New Theory Content for AQA AS / A-level Specifications

The new specification for AQA AS and A-level remain in draft form on the AQA website.  However, as the subject content has been set by Ofqual and the other examining boards have had their specifications approved, it should be safe to assume that the theory content will not change.


As far as I can see, we have the following topics on the specification that are new to the course:


  • Venous return – relationship with blood pressure (systolic, diastolic)
  • Constructivism – social development theory (Vygotsky)
  • Characteristics and impact on sporting recreation -Limited to mob football, real tennis and Much Wenlock Olympic Games
  • Emergence of (female) performers and officials in football, tennis and athletics in the late 20th and early 21st
  • Understanding of the definitions of the following key terms in relation to the study of sport and their impact on equal opportunities in sport and society:
  • Society
  • Socialisation
  • Social processes
  • Social issues
  • Social structures/stratification
  • Understanding social action theory in relation to social issues in physical activity and sport
  • Exercise-related functions of: Fibre. Fat [Saturated Fat, Trans fat and Cholesterol], Protein, Vitamins (C, D, B-12, B-complex), Minerals [Sodium, Iron, Calcium], Water (Hydration before, during and after physical activity)
  • The key data terms qualitative and quantitative
  • Definitions, equations and units of example scalars
  • Centre of mass; factors affecting stability – height of centre of mass, area of base of support, position of line of gravity and body mass
  • Understanding of the nature vs nurture debate in the development of personality – Trait, social learning
  • Understanding technology for sport analytics– Use of technology in data collection (quantitative and qualitative, objective and subjective, validity and reliability of data).
  • Video and analysis programmes
  • Testing and recording equipment (metabolic cart for indirect calorimetry)
  • Use of GPS and motion tracking software and hardware
  • Maintaining data integrity.


Some A2 topics are now included in AS:


  • Golden triangle and commercialisation
  • PNF stretching, glycogen loading, periodisation (why not plyometrics?)
  • Newton’s Laws
  • Individual psychology constructs
  • Social facilitation; groups; goal-setting
  • Role of technology


So, today’s blog is going to try and be helpful by providing suitable notes /  explanations of each (most) of this new content.  I think this may take a bit longer that I first intended, so I’ll produce notes in the sections of the specification in which they are to be examined (delivered?); in others words Anatomy and Physiology, Skill and Psychology, and Sport and Society.


Venous return – relationship with blood pressure (systolic, diastolic)

The mechanics of venous return remain the same – gravity, the skeletal muscle pump, the respiratory pump and suction pressure of the heart.  What is new is this idea of its relationship with blood pressure.

In simple terms, venous return (VR) is the flow of blood back to heart, and under normal circumstances the venous return will be the same as the cardiac output because of Starlings Law – if venous return increases – right ventricular preload increases – leading to increase in stroke volume and hence cardiac output.

Venous return

Haemodynamically, venous return is determined by a pressure gradient. An increase in venous pressure (PV) or a decrease in right atrial pressure (PRA), or a decrease in venous resistance (RV) leads to an increase in venous return. This is because the venous return is related to these three pressures such that:

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 21.39.21

Venous return

The blood pressure in both the right atrium (PRA) and the peripheral veins (PV) are normally very low, so that the pressure gradient driving venous return from the peripheral veins to the heart is also relatively low. Because of this, just small changes of blood pressure in either the right atrium or the peripheral veins can cause a large change in the pressure gradient, and therefore significantly affect the return of blood to the right atrium. For example, during inspiration, the small changes in blood pressures between the atria and the abdominal cavity causes a large increase in the pressure gradient driving venous return from the peripheral circulation to the right atrium.

The Exercise-related Functions of Foods

Carbohydrates – no change in content

Fibre – this was hard to resource, but apparently fibre slows the rate that body breaks down energy. Therefore fibre in the diet leads to a more sustained energy release.

Fat – is a concentrated source of energy, providing more than double the energy of carbohydrates. Fat is found in different forms in the diet and in the body. Saturated fat is the kind of fat found in butter and cream, pies, cakes and biscuits, fatty cuts of meat, sausages and bacon, and cheese and milk. We are advised by the medical professionals to eat less saturated fat. Too much saturated fat can lead to the build up of cholesterol in blood, which is a risk factor for coronary heart disease. Trans fats are uncommon in nature, but are produced during industrial production of things like margarine and fast foods. Trans fats are also linked to high cholesterol levels.
Fats require more oxygen for their break down and are therefore the bodies preferred energy source during low-intensity aerobic work, e.g. jogging.

Protein – is a low source of energy. Protein tends to be used when body has exhausted glucose/glycogen and fat stores. Proteins are used for growth and repair of muscles, and protein diets are recommended for performers involved in activities such as weightlifting, rugby and sprinting. Protein is also needed when recovering from injury in order to repair damaged tissue.

Vitamin C – is involved in production of collagen, which is found in connective tissue (skin, cartilage and bone). It is also involved in producing the normal structure and function of blood vessels and it has some neurological functions.

Vitamin D
– controls the amount of calcium that is absorbed by intestine. It is also essential for the absorption of phosphorus and for normal bone mineralisation and structure.

Vitamin B12 – is needed for normal cell division and blood formation and function. It is also needed for the normal structure and function of nerves.

Vitamin B complex

Thiamine – is needed to release energy from carbohydrate. It is also involved in the normal functioning of the nervous system and the heart.

Riboflavin – is needed to release energy from protein, carbohydrate and fat. It is also involved in the transport and metabolism of iron. Riboflavin is also needed to produce the normal structure and function of mucous membranes and skin.

Niacin – is required for the release of energy from food, for the development of normal structure of skin and mucous membranes and for normal functioning of nervous system.

Vitamin B6 – is essential in the metabolism of protein, and it is also involved in iron metabolism and transport.

Vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid are required for the maintenance of blood homocysteine levels. A raised blood homocysteine is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Sodium helps regulate the water content and electrolyte balance of the body. It is also involved in energy use and nerve function. Too much salt in the diet is linked to an increased risk of raised blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Excess sweating may deplete sodium, in which case, the intake needs to temporarily increase to replenish the loss.

Iron is required for the formation of haemoglobin in red blood cells. It is also needed for normal energy metabolism, and for the metabolism of drugs and foreign substances that need to be removed from body.

Calcium – is the main mineral in bones and teeth, and it is also necessary for nerve and muscle function.

Water is the medium for reactions in the body; is the main lubricant for joints and eyes; and is involved in the regulation of body temperature. The amount of water needed to be drunk each day varies depending on age, time of year, climatic conditions, diet and amount of physical activity. Our water requirements are particularly increased in hot climates and following exercise.

Dehydration is common among performers in hot climates and/or at altitude. Just a 2% loss of body weight can result in impaired physiological responses and performance.  Symptoms of mild dehydration include headache and fatigue. Water replacement is essential, before, during and after exercise. Tap water is OK for replacing lost fluid following mild or moderate exercise, but fluid replacement during or after vigorous or prolonged exercise should include minerals and carbohydrates – isotonic drinks.

Hope this helps some people. We’ll cover more – The key data terms qualitative and quantitative; Definitions, equations and units of example scalars; Centre of mass; factors affecting stability – height of centre of mass, area of base of support, position of line of gravity and body mass; Constructivism – social development theory (Vygotsky) next time!

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