Sports Medicine and Autonomic Research Technology (SMART)

The University of Pretoria is not only renowned for its impressive achievements in developing top sports personalities. We are also a leader in research and services in exercise and health as exemplified by the sports medicine division, one of only 11 Centres of Collaboration of FIMS (International Sports Medicine Federation) in the world.

Researchers in Sports Medicine at the University of Pretoria are working on expanding South Africa’s first Sports Medicine and Autonomic Research Technology (SMART) team – a world class autonomic research laboratory that will help diagnose and manage autonomic (involuntary) functions in the body with specific attention to the unique African environment.

The autonomic – or involuntary – nervous system (ANS) acts as a control system for the human body, and affects vital functions such as heart rate, digestion, perspiration and respiratory rate.

No established expertise is available in the area of ANS testing in the whole of Africa, and the laboratory will allow health professionals at the University to test and standardise new autonomic tests, establish healthy norms for the diverse population of the continent, and improve the effectiveness of current clinical management programmes.

It is SMART and relevant

While cardiac autonomic neuropathy – the symptoms that result from damage to the nerves that manage everyday cardiac functions such as blood pressure and heart rate – affects some 30% of HIV-positive patients in Mozambique, there has been only one study that specifically examines the prevalence of autonomic neuropathy in sub-Saharan patients. A new ANS lab at the University of Pretoria will help address this shortcoming.

Another important objective of the Exercise SMART Team will be to develop new techniques for early autonomic dysfunction identification of people living with HIV, diabetes, arthritis – which will enable clinicians to start disease management earlier and improve patient life and prognosis. New and improved techniques for early identification of autonomic dysfunction will also be invaluable in the sporting environment, and will allow for the early identification and treatment of over-trained athletes. SMART’s work extends into creating and supporting top sport athletes. In 2013, a study within the centre completed research findings in Australia on the biomechanics of lower back injuries in young cricket players. Closer to home, part of the centre’s research is currently on the injury surveillance in Varsity Cup Sports.

To find out how you can help to build a healthier South Africa, visit the website or contact:

Project Leader:

Prof Christa Janse van Rensburg Tel: +27 (0)12 420 6053/7 [email protected]

Dean’s Office: Prof Tiaan de Jager Tel:   +27 (0) 12 319 2192 or e-mail [email protected]

Published by Marinda Scholtz

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