Applied Sports Science newsletter – June 29, 2017

Applied Sports Science news articles, blog posts and research papers for June 29, 2017


Saints’ Nick Fairley Will Miss 2017 Season With Heart Problem

The New York Times, Associated Press from

Saints defensive tackle Nick Fairley is coming off one of his best N.F.L. seasons, and it might have been his last.

At the very least, he will not be playing for New Orleans in 2017.

General Manager Mickey Loomis said Monday that Fairley has been placed on the team’s injured reserve list with a nonfootball-illness designation, meaning Fairley is out for this season.


Mexico Hopes New Women’s Pro Soccer League Will Boost Its National Team

VICE Sports, Duncan Tucker from

Yuliana Adriano started playing soccer at age 7 at her parent’s ranch in Esmeralda, a village with 2,000 inhabitants in the northern Mexican state of Durango. She dreamed of playing professionally one day, but understood that would be unlikely since there was no professional women’s league in Mexico.

After leaving home to receive a better education and play for a school team, Adriano was called up to Durango’s state all star team, although they only trained and played together sporadically. And yet Adriano continued to improve. By the time she became a teenager, Adriano was a bonafide talent. And coincidentally, at that exact same time, the Mexican soccer federation announced the formation of the Liga MX Femenil, a 16-team league that kicks off on July 29. Adriano, 14, was signed by the league and assigned to the Santos Laguna team.

“We’re going to put a lot of effort in so that they make the women’s league equal to the men’s one,” Adriano said with a smile. “I’d love for us to have the same wages and all the things that they have. We’re going to show them that being men doesn’t make them better than us.”


Spencer Foo’s Unusual, Winding Road to the NHL

VICE Sports, Minnia Feng from

… It wasn’t until Foo got to attend some development camps in his freshman and sophomore years, talking to some teams and getting an advisor, that he started to realize his NHL dream was within reach if he put the work in. While Foo may have initially been slightly behind in the development curve compared to players who go the junior-to-pro route, he believes NCAA hockey gives those who aren’t quite as polished a great chance to reach their potential.

“There’s a lot of guys who were able to come on and play college hockey and move on up after that, when we’re already 22, 23 years old,” he said. “In Canadian junior, a lot of guys end up with their careers over around when they’re 20. I think college hockey gives such a great opportunity to late bloomers—you’re really never out of it if you want to play in the NHL or pro hockey in general.”


Strength and conditioning coaches are all the rage in college basketball

ESPN College Basketball, Myron Medcalf from

When his team gathered last week for summer workouts, Notre Dame star Bonzie Colson watched freshman D.J. Harvey and Connecticut transfer Juwan Durham saunter around campus with the same limp he remembered from his first season.

But the soreness that followed Notre Dame strength and conditioning coach Tony Rolinski’s workouts and instruction proved worthwhile. Colson, the doughy forward who arrived with more than 20 percent body fat his freshman season, will enter his senior season as a 6-foot-5, 225-pound preseason All-American.

“He’s been everything,” Colson said of Rolinski in a conversation with “He’s one of the realest. He’s done everything to help me shape my body.”

The growing significance of Rolinski and his peers in college basketball demonstrates the philosophical shift within the game that has made strength coaches pivotal assistants, not the stereotypical meatheads who just scream at players while they throw weights around a few days per week.


Germany’s goalkeeper used a cheatsheet to beat England in U-21 Euros shootout

Howler Magazine, Brooks Peck from

The most reliable occurrence in football—Germany beating England on penalties—has happened once again, this time in the semifinals of the U-21 European Championship. But since these were young players who are still learning the ways of the world, there was apparently some doubt at play, resulting in Germany goalkeeper Julian Pollersbeck consulting a cheatsheet he kept in his sock before saving two England penalties.

After each side scored two goals apiece during the first 90 minutes, Germany, Pollersbeck made the difference as Germany won the shootout 4-3. Of course, he didn’t really need his cheatsheet, though. His Germanness was more than enough to get the job done.


“Work Hard or Work Smart?” Is the Wrong Question

Ed Batista from

The perennial “Work hard or work smart?” debate has been playing out again recently, and it’s one with substantial implications for my coaching clients, most of whom are technology company CEOs, and my MBA students at Stanford, most of whom came to business school to make a significant professional leap.

But while this debate addresses critically important issues, we’re not resolving it successfully, at least in part because we’re posing the wrong question as a premise. Rather than ask whether we should “work hard” or “work smart,” we should instead be asking: What is the nature of this particular system? What is the relationship between effort and results? And where am I on that curve? Because the answers to these questions will tell us much more about how to proceed.


Joe Maddon explains the 3 goals he set for building trust amongst his staff

FootballScoop, Zach Barnett from

Joe Maddon wants his assistants to disagree with him. But, as any parent can attest, simply wanting something to happen doesn’t make it happen. Creating an open dialogue amongst a coaching staff begins with the head coach encouraging dissenting opinions and establishing a culture where assistants are free to disagree without that disagreement being counted against them somewhere down the road.

Maddon appeared on the Charlie Rose Show earlier this month and, over a half hour discussion, explained his philosophy for leading his staff and his team.


Football’s Next Frontier: The Battle Over Big Data

The MMQB, Tom Taylor from

… Outside of sports, more and more people are wearing some kind of fitness tracking device. Companies are issuing them as part of corporate wellness programs. Data from them is being used to help diagnose diseases and even solve crimes. “The forces of Big Data are reshaping all of the major institutions in our society,” say the authors of a 2016 report by the Center for Digital Democracy on wearable devices, “disrupting the structures and operations of government, commerce, health, financial markets, education, and the workplace.”

