Effects of False-Start Disqualification Rules on Response-Times of Elite-Standard Sprinters

Kevin Brosnan, Dr. Kevin Hayes & Prof. Andrew Harrison

Journal of Sports Sciences 2016



This research was under taken by a collobarative team from the Physical Education and Sports Science and the Mathematics and Statistics Departments at the University of Limerick. The project explores the response-times of elite-standard sprinters to the start signal at international athletics events. The research had two main objectives which are both explored in detail in the publication in the Journal of Sports Sciences.

A brief overview of the research questions are as follows:

  1. Utilising the collected data:
    • identify that the response-times change follwing a significant rule change
    • is there a sufficient change in response-times to suggest that rule change reduces the attempts at predicting false-starts.
  2. Utilising the collected data and extensive literature search:
    • model the response-times of elite sprinters across all ruling periods
    • provide revised false-start thresholds for elite athletics competitions.

Irish Research Council Science Foundation Ireland MACSI UL

Response Times 1999-2014 - Select a column for Validation

User Inputs

If you wish to focus on a particular Sex of athlete please select the appropriate radiobutton below.
Select the grouping variable which you want to compare across using the appropriate radiobutton below.

Model Fit - Exponentially Modified Gaussian Distribution

Descriptive Statistics


Pint of Science Limerick

25th May 2016

Pint of Science is a worldwide event where Scientists doff their white coats and head to the pubs to tell their research tales. Limerick was one of 106 cities in twelve countries taking part in 2016, see pintofscience.com for a current list. The aim of Pint of Science is to deliver science talks in a fun, engaging and approachable way by bringing them to a relaxing public space - the local pub. The idea is to invite people to sit back, drink, listen and engage with the scientist presenting... over a pint.

Limerick's event, which was organized by the University of Limerick, took place on Wednesday, 25th May from 7pm at JJ Bowles Pub. It involved seven speakers across the whole spectrum of Science and Engineering at UL.

  • "Elite Athletics: is the false start rule appropriate?" Kevin Brosnan, MACSI
  • "Google Knows When You Went to the Pub." Dr. Fayola Peters & Dr. George Grispos, Lero
  • "Marine robotics: explorers and workhorses of our oceans." Dr. Joseph Coleman, MaREI
  • "Composites: Super-plastics for Aeroplanes." Dr. Ronan Higgins, IComps Research Centre
  • "Mad Atoms Tea Party." Prof Ursel Bangert, Bernal Institute
  • "Little Miss Sunshine." Dr Claudia Coughlan, Bernal Institute
  • "Stick your NECK out and get aHEAD of cancer." Eavan Fitzgerald, Education and Health Sciences

My presentation can be downloaded in PowerPoint form here.

Research Team

Kevin Brosnan is a passionate developer of statistical techniques to address real life problems. He completed a B.Sc in Mathematical Sciences at the University of Limerick, with a major in Statistics in August 2014. Kevin is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Limerick with a thesis titled “Statistical Modelling with Application to Flow Cytometry & Sports Science”. Flow Cytometry is used across industries such as medical diagnostics and dairy sciences, however the current statistical methods do not compliment the technology used. Developing these improved statistical methods is the aim of the research. The fair and impartial refereeing of elite athletics is the research area of sports science which Kevin is currently working on. Kevin also has vast industry experience in Management Consultancy (Accenture), Banking (AIB) and developing analytic tools for multinational companies (Accenture).

Dr. Kevin Hayes holds the position of senior lecturer (statistics) in the department of mathematics and statistics and is co-PI (with Professors Stephen O'Brien, and Eugene Benilov) of the applied mathematics and statistics SFI funded research group MACSI. Dr. Hayes' main research area concerns the statistical analysis of curve data as applied to the area of human biomechanics, in collaboration with Doctors Drew Harrison (PESS) and Norma Bargary (MACSI). Kevin's current research is concerned with developing mathematical and statistical models to help understand the relationship and interaction between biomechanical function and muscular stimulus. He also has considerable experience analysing large epidemiological / population based data sets and data from biomedical applications.

Prof. Drew Harrison is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Physical Education and Sports Sciences at the University of Limerick. Drew established and co-directs the Biomechanics Research Unit at the University of Limerick. He was President of the International Society of Biomechanics in Sport and has authored or co-authored over 100 international peer-reviewed publications, 5 book chapters, one co-edited book on biomechanics and several international keynote presentations. He is a member of the editorial board for the peer reviewed journal 'Sports Biomechanics' and is a regular reviewer for many peer reviewed journals. Drew is an IAAF Elite Athletics Coach and has coached many track and field athletes at all levels including, European, World and Olympic Games.

Source Code

Full source code is available from the responsetimes github repository.


The suggested citation for data and plots from this website is:

Brosnan, Kevin C., Kevin Hayes, and Andrew J. Harrison. “Effects of false-start disqualification rules on response-times of elite-standard sprinters.” Journal of Sports Sciences (2016): 1-7.


  • shiny: Chang, W., Cheng J., Allaire, J.J., Xie, Y. & McPherson, J. (2013). shiny: Web Application Framework for R. R package version 0.11.1
  • shinydashboard:Chang, W. (2015). shinydashboard: Create Dashboards with Shiny. R package version 0.5.1
  • retimes: Massidda, D. (2013). retimes: Reaction Time Analysis. R package version 0.1.2
  • DT: Xie, Y. (2015). DT: A Wrapper of the JavaScript Library 'DataTables'. R package version 0.1.57
  • lattice: Sarkar, D. (2008). Lattice: Multivariate Data Visualisation with R. Springer, New York. ISBN 978-0-387-75968-5
  • markdown: Allaire, J.J., Horner, J., Marti, V. & Porte, N. (2015). markdown: Markdown rendering for R. R package version 0.7.4