ESSA Research Grants

Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) is the leading professional organisation committed to establishing, promoting and defending the career paths of tertiary trained exercise and sports science practitioners.

ESSA offers competitive research grants in alignment with our vision and mission to enhance performance, health and well-being through the science of exercise and sport; and to lead and promote excellence in exercise and sports science for the benefits of society and the professions.

2024 ESSA Research Grants now open!

Four research grants are available for research commencing in 2025. Two grants of $25,000 will be available in each of the two themes below.

Expressions of Interest (EoI) are invited for research proposals addressing either of these themes:

  • Evaluating the value of exercise and sports science professions to understand their service offerings by exercise scientists, sport scientists, or exercise physiologists in varied health settings in Australia, and their impact on consumers and the health system.
  • A research project, initiated and led by an ESSA member, which aligns with ESSA’s Strategic Plan and ESSA’s Strategic Priorities and clearly indicates how the work is relevant to the Australian exercise and sport science workforce.

2024 Grant Requirements and Description (including the selection criteria)

2024 Expression of Interest Form

Example 2024 EoI Form with questions

Timeline for Application Submissions

  • Expressions of Interest open: Monday, 27 May 2024
  • Expressions of Interest close: Monday, 24 June 2024 at 5pm (AEST)
  • Research grant recipients announced by December 2024

For more information, please contact the ESSA Research Team.

2023 Grant Winners

Associate Professor Clare Minahan and her team Dr Kerry Hall, Dr Llion Roberts and Dr Kelly Clanchy

Project Title: Improving the Sport Pathway for First Nations Women with Culturally Competent Sports Science Practitioners

Summary and importance of research project

First Nations women are less likely to engage in sports compared to their non-First Nations counterparts, despite parallel rates of participation among girls. This is detrimental to the health of First Nations women and to the performance metrics of national sporting organisations. This project brings together Griffith University's academic research expertise with the National Rugby League's (NRL) extensive community outreach to investigate how sports science can engage First Nations athletes and to create best-practice guidelines to develop cultural proficiency in sports science practitioners. This project aims to foster an environment where best practices in sports science are not only developed but are also immediately actionable within communities that stand to benefit most.

Anticipated outcomes and benefit to ESSA Professionals

Cultural proficiency guidelines equip sports science practitioners with the tools to create a more inclusive and effective environment for First Nations female athletes. By tailoring methods to be culturally sensitive, practitioners can better identify and mitigate the specific barriers these athletes face, thus enabling their sports pathway. Concurrently, the empirical data generated from understanding these barriers can drive policy changes at organisational and governmental levels. Such changes not only increase equity but could also lead to improved performance metrics for First Nations female athletes by making the sport pathway more accessible and supportive.

Dr Kim Edmunds and her team Dr Mary Kennedy, Dr Yvonne Zissiadis, Associate Professor Haitham Tuffaha, Ms Pam Eldridge and Ms Taryn Kelly

Project title: Value-based assessment and cost-effectiveness analysis of two models of exercise oncology implementation

Summary and importance of research project

Exercise is an essential part of treatment for people with cancer. We know exercise for cancer is effective. However, we don’t know the value for money of providing time with an exercise physiologist. Our team will compare two different exercise for cancer services with a hospital based service where no exercise is provided. We will collect data on the cost of providing the service, the health effects it has on patients and what patients and healthcare providers think about the service. We will then determine which model is most cost-effective (provides best value for money) and what activities could improve the services.

Anticipated outcomes and benefit to ESSA Professionals

Developing a flexible, best practice model of care that is cost-effective, feasible and sustainable will help to provide access to exercise for all people undergoing cancer treatment and beyond. This will support the expansion and security of the role of ESSA professionals in the provision of such services. Cost-effective services are also more likely to be supported by government funding, contributing to their sustainability, further benefiting ESSA professionals. This value-based framework can also be applied to exercise in other healthcare fields, not limited to oncology.

Previous Winners

ESSA 2022 Research Grant Winners

Associate Professor Bernie Bissett and Ms Mary Johnson
The University of Canberra
Supported by project researchers: Michelle Bennett, Carol Huang, Louise Gainsford, Allison Maher, Kacie Paterson, Tanya Buettikofer, Andrew Woodward, Madeleine Brady and Julie Cooke.