The NFLPA-WHOOP partnership might only be a sports case study with a small sample population of 1,700 football players, but its ethical, legal, and medical consequences may reach far beyond the field of play.



Sports Innovation Lab from

The Sports Innovation Lab today launches Scout™: an online evaluation tool to help sports industry clients identify the technology solutions they need to innovate their organizations and achieve their goals.

Scout™ is a proprietary technology evaluation tool for the sports industry. It analyzes products across the sports technology market based on detailed lab evaluations, and identifies market leaders according to sports organizations’ specific requirements. Scout™ then places its bespoke insights into the complex sports technology market at customers’ fingertips through the Sports Innovation Lab’s online platform.


A Day in the Life of Kitman Labs Unity Developer, David Kelly

Kitman Labs from

David, what are you working on in Kitman Labs?

I’m working on “Capture” as Lead Developer. Capture is Kitman Labs’ markerless motion capture product used by top sports teams in assessing their athlete’s performance and injury risk. Specifically, I’m working on optimising the athlete screening process to a more interactive experience that athletes can complete with ease. That involves lots of prototyping and working with our in-house Sports Scientists and UX Designers to come up with the best solutions.
“Capture” utilises technologies such as the “Microsoft Kinect” and “Unity3D” that found their first use in the games industry so the switch from games programming for me was very comfortable. “Capture” is so interesting to me due to its real world application, we really know our customers and as a developer, I love to see the impact my changes have on meeting their needs. Having that feedback loop is really great and the ambition of Kitman Labs in striving to be a world leader in everything they do is really inspiring.


Collagen: The Master Protein

Breaking Muscle, Alex Eriksson from

… Here’s what will pique the interest of athletes and bodybuilders the most: collagen can help you build bigger and stronger muscles. Two studies were conducted by German and Japanese researchers to test this.

A 2015 German study was done with men in their seventies on collagen peptides against placebo. For three months, they consumed collagen peptides and performed regular resistance training. In the end, the men in the collagen group had grown more muscle mass.

Another study by Japanese researchers5 tested whether the hydroxyprolylglycine (a combination of hydroxylproline and glycine) from gelatin or collagen peptides could be the reason for the German study results. They tested this on muscle cells and found that the cells fused faster and grew larger muscle tissues from supplementation.


Pitcher Prognosis: Using Machine Learning to Predict Baseball Injuries

Insight Data Science, Carl Wivagg from

… Baseball fans will note from the statistics I have chosen in the example that I am focusing on starting pitchers. Other players have different statistics and would constitute an entirely separate machine learning problem. Pitchers are the most impactful choice for a first analysis anyway, both because they are often the most valuable players on a team and because the demanding nature of their task makes them highly susceptible to injury.

Having formulated a suitable question, the next step is data. Major League Baseball statistics are readily available, but records of injury events are harder to come by. Ultimately, I chose a list containing several thousand injury events from’s transaction history. Each disabling injury results in a player being moved to the Disabled List, which is a transaction. Unfortunately, players being traded or moving up from the minor leagues are also transactions, so I used regex processing to generate a mostly clean list of about a thousand pitcher movements to the Disabled List. Spot checking revealed no irregularities; every event that passed through the regex filters was indeed injury-related.


How Analytics Are Used in the NFL

The MMQB, Albert Breer from

… Analytics in the NFL have moved well beyond the point where a team hiring a consulting firm to run numbers constitutes outside-the-box thinking. Yet, there remains resistance, a battleground of thought, and a general cloudiness on how far you can take numbers, and how far numbers can take you.

And just the same as 16 years ago, you can place a genius in the center of it.

Perception holds that the Patriots are among the league’s most progressive teams, but there’s precious little evidence of their investment. They have people who are responsible for advanced statistics, but coaches and scouts are largely charged with integrating data gathered into their work. The “analytics guy” there is 64-year-old Ernie Adams, a former Wall Street trader and prep school buddy of Bill Belichick’s.

So why are people so convinced that the five-time champions are knee-deep in the numbers? As one informed long-time NFL exec explains it, “It’s because they’re completely consistent with what sophisticated analytics would tell you to do.”


Microsoft’s machine learning can predict injuries in sports – Its new analytics platform also helps teams track, improve player behavior.

Engadget, Edgar Alvarez from

Microsoft is bringing its big-data knowledge to sports. Today, the company introduced its new Sports Performance Platform, an analytics system that aims to help teams track, improve and predict their players performance using machine learning and Surface technology. Created by Microsoft Garage, the group responsible for the tech giant’s offbeat innovations, the project is designed to make coaches better understand player data and find ways to turn that into actionable insights. Microsoft’s Sports Performance Platform can, for example, figure out when a player is at risk of injury, based on his or her most recent performance and recovery time.

The company says one of the main benefits to its sports analytics tool is that it’s powered by proprietary business tools such as Power BI, a cloud-based intelligence suite also used on products like Excel, as well as Azure and, of course, Surface computers. “Imagine making clutch decisions that are based on insight, rather than gut,” said Jeff Hansen, general manager of Microsoft Brand Studio. “The difference between a win or a loss can be decided by an extra five minutes of wind sprints, levels of hydration or getting to bed 30 minutes earlier the night before.”


How coaches evaluate a recruit’s college potential

USA Today High School Sports, Joe Leccesi from

Once college coaches have identified a recruit they are interested in, their next step is to predict how well that recruit will do at the college level. There are general ways coaches approach this, like assessing how big or fast you are, but for most recruits, their measurables alone aren’t enough. In this week’s column, we cover some of the other ways recruits can make it easy for coaches to project their skills at the college level.

Coaches need to see you against other college-level recruits

Many times, the biggest struggle for coaches isn’t evaluating the individual recruit, but knowing how to interpret their performance related to their competition.


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