease and ill health, the sports and exercise scientist should be equally proficient when prescribing exercise for the promotion of health and well-being.

Scientific inquiry, conducted over many decades, has accumulated a vast amount of information across a range of sub-disciplines that contribute to our understanding of health and human performance in relation to sports and exercise. The Diploma Programme course in sports, exercise and health science involves the study of the science that underpins physical performance and provides the opportunity to apply these principles.

The course incorporates the traditional disciplines of anatomy and physiology, biomechanics, psychology and nutrition, which are studied in the context of sports, exercise and health. Students will cover a range of core and option topics, and carry out practical (experimental) investigations in both laboratory and field settings. This will provide an opportunity to acquire the knowledge and understanding necessary to apply scientific principles and critically analyse human performance. Where relevant, the course will address issues of international dimension and ethics by considering sports, exercise and health relative to the individual and in a global context.

At the school level, both theory and practical work should be undertaken by all students. They should complement one another naturally, as they do in wider scientific study. The Diploma Programme SEHS course allows students to develop practical skills and techniques, and to increase facility in the use of mathematics, which is the language of science. It also allows students to develop interpersonal skills and digital technology skills, which are essential in 21st-century scientific endeavour and are important lifeenhancing, transferable skills in their own right. The course is available at both standard level (SL) and higher level (HL), and therefore accommodates students who wish to study SEHS as their major subject in higher education and those who do not.

Please click on the arrow for a detailed breakdown:

Unit / Block of workKey Episodes / QuestionsLength of time. (Hours)Possible Symbol?Learner Attribute(s)
Topic 1.1 The Skeletal SystemDistinguish anatomically between the axial and appendicular skeleton4SkeletonKnowledgeable 
 Draw and annotate the structure of a long bone   
 Apply anatomical terminology to the location of bones.   
 Outline the functions of connective tissue   
 Define the term joint   
 Distinguish between the different types of joint in relation to movement permitted   
 Outline the features of a synovial joint.   
 List the different types of synovial joint   
Topic 2.1 – The muscular systemOutline the general characteristics common to muscle tissue3MusclesKnowledgeable 
 Distinguish between the different types of muscle.   
 Annotate the structure of skeletal muscle   
 Define the terms origin and insertion of muscles   
 Identify the location of skeletal muscles in various regions of the body   
 Outline the types of movement of synovial joints.   
 Outline the types of muscle contraction.   
 Explain the concept of reciprocal inhibition.   
 Analyse movements in relation to joint action and muscle contraction.   
 Explain delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in relation to eccentric and concentric muscle contractions.   
Topic 6.3 – Components of fitnessDistinguish between the concepts of health-related fitness and performance-related(skill-related) fitness4Sit and Reach testInquiry 
 Outline the major components of fitness identified in 6.3.1   
 Outline and evaluate a variety of fitness tests   
Topic 6.4 – Principles of trainingDescribe the essential elements of a general training programme3Weight trainingInquiry
 Discuss the key principles of training programme design   
 Outline ways in which exercise intensity can be monitored   
Topic 6.1 – Statistical analysisOutline that error bars are a graphical representation of the variability of data2Data graphsThinker
 Calculate the mean and standard deviation of a set of values.   
 State that the statistic standard deviation is used to summarize the spread of values around the mean, and that within a normal distribution approximately 68% and 95% of the values fall within plus or minus one or two standard deviations respectively   
 Explain how the standard deviation is useful for comparing the means and the spread of data between two or more samples   
 Outline the meaning of coefficient of variation   
 Deduce the significance of the difference between two sets of data using calculated values for t and the appropriate tables.   
 Explain that the existence of a correlation does not establish that there is a causal relationship between two variables   
Topic 6.2 – Study designOutline the importance of specificity, accuracy, reliability and validity with regard to fitness testing.4Pen and paperThinker
 Discuss the importance of study design in the context of the sports, exercise and health sciences.   
 Outline the importance of the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR – Q).   
 Evaluate field, laboratory, sub-maximal and maximal tests of human performance   
Topic 4.1 – Neuromuscular functionLabel a diagram of a motor unit.4Myosin and actinCommunicator
 Explain the role of neurotransmitters in stimulating skeletal muscle contraction   
 Explain how skeletal muscle contracts by the sliding filament theory.   
