Associate Professor Sean Tweedy

Associate Professor

School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences
Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences
s.tweedy@uq.edu.au
+61 7 336 56638

Overview

A/Prof Sean Tweedy leads the Para Sport and Adapted Physical Activity Research Group in the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, University of Queensland. Through his applied research program he aims to generate the knowledge required to empower people with disabilities to pursue self-directed goals through safe, effective engagement in sport and physical activity. Sean’s research addresses three main areas of need:

  • People with disabilities are among the most inactive people in society and consequently have a disproportionately high incidence of preventable diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes mellitus. Sean’s research program aims to develop evaluate and translate evidence-based methods for increasing physically active behaviour among community dwelling adults with disabilities.
  • Para athletes have impairments which adversely affect sports performance, but the extent to which performance is affected varies greatly with some athletes having impairments that cause severe disadvantage in sport and others that cause relatively minor disadvantage. To ensure that competition is fair and that athletes who succeed are not simply those that have less severe impairments, Para athletes compete in classes, each comprising athletes who have impairments that cause a similar amount of disadvantage in sport. Methods for allocating class are not well established and Sean is Principal Investigator for the International Paralympic Committee’s Classification Research and Development Centre (physical impairments) which aims to develop best practice and evidence-based methods for allocating athletes to classes;
  • In Australia, the right of people with disability to participate in sport and recreation is protected but only if the accommodations they require - equipment and/or expertise - are deemed to be "reasonable”. Unfortunately people with severe disabilities and high support needs often require equipment and/or expertise which cannot reasonably be expected of community sport and recreation providers. Sean’s research program aims to develop, evaluate and translate methods for safe, effective engagement in physically demanding, competitive sport for people with severe disabilities and high support needs. ParaSTART is his flagship program in this area - https://habs.uq.edu.au/parastart

Research Impacts

Sean developed the Adapted Physical Activity Program (APAP), a theory-driven physical activity promotion program for community dwelling people disabilities. A controlled clinical trial demonstrated its efficacy in people with acquired brain injury, providing impetus for its implementation into the Acquired Brain Injury-Transitional Rehabilitation Service, Queensland’s primary rehabilitation service for people with brain injury. APAP also runs on a cost recovery basis from UQ and each year more than 100 community dwelling adults with a wide range of disabilities are referred. To refer a client visit - https://hmns.uq.edu.au/apap/.

Our research group developed the Maximum Allowable Standing Height (MASH) rule for the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) which is the international standard used to ensure the prosthetics used by bilateral lower limb amputees are anatomically proportional. In 2019 Mr Blake Leeper (USA), a bilateral transtibial amputee and elite 400 m sprinter, applied to World Athletics (WA, Previously IAAF)to run at the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games (i.e., against non-disabled runners). In support of his application Mr Leeper provided a scientific report which claimed to show that his prosthetics did not provide him with a competitive advantage. Our group were engaged by WA to evaluate the scientific merit of Mr Leeper's application. We assessed Mr Leepers report and a range of other scientific evidence and advised WA that, on the balance of probabilities, Mr Leepers prosthetics did confer an advantage his application should be rejected. Mr Leeper contested the decision but on 26.10.21 the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled in support of our assessment (CAS2020/A/6807). In December 2020 Mr Leeper challenged the CAS decision on the grounds that the scientific evidence provided by our group was racially discriminatory. However, on 11.6.21, CAS once again ruled in our favour and found our methods were not racially discriminatory (decision announced, grounds pending).

Sean is first author on the IPC Position Stand – Background and Scientific Principles of Classification in disability sport which is among the most highly cited scientific papers in the field (263 citations) and which has also been incorporated verbatim into the IPC Handbook (Chapter 4.4), the common repository for all guiding documents for the Paralympic movement

Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Queensland
  • Master of Human Movement Studies, The University of Queensland
  • Bachelor of Human Movement Studies, The University of Queensland

Publications

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Available Projects

  • In the general population, the dose-response relationship between exercise volume and relative disease-risk is curvilinear with an inflection at 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week: below this volume (i.e., lower frequency, intensity and/or duration) relative disease-risk increases rapidly; and above this volume, disease-risk continues to decrease, but less rapidly. Importantly, there is no obvious upper threshold. This dose-response relationship is believed to apply to people with cerebral palsy (CP), although research in this population to date has focused almost exclusively on low-volume exercise. The benefits of high-volume exercise have not been investigated and anecdotal evidence indicates that high-volume exercise, such as is undertaken by Paralympic swimmers, elicits clinical outcomes that significantly exceed those conferred by lower volumes. This proof-of-concept study will apply Talent Identification/Talent Development methods from elite sport to identify untrained, people with CP with moderate-to-severe impairments, but with physical and psychological attributes known to be advantageous in competitive swimming. Half of the sample will complete a 12-week, high-volume, performance-focused swimming program. The effect of this exercise dose on participants’ health, fitness and functioning will be compared with the effects of a 12-week intervention aimed at assisting a control-group to accrue 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.

View all Available Projects

Publications

Featured Publications

Book Chapter

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

Completed Supervision

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • In the general population, the dose-response relationship between exercise volume and relative disease-risk is curvilinear with an inflection at 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week: below this volume (i.e., lower frequency, intensity and/or duration) relative disease-risk increases rapidly; and above this volume, disease-risk continues to decrease, but less rapidly. Importantly, there is no obvious upper threshold. This dose-response relationship is believed to apply to people with cerebral palsy (CP), although research in this population to date has focused almost exclusively on low-volume exercise. The benefits of high-volume exercise have not been investigated and anecdotal evidence indicates that high-volume exercise, such as is undertaken by Paralympic swimmers, elicits clinical outcomes that significantly exceed those conferred by lower volumes. This proof-of-concept study will apply Talent Identification/Talent Development methods from elite sport to identify untrained, people with CP with moderate-to-severe impairments, but with physical and psychological attributes known to be advantageous in competitive swimming. Half of the sample will complete a 12-week, high-volume, performance-focused swimming program. The effect of this exercise dose on participants’ health, fitness and functioning will be compared with the effects of a 12-week intervention aimed at assisting a control-group to accrue 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.