Dr Debbie Palmer

Senior Lecturer in Research Methods


Dr Debbie Palmer is a lecturer in research methods and epidemiology.  She is a three-time Winter Olympian (in short track speed skating) and dual International (Ice Hockey).  Debbie subsequently worked as an exercise physiologist at the University of Bath before completing her PhD in injury epidemiology 2009, and has worked in sport injury and illness prevention for over 16 years.  Debbie’s research focuses on epidemiology, risk and prevention of injury and illness in elite, youth and recreational cohorts, longer-term consequences of sport-related injury, and current and retired athlete health.  She has worked with UK Sport, the English and Scottish Institutes of Sport, Arthritis Research UK (Versus Arthritis), the Rugby Football Union, Scottish Rugby Union, Scottish FA, Enduro World Series mountain biking, International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Olympians Association. Current research projects include World Rugby studies in women's injury prevention and new tackle height law change evaluation, and the long-term IOC Olympian Health Cohort.  Debbie is co-founder of the Versus Arthritis Significant Ankle Ligament Injury (SALI) UK Cohort. She is also Co-Director for the new Edinburgh-Bath UK Collaborating Centre on Injury and Illness Prevention in Sport (UKCCIIS), IOC Research Centre of Excellence.


PhD Injury epidemiology, University of Bath - 2009

MSc Exercise Physiology, Loughborough University - 2003

BSc (hons) Sport Science, University of Greenwich - 1998

Responsibilities & affiliations

Adjunct Associate Professor – Sport Injury Prevention Research Centre, Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, Canada

Associate member – Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis, Versus Arthritis (Arthritis Research UK)

Honorary Assistant Professor - Orthopaedics, Trauma and Sports Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Nottingham (2015-2023)

Undergraduate teaching

  • Sport and Exercise Medicine 4
  • Research methods in Sport Science 2D
  • Sport and recreation management research methods


Dissertation supervision

  • BSc Sport Science
  • MSc Strength and Conditioning


Current PhD students supervised

Will Wynter Bee - Understanding illness, Injury and the benefits and barriers to participation in golf with a focus on mental health and those with significant impairment / disability (International Golf Federation - University of Edinburgh)

Hamish Gornall - Tackle height law change and concussion evaluation in Scottish Rugby (World Rugby/Scottish Rugby Union - University of Edinburgh)

Thomas Fallon - Injuries and injury prevention in competitive cycling (Queens Belfast University)

Steve Curnyn - Does variance in biological maturity and growth rate impact player selection and injury risk in academy and national levels in Scottish football (Scottish Football Association - University of Bath, University of Edinburgh)

Steffan Griffin - Rugby Union, Health and Wellbeing (University of Edinburgh)

Isla Shill - Injury and concussion in female high school rugby: Evaluation a rugby-specific NMT warm-up (University of Calgary)

Kait Simpson - University Sport and Mental Health (University of Edinburgh)

Hannah Walton - Activate in the female setting: a tri-nations women's rugby injury prevention study (World Rugby - University of Edinburgh)


Past PhD students supervised

Dale Cooper - Great Britain Olympians Injury and Osteoarthritis, Arthritis Research UK (University of Nottingham - completed Sept 2016)

Stuart Bailey - Elite Scottish Rugby Union injury and concussion (Edinburgh Napier University - completed Oct 2021)

Cameron Paul - Player load and injury in Elite Scottish Rugby Union (Edinburgh Napier University - completed Dec 2021)

Research summary

Sports injury and illness epidemiology in elite, recreational and community, and youth cohorts:

  • Injury/illness epidemiology
  • Injury/illness risk and prevention
  • Longer-term consequences of significant joint injury
  • Current and retired athlete health
  • Sport-related concussion

Lead for the Edinburgh Sports Medicine Research Network (ESMRN) based at the University of Edinburgh. Co-Director for the UK Collaborating Centre on Injury and Illness Prevention in Sport, IOC Research Centre

Project activity

International Olympic Committee - IOC Olympian Health Cohort (2022 to current) (PI) https://www.ed.ac.uk/olympians

World Rugby/Scottish Rugby Union - tackle height law change evaluation (2023 to current)

World Rugby - Effectiveness of the World Rugby Activate injury prevention programme in the female setting: a multi-centre home nations approach. Collaboration between the University of Edinburgh, University of Bath, Cardiff Metropolitan University. (2022 to current) (University of Edinburgh primary institution, study PI)

International Olympic Committee - Medical and Scientific Committee expert Games group, London 2012, Sochi 2014, Rio 2016, PyeongChang 2018, Lausanne YOG 2020, Tokyo 2020/21, Beijing 2022, Gangwon YOG 2024

Arthritis Research UK (Versus Arthritis), Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis - Significant Ankle Ligament Injury (SALI) accident and emergency cohort study (2014 to current) (PI/Co-I)

World Olympians Association - Retired Olympian Musculoskeletal Health Study (ROMHS) (2017-2019), $120k (PI)

Enduro World Series (EWS) mountain biking - Injury/Illness Performance Project: elite rider, and recreational rider PROM studies (2017-2019), £24k (PI)

Scottish Rugby Union - Player load monitoring and performance in elite Scottish Rugby Union PhD studentship (2017-2020), 59k (DoS)

Edinburgh Napier Chancellors Queens 50th Anniversary PhD studentship award - Concussion injury risk and prevention in elite Scottish Rugby Union (2017-2020), £59k (DoS)

British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine (BASEM) - pump priming grant (2015), £10k (PI)

Arthritis Research UK - pump priming Spring research award (2015), £15k (PI)

UK Sport/ English Institute of Sport - Injury/Illness Prevention Programme (2011-2014), £218k (PI)

In the press

Mar 2023. D Palmer. British Journal of Sports Medicine knowledge translation blog. Consequences of injury are greater for Olympians than the general population.  https://blogs.bmj.com/bjsm/2023/03/06/consequences-of-injury-are-greater-for-olympians-than-the-general-population/

Nov 2022. The Independent - Elite sportspeople at higher risk of osteoarthritis, research shows https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/olympians-experts-university-of-edinburgh-sport-b2231294.html


Oct 2022. Edinburgh-Bath UK Collaborating Centre on Injury and Illness Prevention in Sport (UKCCIIS) IOC Research Centre status award




Aug 2022. IOC Olympian Health Cohort - University of Edinburgh/IOC research collaboration



Jul 2022. World Rugby - Efficacy of the World Rugby Activate injury prevention programme in the female setting: a multi-centre home nations approach:



Mar 2021. Pinkbike - Enduro World Series mountain biking injury study



Mar 2021. Mountain Bike Rider Magazine - Waking up to the dangers of concussion