 Explain how slow and fast twitch fibre types differ in structure and function   
4.2 Joint and movement typeOutline the types of movement of synovial joints.   
 Outline the types of muscle contraction.   
 Explain the concept of reciprocal inhibition.   
 Explain delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in relation to eccentric and concentric muscle contractions   
4.3 Fundamentals of biomechanicsDefine the terms force, speed, velocity, displacement, acceleration, momentum and impulse.   
 Analyse velocity–time, distance–time and force– time graphs of sporting actions   
 Define the term centre of mass   
 Explain that a change in body position during sporting activities can change the position of the centre of mass   
 Distinguish between first, second and third class levers   
 Label anatomical representations of levers   
 Define Newton’s three laws of motion   
 Explain how Newton’s three laws of motion apply to sporting activities   
 State the relationship between angular momentum, moment of inertia and angular velocity   
 Explain the concept of angular momentum in relation to sporting activities   
 Explain the factors that affect projectile motion at take-off or release   
 Outline the Bernoulli principle with respect to projectile motion in sporting activities.   
Topic 3.1 – NutritionList the macronutrients and micronutrients.4Different types of foodBalanced 
 Outline the functions of macronutrients and micronutrients.   
 State the chemical composition of a glucose molecule.   
 Identify a diagram representing the basic structure of a glucose molecule   
 Explain how glucose molecules can combine to form disaccharides and polysaccharides.   
 State the composition of a molecule of triacylglycerol   
 Distinguish between saturated and unsaturated fatty acids   
 State the chemical composition of a protein molecule.   
 Distinguish between an essential and a non-essential amino acid.   
 Describe current recommendations for a healthy balanced diet.   
 State the approximate energy content per 100 g of carbohydrate, lipid and protein.   
 Discuss how the recommended energy distribution of the dietary macronutrients differs between endurance athletes and non-athletes.   
Topic 3.2 – Carbohydrate and fat metabolismOutline metabolism, anabolism, aerobic catabolism and anaerobic catabolism2Carb and fatty foodsKnowledgeable
 State what glycogen is and its major storage sites.   
 State the major sites of triglyceride storage   
 Explain the role of insulin in the formation of glycogen and the accumulation of body fat.   
 Outline glycogenolysis and lipolysis   
 Outline the functions of glucagon and adrenaline during fasting and exercise.   
 Explain the role of insulin and muscle contraction on glucose uptake during exercise.   
Topic 3.3 – Nutrition and energy systemsAnnotate a diagram of the ultrastructure of a generalized animal cell.7Energy system graphKnowledgeable
 Annotate a diagram of the ultrastructure of a mitochondrion.   
 Define the term cell respiration.   
 Explain how adenosine can gain and lose a phosphate molecule.   
 Explain the role of ATP in muscle contraction   
 Describe the re-synthesis of ATP by the ATP–CP system   
 Describe the production of ATP by the lactic acid system   
 Explain the phenomena of oxygen deficit and oxygen debt   
 Describe the production of ATP from glucose and fatty acids by the aerobic system   
 Discuss the characteristics of the three energy systems and their relative contributions during exercise   
 Evaluate the relative contributions of the three energy systems during different types of exercise   
Topic 2.1 – Structure and function of the ventilatory systemList the principal structures of the ventilatory system.5LungsCaring
 Outline the functions of the conducting airways   
 Define the terms pulmonary ventilation, total lung capacity ( TLC), vital capacity (VC), tidal volume (TV), expiratory reserve volume (ERV), inspiratory reserve volume (IRV) and residual volume (RV   
 Explain the mechanics of ventilation in the human lungs.   
 Describe nervous and chemical control of ventilation during exercise   
 Outline the role of hemoglobin in oxygen transportation.   
 Explain the process of gaseous exchange at the alveoli.   
Topic 2.2 – Structure and function of the cardiovascular systemState the composition of blood.12Heart/veins/arteriesCommunicator 
 Distinguish between the functions of erythrocytes, leucocytes and platelets.   