Exercise Physiology in COVID recovery: exploring the feasibility and safety of graded exercise therapy in a COVID-Recovery Clinic.
We are analysing the feasibility and safety of progressive exercise therapy as a central element of ‘Long COVID’ rehabilitation in our multidisciplinary clinic in Canberra. Around 5 – 10% of COVID survivors experience ‘Long COVID’, with weakness, fatigue and breathlessness frequent problems. We are using individually-tailored assessment, prescription and supervision of graded exercise in our COVID Recovery clinic, and exercise physiologists are at the heart of our multidisciplinary team. It is crucial that we capture data to demonstrate exercise can be delivered safely in people with Long COVID, as clinicians around the world seek to optimise recovery for their clients.

Why is this beneficial?
In many parts of the world there is a resistance to using exercise in recovery from COVID, and a lack of data to inform practice. Our study results will provide clear evidence about the safety and feasibility of graded exercise therapy, and will guide exercise physiologists about how exercise training can be used effectively in people with Long COVID. These findings will be relevant not just to clinicians working in COVID recovery clinics, but also to a diverse range of community settings where clients will present with the challenges of COVID recovery for many years to come.

Associate Professor Annette Raynor
Edith Cowan University
Supported by project researchers: Lauren Fortington Stacey Scott, Sally Casson and Jennifer Grieve.

A little bit of exercise goes a long way – increasing independence of aged care residents with Parkinson's Disease.
Residential Aged Care (RAC) settings are notoriously under-resourced, with staff under considerable pressure, making it difficult to provide effective exercise to all residents. For residents with complex care needs, such as Parkinson’s Disease (PD), the situation is amplified. Our project aims to establish the benefits and financial value of providing an exercise physiologist led 12-week exercise program for people with PD living in RAC. Results will provide the potential physical and social benefits to the resident, the indirect benefits to staff, cost to the organisation and identify critical design features that need to be considered when working with this population.

Why is this beneficial?
This study will report on program needs (design, time, resources), impact on the residents and staff and the cost to the organisation of delivering a 12-week exercise program to those with Parkinson’s Disease. These findings can inform ongoing discussions between ESSA, policy makers, funding providers and the sector leads to justify the value of routinely employing AEPs within residential aged care. Findings will also be translated and disseminated through journal articles and ESSA-led education programs to ensure the AEP workforce is ready to meet future demands and opportunities in this complex area of care using evidence based best practice methods.

ESSA 2021 Research Grant Winner

Associate Professor Nathan Johnson
The University of Sydney
Supported by project researchers: Professor Stephen Twigg, University of Sydney; Mr Callum Baker, University of Sydney; Dr Danquing Min, University of Sydney; Professor Viv Chuter, University of Western Sydney.

In Australia approximately 50,000 people with diabetes develop a foot ulcer each year, which leads to increased risk of hospital admissions and amputations. People who develop a “diabetic foot ulcer” (DFU) are often advised to avoid physical activity. Yet, regular exercise has significant metabolic and cardiovascular benefits for people with diabetes, and may even benefit foot ulcer healing. There is a great need to find safe and effective ways for people with DFUs to engage in exercise, and to evaluate the effects of exercise on health and wound healing in people with DFUs.

Our proposed research will use a “randomised controlled design” to compare the effects of 12 weeks of regular exercise versus usual care on metabolic, cardiovascular, and wound health in adults with DFUs. Our multidisciplinary research team which includes AEPs, physician, scientists and podiatrists from the University of Sydney, Western Sydney University and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, will lead this translational exercise-based study at the Charles Perkins Centre (University of Sydney). This world first study is aimed at finding benefits for patients and providing clear, practical guidance for clinicians and exercise specialists managing people with diabetes and its complications.

Why is this beneficial?
The results of this randomised control trial (RCTs) will provide important new evidence concerning the efficacy of regular, combined resistance and ergometry-based aerobic exercise training on glycaemic control, fitness, cardiovascular health and wound healing people with diabetes-related foot ulcers. These are important insights into an area of practice that AEPs do not routinely operate, despite plausible reasons to believe that exercise can be safe and effective.

Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEPs) are best positioned to provide exercise therapy for people with diabetic foot ulcers, representing an important and so-far missed opportunity for the profession to impact on the national burden of diabetes. However, to date quality exercise studies in people with diabetes who have foot ulceration are lacking. Subsequently there is little evidence to guide exercise assessment and delivery. Also, there are practical challenges to implementing exercise for people with diabetes-related DFU: weight-bearing exercise increases plantar foot pressure and skin shear stress and may negatively impact ulcer healing. Moreover, people with DFU cannot undertake water-based exercise due to active ulceration.

Our multidisciplinary research team which includes AEPs, physicians, scientists and podiatrists will trial a novel approach to combined resistance and aerobic exercise assessment and training, which we anticipate will provide guidance for exercise specialists to implement safe and effective exercise in practice. Ultimately, this may help improve health and reduce the burden of DFUs for many people.