Fitter, faster, stronger: are we overdoing sporting excellence?

Event status:

Join us on the evening of Thursday 14 March, as our expert panel of medical and sports scientists, combined with some of Australia’s leading athletes to explore the physical and mental boundaries of human performance in sport.

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Thursday 14 March 2019 06:15 pm until Thursday 14 March 2019 08:00 pm (Add to calendar)
University Events
Presented by:
Francis Leach
Type of Event:
Community Event; Forum/symposium; Public Lecture
$15 General / $10 Alumni & Staff / $7.50 Students

Exercise science has had a significant impact on the lives of sportsmen and women, and on the broader health outcomes in our society. Sporting performance today is significantly better than a generation ago, but we probably need to ask how much more human potential is left to unlock? What are the costs and dangers in our desire for better physical performance?

Join us on the evening of Thursday 14 March as our expert panel of medical and sports scientists, combined with some of Australia’s leading athletes, explore the physical and mental boundaries of human performance.

Hear from Dr Peter Brukner, former team doctor of the Australian Cricket team, along with the physio that keeps Australia’s elite ballet dancers on their toes, Dr Susan Mayes. Also in this captivating line-up is professional athlete and Paralympic gold medallist Kelly Cartwright, as well as Dr Bridie O’Donnell, the former athlete charged with encouraging more females to break sport's glass ceiling.

The Bold Thinking panel will be moderated by journalist, presenter and self-confessed sports tragic Francis Leach.

We will explore the challenges inherent in the constant pursuit of athletic improvement and ask where our untapped potential exists. When will we hit the limit of human performance? How important is mental health to physical wellbeing and sporting success? When does a surgical solution trump rehabilitation when injury strikes? What are the particular health challenges emerging from new sporting opportunities for females?

The panel will also explore the need for all of us to stay fit, healthy and happy as medical advances mean we all continue to live longer. What can sports science and the techniques applied to professional sportsmen and women teach us, and can that be applied to our own lives?

About the speakers

Peter Brukner OAM is a specialist sports and exercise physician whose most recent position has been Australian cricket team doctor from 2012–17. Peter is the founding partner of Olympic Park Sports Medicine Centre in Melbourne and Professor of Sports Medicine at La Trobe University. A founding Executive Member of the Australasian College of Sports Physicians, he served two terms as President and played a key role in establishing sports medicine as a medical specialty in Australia.

Peter is the co-author of the widely used text book Clinical Sports Medicine and has been team physician for professional football clubs as well as national athletics, swimming, soccer and men’s hockey teams including the Olympic and Commonwealth Games. Peter was the Socceroos Team Doctor at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and subsequently became Head of Sports Medicine and Sports Science at Liverpool Football Club. He is the co-founder of the public health campaign SugarByHalf and is committed to the challenge of improving the nation’s health with improved diet and increased physical activity. His most recent book A Fat Lot of Good was published in May 2018.

Dr Susan Mayes is an Adjunct Research Fellow at La Trobe University’s School of Allied Health and an internationally respected physiotherapist, teacher and mentor. She is recognised as a leader in the field of physiotherapy – particularly in areas of rehabilitation, injury management and injury prevention – and is a world-renowned expert in dance health.

Since 1997, Susan has held the position of Principal Physiotherapist and Medical Team Manager for The Australian Ballet. She has toured with the company both nationally and internationally for over 20 years and has been instrumental in the current research partnership between La Trobe and The Australian Ballet.

Susan is also a part of the fabric of health sciences at La Trobe, having graduated with the very first physiotherapy cohort in 1990. Since then, she has completed her postgraduate diploma and PhD at the University, trained many La Trobe students and been involved in La Trobe research as a clinical supervisor. She is passionate about sharing her knowledge, collaborating with health professionals around the world and offering her expertise pro bono to health practitioners, community dance schools and students. Susan is an inspirational leader, a world-class researcher and a generous mentor.

Kelly Cartwright's life story is best described as triumph over adversity. At the tender age of 15, after being diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer in her right knee, she was forced to make a decision that would change the direction of her life. In November 2004, faced with the option of amputation or radical surgery to remove the cancer, Kelly had her right leg amputated. After a painstaking three months of rehabilitation she was fitted with a prosthetic leg. Having learnt to walk again and facing the reality that her netball career was over, she looked for a new direction. That direction was running.

With a growing passion for running, Kelly’s training intensified in pursuit of her next goal – to be the best above-knee amputee 100m sprinter in the world. Adding to her fast-growing list of achievements Kelly became the first above-knee amputee woman to climb to the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro in 2009. 2012 was by far Kelly’s biggest year. Drawing on all her training, she rose to the top in Long Jump, setting a new world record; claimed the gold medal; and ran a personal best in the 100m to claim silver in London at the 2012 Paralympic Games.

With injury concerns to her foot Kelly moved away from athletics and is now in pursuit of success in her new passion of powerlifting. Having represented Australia at the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games the future is very exciting for Kelly as she aims for the Australian Able Body Powerlifting record. Away from the track, Kelly is a mum to her little boy Max born early 2016. Kelly is an ambassador for Rare Cancers and Make-A-Wish Foundation Australia. Kelly is in demand as a motivational speaker and is having a huge impact as a health and fitness model.

Dr Bridie O’Donnell graduated as Valedictorian from the University of Queensland Medical School and won the JRS Lahz Prize for Most Outstanding Intern in Brisbane in 1999. During her residency she was a rower and then an Ironman triathlete and finished the Ironman Hawaii World Championships in 2006.

In 2007, she began road cycling and in 2008 after winning the National Time Trial title, she raced in the Australian National Team, and then Professional teams in Europe and the United States, representing Australia at three World Championships. Dr O’Donnell returned to full time work in 2013 as a behaviour change physician at Epworth HealthCheck and Epworth Breast Service, with a part time role teaching doctor-patient communication at Deakin University Medical School.

From 2013–2016, Bridie also managed and raced for Rush Women’s Team, a National Road Series cycling team in Australia. In 2016, she became the first Australian woman to make an attempt on the UCI World Hour record in 15 years, setting a new world record of 46.882km at the Adelaide Superdrome. In November 2017, Bridie was appointed the inaugural Head of the Office for Women in Sport and Recreation by the Victorian Government and in May, 2018 she published Life and Death – a Cycling Memoir about her experiences as a professional cyclist in the international peloton.

About the Host

Francis Leach is a Radio personality and journalist. Broadcaster, journalist, writer and passionate fan of The Clash, Francis is a man in love with ideas. He’s passionate about people and their capacity to create and achieve greatness, and he explores the human condition through his love of sport, music, popular culture and great writing. Francis engages in meaningful conversations and asks the right questions, even the tough ones, and his extraordinary breadth and depth of knowledge across any number of fields has given him a unique perspective on life and an amazing ability to connect with his audience.



State Library Victoria, Village Roadshow Theatrette,

Entry 3, 179 La Trobe Street, Melbourne, VIC, 3000

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