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Iain Spears

01642 342381
Job title:
Professor of Sport & Exercise
School of Social Sciences, Business & Law
Social Sciences, Business & Law research

About Iain Spears

Iain Spears

Iain Spears
Professor of Sport & Exercise, School of Social Sciences, Business & Law
T: 01642 342381
Research: Social Sciences, Business & Law research

Professor Spears’ background is engineering, specialising in computational biomechanics in the areas of sport and exercise. Prior to sport and exercise, he worked in dental and orthopaedic research. His dental research work on determining internal structure and mechanical properties of dental materials is still widely cited and attracted a series of follow-on grants.

His orthopaedic research involved the development of a virtual-reality testing environment for non-cemented hip replacements. This work was the seminal stage of an EU-wide initiative for biomechanical data collection funded from the German Research Council.

Professor Spears' five current postgraduate students are developing technologies for analysis of the biomechanics of the musculoskeletal system. For example, his most recently successful MPhil and PhD students completed dissertations on the development of simulations of the ligamentous interactions of the ankle joint and the mechanics of repair of hip fracture patients, respectively.

He acts as associate editor and reviewer for numerous scientific journals and on a practical level Professor Spears advises the Teesside Sports Injury Clinic on a range of injury-related issues. In addition, he is an inventor primarily in technologies related to the health care industry. These inventions have so far received widespread public and commercial interest. For example, an early invention virtual reality exercise bike with artificial intelligence for resistance setting (van Schaik et al., 2007) was created specifically to promote physical activity in older adults (BBC Look North, June 2005). More recently a low-cost patented motion capture system (UK Patent Filing Number 0808061.6.) was developed.

Professor Spears is currently the project leader on an EPSRC Digital Economy research project for a high-intensity low-volume exercise environment for use in social clubs. The intellectual property has been transferred into a new venture and commercial exploitation rights are in place with undisclosed market leaders in the fitness industry. These and future products based on his research base will continually be applied to the healthcare and health sciences sector; an area identified as one of the three pillars in the region’s strategy for success in the North East of England.

Professor Spears is particularly keen to hear from students who either have or wish to have good computational skills, and who are keen to conduct high quality research into the biomechanics of the musculoskeletal system.

Research interests

Together with students, Iain is studying metatarsal fractures in footballers using simulations to identify the cause. He has also worked with final-year students to research mouth guards and bike seats. The impact of being bit by a cricket ball is very different to being hit by a boxing glove. They found that mouth guard designs need to be sport-specific.

Their computer modelling of the interaction between bike seats and the body looked at how arteries and nerves get compressed. When sitting, weight is frequently placed on the ischial tuberosity (sitting bone). It’s important to get this bone over the top of your bike seat, rather than hanging off it.

As a result, the team have made recommendations on safe cycling. Their findings were published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, a leading multidisciplinary journal, and his students won the Biomechanics Prize at the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences Student Conference (2002).

Iain is also working on a patented computer modelling system tracking human motion to predict falls in the elderly.

In the news

  • Ten life-changing ideas under research at UK universities
    The Telegraph (Web)
    A boxing computer game has been tested out on 50 unhealthy men from Teeside as part of Teeside University's research into whether this type of game can improve people's health. Co-researcher Dr Alan B

  • Are you sitting comfortably?
    Cyclist, 01/06/2013, p.96
    Dr Iain Spears at Teesside University published a paper on the effect of the saddle on the perineum. 'The problem is that your body isn't designed to have high loads on your perineum, unlike your foot

  • Boxing game launch at Teesside University
    BBC Tees, 12/04/2012
    Dynamic Motion Detection (DMD) Limited has been established on the back of research at the Social Futures Institute – part of Teesside University - which is internationally renowned for its work in di

  • Boxing clever
    Evening Gazette, 16/04/2012, p.15; Gazette Live (Web), 16/04/2012
    A boxing video game developed at Teesside University looks set to become a success when it is launched across the world this summer. Dynamic Motion Detection (DMD) Limited has been established on the

  • Teesside University spin-out packs gaming punch
    Love Middlesbrough (Web), 16/04/2012
    Dynamic Motion Detection (DMD) Limited has been established on the back of research at the Social Futures Institute part of Teesside University which is internationally renowned for its work in digita