Hannah Wyatt


Hannah's handstand research may prevent back injuries

Cardiff School of Sport graduate Hannah Wyatt credits her time at Cardiff Metropolitan University with sparking the interest in natural sciences which drove her to undertake a three-year research project.

When Hannah moved from Swansea to Cardiff in 2008 to start her undergraduate degree in Sport and Exercise Science, she was so impressed with the research taking place in the Biomechanics department that she didn't want to continue her studies anywhere else.

Hannah said: "When I started my BSc, I had heard great things from previous Cardiff Met students, but was primarily attracted to the broad spectrum of study programmes as I was still undecided about my main discipline of interest."

Having competed in the world hip-hop championships, 23-year-old Hannah is passionate about dance and related exercises, which led her to focus her postgraduate research on gymnastics.

Hannah began work on her PhD thesis in 2011 and has already spent thousands of hours in the biomechanics lab, studying the effects of aging on the movement and forces in play when gymnasts perform handstands and forward walkovers.

Speaking about her research, Hannah said: "It's been going really well so far - I've identified factors which seem to increase the potential for female gymnasts to develop back pain and spinal injuries, so I'm hoping that my research can help to inform a preventative strategy."

Hannah is currently running three separate studies and writing a literature review as part of the research for her thesis, entitled "Age-related spinal biomechanics of female gymnasts".

She was initially funding her own postgraduate study, but in 2012 Hannah applied for an external studentship and now receives full financial support from Cardiff Met and Sport Wales to allow her to continue her ground-breaking research until 2015.

Hannah said of Cardiff Met: "Through my undergraduate studies, I gained insight into the innovation and high standards of the biomechanical research at Cardiff Met, and I really wanted a chance to contribute to the success of the department.

"My supervisor throughout my undergraduate dissertation, Dr Marianne Gittoes, also inspired me to further my research, as I was eager to continue working under her supervision and benefiting from her expert support."

Under the spotlight
2006 Studied A Levels in Biology, Psychology and Physical Education
2008 Began BSc Sport & Exercise Science at Cardiff Met
2011 Completed BSc and started self-funded PhD study
2012 Applied for PhD funding from Sports Wales and Cardiff Met
2013-15 Continuing research into spinal biomechanics of female gymnasts

Find out more about PhD and research opportunities at the Cardiff School of Sport.