More to sports than pushing barriers
KHONG Teng Keen, 28, has always been active in sports. From his primary school years, the Kuala Lumpur native has played football, basketball and badminton, and practised martial arts. He was a member of the football teams in both primary and secondary school, and during the early years of his undergraduate days, he represented University of Malaya (UM) in the sport.
Due to an anterior cruciate ligament injury, the Bachelor of Sports Science graduate decided to opt for baseball instead and he has represented UM in inter-varsities baseball games since. Due to his passion for sports, he is a member of Raiders Baseball Club, which participates in the Klang Valley baseball weekend league.
Khong believes the experience of taking part in different sports has helped him to be ready to learn anything, anytime, from anyone. Currently a Doctor of Philosophy in Sports Science candidate — one of the few who bypassed the process of getting a master’s degree after graduating with a bachelor’s degree — Khong said there is more to sports than pushing physical barriers and that there must be a focus on science to enable sportsmen to achieve higher performance.
“Sports is not something I enjoy just physically. My interest in sports science also stems from wanting to understand how my body works when I take part in sports. I envisage a career in research, specifically in sports science,” said the self-professed tech nerd who views himself as an introvert outside sports. He reads widely — from history and biographies to science fiction — and watches documentaries.
Having made the dean’s list numerous times during his undergraduate years, his lecturers at UM’s Sports Center recommended him to enrol in the postgraduate programme after finishing his bachelor’s degree.
“During my degree programme, I majored in Exercise Physiology and minored in Science of Coaching. The programme covered the physiological changes of the human body towards exercise, including acute changes during exercise, and the chronic adaptation following a training programme or active lifestyle.”
There were also elements of nutrition, psychology, biochemistry and coaching/teaching methods. As a research university programme, it also consists of assignments that mimic academic research, which helped prepare Khong for research-oriented life of a doctoral candidate.
Khong’s doctoral research is on effects of carbohydrates on Central Fatigue following endurance exercise. Central Fatigue refers to the form of fatigue associated with changes within the central nervous system. “Simply put, I observe changes in the central nervous system following endurance exercises with different carbohydrate prescriptions.”
His focus is on long duration running. “I prescribe meals for athletes and obtain data from blood tests, electromyography readings and electrical stimulations. Athletes run for 90 minutes and I do a post-test to see the difference in results between the different meals prescribed. I monitor how their bodies react,” said Khong, adding that examiners in Taiwan, Denmark and UM are vetting his thesis.
On the importance of people in sports to be knowledgeable about science, Khong said it is crucial so that programmes prescribed can be optimised.
“Most athletes follow what the coaches prescribe without knowing the reason. Some national athletes do not know why they practise yoga. They will appreciate it more if they know the benefits — breathing during yoga helps replenish energy and flushes out lactates. Every programme has its aim. Even the public should
Doctor of Philosophy
in Sports Science, University of Malaya (third-year candidate)
Bachelor of Sports Science, University
of Malaya Intern at Exercise Physiology Center, National Sports Institute (2012) know what exercise suits them.”
Khong, who recently represented Malaysia at a sports seminar in Kanoya in Japan, commended the country’s sports training and assessment.
“The focus was on preparation for Olympics 2020 which Japan is hosting. There is a focus on scientific research for high performance sports and management, which can be implemented in Malaysia to push sports to a higher level. However, it takes a generation for results to show.”
Khong Teng Keen conducting research. Sports and science go hand in hand, says Khong Teng Keen.