Message from the Director

At the University of Pretoria there is a proud culture of sports participation and sporting excellence, with a comprehensive and successful sporting club infrastructure. The formation of the SEMLI was conceived not only to build on the on-field success of UP’s athletes and clubs, but to support sports performance in athletes and exercise participation in the broader population.  The vision was to enhance collaboration between all the sport, exercise-and physical activity-related areas, create a consolidated research strategy, utilize the vast sources of potential data at hand, and promote the development of human capital in these fields.  In addition, a sound academic research and teaching foundation complements the provision of world-class, coordinated, specialized and multi-disciplinary support services. The process of forming a new UP Institute to accomplish these goals began with the identification and recruitment of a strong academic leader who could develop the vision and establish and build the Institute. Prof Martin Schwellnus was appointed Director in April 2015 and the SEMLI was officially constituted in June 2015.


"It is well established that the chronic diseases of lifestyle, also known as non-communicable diseases (NCDs), present the single most import ant current and future health threat to both developed and developing nations of the world.    NCDs are largely preventable, through the adoption of a healthy lifestyle that includes, most importa ntly, participation in physical activity.  However, while promoting physical activity is imperative to improve health, participation in physical activity and sport can be associated with an increased risk of developing musculoskeletal injury and other medical complications. So, research in this area should focus not only on initiatives to promote physical activity, but also on reducing the risk of injury and medical complications during exercise and sports participation.

The vision of SEMLI is to be an international leader in high impact scientific, translational research that promotes health and well-being in the population. The relevance of the research conducted at the SEMLI is reflected in its five main research are as, which include Lifestyle Interventions for Chronic Disease, Exercise-related Injuries, Medical Complications & Illness during Exercise, Sports Performance, and Sport & Physical Activity in Society (including economics, governance, management, ethics, education).

SEMLI aims to contribute to reducing the national and international burden of chronic diseases, reducing risk of injury and medical complications during physical activity, improving regional, national and international sporting success, reducing health care costs and improving quantity and quality of life of individuals. To this end, the activities of the Institute are premised on high quality research and publications, local and international inter-disciplinary collaborative relationships and a strong post-graduate student base.  The research platform is characterized by world class education, specialist service delivery and the use of modern technologies and big data science."


About the Director

Martin P. Schwellnus is a full professor of Sport and Exercise Medicine at the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria in South Africa. He is also a specialist sports and exercise medicine physician who regularly consults with athletes of all levels. He holds an MBBCh from University of the Witwatersrand (cum laude), a M.Sc. (Med) from University of Cape Town, and an M.D. (equivalent to a PhD) degree from the University of Cape Town, and is a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine as well as the International Sports Medicine Federation. Among the many other responsibilities he holds, Prof Schwellnus is the Director of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Research Center in South Africa, and the Director of a FIFA Medical Centre of Excellence, at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.  He is also a longstanding member of the IOC Medical Commission (Medical and Science group), and a member of the editorial board of a number of international journals including the British Journal of Sports Medicine. He has a specific interest in medical care of endurance athletes, and has been involved in clinical care and research at half-marathons, marathons, ultra-marathons, endurance cycling races and triathlons. He has published over 300 scientific journal articles.

Prof Schwellnus receives the 2017 American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)

International Clinical Scholar Award




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