 Describe the anatomy of the heart with reference to the heart chambers, valves and major blood vessels.   
 Describe the intrinsic and extrinsic regulation of heart rate and the sequence of excitation of the heart muscle.   
 Outline the relationship between the pulmonary and systemic circulation.   
 Describe the relationship between heart rate, cardiac output and stroke volume at rest and during exercise.   
 Analyse cardiac output, stroke volume and heart rate data for different populations at rest and during exercise.   
 Explain cardiovascular drift.   
 Define the terms systolic and diastolic blood pressure.   
 Analyse systolic and diastolic blood pressure data at rest and during exercise.   
 Discuss how systolic and diastolic blood pressure respond to dynamic and static exercise.   
 Compare the distribution of blood at rest and the redistribution of blood during exercise.   
 Describe the cardiovascular adaptations resulting from endurance exercise training   
 Explain maximal oxygen consumption.   
 Discuss the variability of maximal oxygen consumption in selected groups.   
 Discuss the variability of maximal oxygen consumption with different modes of exercise.   
Unit / Block of workKey Episodes / QuestionsLength of time. (Hours)Possible Symbol?Learner Attribute(s)
Topic 5.1 – The characteristics and classification of skillDefine the term skill4Putting a golf ballInquiry
 Describe the different types of skill.   
 Outline the different approaches to classifying motor skills.   
 Compare skill profiles for contrasting sports.   
 Outline ability.   
 Distinguish between Fleishman’s physical proficiency abilities (physical factors) and perceptual motor abilities (psychomotor factors).   
 Define the term technique   
 State the relationship between ability, skill and technique.   
 Discuss the differences between a skilled and a novice performer.   
Topic 5.2 – information processing Describe a simple model of information processing.6Information processing modelThinker
 Describe Welford’s model of information processing.   
 Outline the components associated with sensory input.   
 Explain the signal-detection process.   
 Distinguish between the characteristics of short-term sensory store, short-term memory and long-term memory.   
 Discuss the relationship between selective attention and memory   
 Compare different methods of memory improvement.   
 Define the term response time.   
 Outline factors that determine response time.   
 Evaluate the concept of the psychological refractory period (PRP).   
 Describe a motor programme.   
 Compare motor programmes from both open- and closed-loop perspectives.   
 Outline the role of feedback in information-processing models.   
 Outline the role of feedback with the learning process   
Topic 5.3 – Principles of skill learningDistinguish between learning and performance.5Learning curvesThinker
 Describe the phases (stages) of learning.    
 Discuss factors that contribute to the different rates of learning.   
 Define the concept of transfer.   
 Outline the different types of learning curves   
 Discuss factors that contribute to the different rates of learning.   
 Outline the types of transfer.   
 Outline the different types of practice.   
 Explain the different types of presentation.   
 Outline the spectrum of teaching styles.   
Topic A.1 TrainingDistinguish between training, overtraining and overreaching.5Weights/weight trainingReflective
 Describe various methods of training.   
 Discuss possible indicators of overtraining.3Limit to:• changes to resting heart rate   
 Discuss how periodization should be organized to optimize performance and avoid overtraining and injury y.   
A.2 Environmental factors and physical performanceExplain the relationship between cellular metabolism and the production of heat in the human body.6Core body temp/sweatingCommunicator
 State the normal physiological range for core body temperature.   
 Outline how the body thermoregulates in hot and cold environments   
 Discuss the significance of humidity and wind in relation to body heat loss.   
 Describe the formation of sweat and the sweat response   
 Discuss the physiological responses that occur during prolonged exercise in the heat.   
 Discuss the health risks associated with exercising in the heat.   
 Outline what steps should be taken to prevent and to subsequently treat heat-related disorders.   
 Describe how an athlete should acclimatize to heat stress.   
 Discuss the physiological and metabolic adaptations that occur with heat acclimatization.   
 Outline the principal means by which the body maintains core temperature in cold environments.   
 Explain why the body surface area to body mass ratio is important for heat preservation.   
 Outline the importance of wind chill in relation to body heat loss.   
 Explain why swimming in cold water represents a particular challenge to the body’s ability to thermoregulate.   
