Last Week in Applied Sports Science, 8/17-8/23

The upcoming World Cup schedule for USA Basketball in Spain is severe. Five preliminary round games will take place in six days, including a short rest, early-after-late game on September 4 against Ukraine. If the U.S. needs to improve player fitness in the time leading up to the games that count, that stress will be compounded by travel and the change in time zone. And if the U.S. is under-prepared, the risk of injury will be high, and the risk will go up if the team fails to get significant on-court minutes from every player on the 12-man roster. Make no mistake, the World Cup basketball tournament is a physically demanding test, and the champion will have worked to earn it.

USA Basketball 2014 World Cup, First 5 Games:

August 30 3:30 p.m. EDT, 9:30 p.m. Bilbao Spain local time USA-Finland
August 31 3:30 p.m. EDT, 9:30 p.m. Bilbao Spain local time Turkey-USA
September 2 11:30 a.m. EDT, 5:30 p.m. Bilbao Spain local time USA-New Zealand
September 3 3:30 p.m. EDT, 9:30 p.m. Bilbao Spain local time Dominican Republic-USA
August 30 11:30 a.m. EDT, 5:30 p.m. Bilbao Spain local time Ukraine-USA
16-team single-elimination championship tournament games begin on September 6 with a rest day in-between rounds for winners and the Gold Medal game scheduled for September 14.

The roster decisions to take Drummond, DeRozan and Rose, for the final slots on the team have a fitness subtext. Drummond is gigantic, athletic and a load for opponents, a player who can wear down the other team if his own fitness level is high. DeRozan won the head-to-head-to-head competition with Parsons and Hayward, probably because he wanted it more, and showed that with his work to this point. Drummond and DeRozan are on the team, at least in part, because they are fit.

Rose is a curious situation. Coming off of a series of major injuries, USA Basketball is bringing the Chicago Bulls’ athlete performance director, Jen Swanson, to attend to Rose and mitigate the injury risk he faces with his comeback. Rose made news by sitting out practices during the team’s training stay in New York City, a situation that might raise flags about a potential fitness deficit, a real danger because the severe tournament opening games. I think the opposite is probably true, that Rose is super-fit and probably the U.S. player best prepared for the demands of World Cup competition, at least partly because of Swanson.

USA Basketball does not appear to have much (if any) sports science staff to compliment two athletic trainers (Joe Sharpe/Thunder, Gregg Farnam/Timberwolves) and three physicians (Answorth Allen, Lisa Callahan and Riley Williams, all from the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City). All of the time that Rose has spent in training and rehab give him a deep knowledge and a serious perspective on physical preparation, something that teammates probably don’t have and may not hear given the makeup of the team’s staff. In terms of fitness and physical preparation, Rose is the one guy that the U.S. needs to have on this World Cup team.

The Best Things I Read Last Week:

  1. Biomechanics: Efficient running   Athletics Weekly … AW is the UK’s bible for high-level running and track coverage. This article, looking at Mo Farah, is the third in an excellent series on the interplay between the coaching and biomechanics of elite runners.
  2. For a healthier you, let your smartphone call it in   Cornell Chronicle … Cornell researchers have a $3 million NSF grant to make smartphones into a micro-testing lab for personal health. Athletes are likely early adopters.
  3. How Much Rest Between Training Cycles Is Enough? … Rest is a complicated subject, an impulse that goes counter to an athlete’s improvement instinct, but which remains absolutely essential. Stories about rest gone wrong are tinged with disappointment, but that is the setup here for quality information.
  4. Eccentric Hamstring Strength and Hamstring Injury Risk Australian Footballers   Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise … This study by David Opar at AIS is evidence that muscular imbalances can indeed be injury predictive.
  5. Mental health: Elite sport stars are ‘afraid to talk’   BBC Newsbeat … Far less attention goes to the “neuro” components of athletes’ neuro-muscular systems. Good to see attention being paid to athletes higher-order cognition and mental health.

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