 Discuss the physiological responses to exercise in the cold.   
 Describe the health risks of exercising in the cold, including cold water.   
 Discuss the precautions that should be taken when exercising in the cold.   
Option A.3 Non-nutritional ergogenic aidsDefine the term ergogenic aid.4Syringe/drugs Principled
 Describe, with reference to an appropriate example, the placebo effect.   
 List five classes of non-nutritional ergogenic aids that are currently banned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).   
 Discuss why pharmacological substances appear on the list of banned substances.   
 Discuss the proposed and actual benefits that some athletes would hope to gain by using anabolic steroids, erythropoietin (EPO), beta blockers, caffeine and diuretics.   
 Outline the possible harmful effects of long-term use of anabolic steroids, EPO, beta blockers, caffeine and diuretics.   
A.4 Recovery from sports and exercise (HL only)Define active recovery.5Cryotherapy chamber Open minded
 Outline the reasons for active recovery immediately after a training session or competition.   
 Describe the indicators of recover y   
 Outline the importance of planned recovery between workout sessions as part of a training programme.   
 Outline the use of compression garments for sports recovery   
 Define cryotherapy.   
 Describe cryotherapy procedures used for recovery in sports.   
 Discuss the use of different types of cryotherapy for elite and recreational athletes   
A.5 Training and performance at altitude (HL only)State the height ranges for different categories of altitude.5Running on a mountainRisk taker
 Define hypoxia.   
 Outline the physiological effects of altitude   
 Outline the physiological effects of altitude   
 Outline altitude training   
 Evaluate the impact of altitude training for individual athletes and team sports players.   
 Evaluate the impact of altitude on sports performance.   
 Explain the adaptations resulting from altitude hypoxia   
 Distinguish between the symptoms of acute mountain sickness (AMS), high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) and high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE).   
 Describe how to prevent high-altitude illness for athletes   
D.1 Digestion and absorptionOutline the features of the principal components of the digestive system.3IntenstinesKnowledgeable
 State the typical pH values found throughout the digestive system.1Mouth: 5.5 to 7.5Stomach: 1.0 to less than 4.0   
 Describe the function of enzymes in the context of macronutrient digestion   
 Explain the need for enzymes in digestion   
 List the enzymes that are responsible for the digestion of carbohydrates, fats and proteins from the mouth to the small intestine.   
 Describe the absorption of glucose, amino acids and fatty acids from the intestinal lumen to the capillary network.   
D.2 Water and electrolyte balanceState the reasons why humans cannot live without water for a prolonged period of time.4WaterKnowledgeable 
 State where extracellular fluid can be located throughout the body.   
 Compare water distribution in trained and untrained individuals.   
 Explain that homeostasis involves monitoring levels of variables and correcting changes in levels by negative feedback mechanisms.   
 Explain the roles of the loop of Henlé, medulla, collecting duct and ADH in maintaining the water balance of the blood.   
 Describe how the hydration status of athletes can be monitored.   
 Explain why endurance athletes require a greater water intake.   
 Discuss the regulation of electrolyte balance during acute and chronic exercise   
D.3 Energy balance and body compositionDefine the term basal metabolic rate (BMR).3Calipers or someone big doing gymnasticsThinker
 State the components of daily energy expenditure.   
 Explain the relationship between energy expenditure and intake.   
 Discuss the association between body composition and athletic performance   
 Discuss dietary practices employed by athletes to manipulate body composition.   
D.4 Nutritional strategiesState the approximate glycogen content of specific skeletal muscle fibre types.6Glycemic index chartThinker
 Describe, with reference to exercise intensity, typical athletic activities requiring high rates of muscle glycogen utilization.   
 Discuss the pattern of muscle glycogen use in skeletal muscle fibre types during exercise of various intensities.   
 Define the term glycemic index (GI).   
 List food with low and high glycemic indexes.   
 Explain the relevance of GI with regard to carbohydrate consumption by athletes pre- and post-competition.   
 Discuss the interaction of carbohydrate loading and training programme modification prior to competition.   
 State the reasons for adding sodium and carbohydrate to water for the endurance athlete.   
 Discuss the use of nutritional ergogenic aids in sport   
 State the daily recommended intake of protein for adult male and female non-athletes.   
 List sources of protein for vegetarian and non-vegetarian athletes.   
 Discuss the significance of strength and endurance training on the recommended protein intake for male and female athletes.   
 Outline the possible harmful effects of excessive protein intake.   
D.5 Glucose uptake (HL only)State the normal levels of blood glucose at rest.4PamcreasReflective
 Outline the causes of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.   
 Explain the transportation of glucose across the cell membrane when at rest and during physical activity.   
 Outline the effect of training on an athlete’s ability to take in glucose at the cellular level.   
D.6 The effects of alcohol on performance and health (HL only)Describe the acute effects of excess alcohol on the body.3AlcoholBalanced
 Outline the possible effects of excessive chronic alcohol intake on body systems.   
 Discuss the effects of alcohol on athletic performance.   
D.7 Antioxidants (HL only)Outline the role of antioxidants in the body.3AntioxidentsKnowledgeable 
 Explain the harmful effects of free radicals at the cellular level.   
 Describe free radical production during exercise.   
 Evaluate the role of antioxidants for combating the effects of free radicals   
Topic 7.1 – The Skin SystemAnnotate a diagram of the generalized structure of the skin.2Picture of the layers of skinOpen-minded
 Describe the functions of the skin.   
7.2 Structure and function of the brainLabel the location of the principal structures of the brain.5Brain and it’s lobesCommunication 
 Label the location of the principal lobes of the cerebrum.   
 Outline blood supply to the brain.   
 Describe the principal source of energy for brain cells.   
 Explain the function of the principal parts of the brain.   
Topic 8: The endocrine systemLabel the location of the major endocrine organs in the human body.7Endocrine systemCommunication
 Describe the role of circulating (blood) and local hormones   
 Explain how circulating hormone levels are regulated   
 Explain the relationship between the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland.   
Topic 9: FatigueDefine fatigue in sports.6Someone fatiguedInquiry
 Outline the different types of fatigue.   
 Distinguish between high-intensity and endurance activities.   
 Discuss causes of fatigue in different types of activity or exercise   
 Discuss recovery from fatigue after sports   
Topic 10: Friction and dragDescribe friction.8A swimmerInquiry
 Describe the coefficient of friction.   
 Distinguish between the coefficient of static friction and dynamic friction.   
 Explain the influence of friction on sports performance.   
 Define drag.   
 Outline different types of drag that can be found in a variety of sporting environments.   
 Discuss factors that influence the amount of drag in sports.   
 Annotate a free-body diagram showing the direction of relevant forces acting on an athlete or object in sport   
11.1 Pedagogy for skill acquisitionDistinguish between traditional and non-linear pedagogy in sports.4Someone coachingKnowledgeable
 Discuss Newell’s (1986) constraints-led approach to teaching motor skills in physical education.   
 Suggest how a constraints-led approach to learning a given sport can influence motivation.   
11.2 Notation and analysisOutline the reasons for using notational analysis in physical education and sports.5Data graphInquiry
 List five applications of notation in physical education and sporting contexts   
 Distinguish between a phase analysis model and performance outcome model of qualitative biomechanical analysis for an individual sports technique.   
 Explain how a flow chart system can be used for match analysis in a team invasion game.   
 Suggest how to develop a simple notation system for team games   
 Outline three examples of the use of digital technology in sports analysis.   
 Evaluate the use of information technologies in sports analysis for different sports contexts.   
Topic 12: Genetics and athletic performanceOutline the role of genes in the inheritance of human characteristics.7GenesCommunication
 Outline how genes can influence human characteristics.   
 Discuss the relative contribution of genetic and environmental factors on performance in different sports.   
 Discuss the implications of genetic screening for sports, exercise and health   
Topic 13: Exercise and immunityState the function of the immune system.6J curveBalanced
 Outline the mechanisms the body uses in response to damage or an infectious agent.   
 Describe the effects of intense and long-term training on the immune system   
 Discuss the relationship between exercise and susceptibility to infection.   
 Describe strategies for minimizing risk from infection among athletes