Applied Sports Science newsletter – May 1, 2017

Applied Sports Science news articles, blog posts and research papers for May 1, 2017


From Combine to Draft, N.F.L. Prospects Are Treated Like Pieces of Meat

The New York Times, Michael Powell from

… Michael H. LeRoy, a law professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a scholar of sports and labor law, noted that the players’ union has negotiated draft protocols with the league, and that courts often defer to these agreements. He sees an argument to be made that the waivers signed by the athletes before the combine are legally binding.

Players and their agents, he noted, have a stake in submitting to an intrusive battery of tests, as it allows teams to negotiate contracts without inhibition. If teams know less, teams will pay less. “They simply will not buy a pig in a poke,” LeRoy said.


Roger Federer opens up further about his new and improved backhand, Matt Cronin from

Roger Federer says his backhand improved from the practice he did during his injury layoff in 2016, and it helped him win three huge events in his return.

“I think I’ve gotten really confident, a lot of practice at the end of the season,” Federer told the ATP tour. “Then, at the beginning of the year when I started to play again, I was able to step into the court and drive the backhand more frequently than I ever have before. I used to use different tactics by slicing more [and] then going big on the second shot, but I’ve turned it around to some extent.”


What Makes a Running Stride Efficient?

Runner's World, Sweat Science blog, Alex Hutchinson from

It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what makes a running stride “good,” as we’ve learned from an endless succession of inconclusive and often contradictory biomechanics studies over the years.

Still, if you stand on the sidelines of a big road race and watch the runners go by—first the effortless elites, then the dedicated locals, then the casual fitness types, and so on—you’re left with the impression that there are some clear differences in how well people run. So what factors really matter?

That’s what a new study at Loughborough University, in Britain, set out to test (abstract here, press release here). They put 97 runners with 10K season-best times ranging from 29:32 to 56:49 through a series of treadmill tests while using 3-D motion capture to analyze 24 different variables related to the motion of various body parts. Then they analyzed the results from a range of speeds between 8:00 and 9:36 per mile (which all the runners in the study could sustain comfortably during testing) to look for patterns.


How Chelsea’s incredibly fortunate injury record has swung the title race

The Telegraph (UK), Alastair Tweedale from

… As data from shows, between 13 August 2016 and 19 April 2017, Chelsea’s players have suffered just 18 ‘serious’ injuries, where we define ‘serious’ as resulting in at least 10 days on the sidelines. Of all Premier League team only West Brom, with 12, have had to deal with fewer than Chelsea.


Sporting Kansas City hires coach Michel Ribeiro from Genk Academy in Belgium

The Kansas City Star, Sam McDowell from

On a spring morning in Europe, a group of youth academy directors joined U.S. Soccer brass for a tour of an established Belgium academy. Over the ensuing hours, the youth coaches observed a practice from the sideline, with the plan to take the training techniques and implement them into their own academies.

Sporting Kansas City took more than the suggestions. It took the instructor, too.

A year after that meeting, Sporting KC is set to hire Michel Ribeiro, a 41-year-old technical trainer from the K.R.C. Genk Academy in Belgium who has worked with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace) and Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid).


Why brain stimulation isn’t what it’s cracked up to be

The Conversation, Martin Héroux, Colleen Loo and Simon Gandevia from

Interest in electrical brain stimulation has skyrocketed in recent years, both in the popular media and scientific literature.

Scientists and clinicians are using the non-invasive and cheap technique to treat various neurological and psychiatric disorders, including depression, epilepsy and addiction. The US military is researching whether it improves learning and attention. And those who train elite athletes can see its potential to enhance performance.

But our research shows the evidence to back electrical brain stimulation varies in quality, and the results are commonly not reproduced in other studies. Our survey also unearthed the lengths to which some researchers go to to present their findings in the best light.


DARPA to Use Electrical Stimulation to Enhance Military Training

IEEE Spectrum, Emily Waltz from

It takes years to learn some of the most important national security skills, such as speaking foreign languages, analyzing surveillance images, and marksmanship. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) wants to speed up that training process using electrical stimulation to enhance the brain’s ability to learn. The Defense Department’s research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), today announced it had awarded multimillion-dollar contracts to eight university groups that will study and develop such technologies.

DARPA wants to see a 30 percent improvement in learning rates by the end of the four-year program. Studies will be conducted on human volunteers and animals. DARPA did not disclose the total value of the research contracts.


Electrical Stimulation To Boost Memory: Maybe It’s All In The Timing

NPR, Shots blog, Jon Hamilton from

People with a brain injury or dementia often struggle to remember simple things, like names or places. In research published recently in the journal Current Biology, scientists have shown it may be possible to improve this sort of memory using tiny pulses of electricity — if they’re properly timed.

A typical person’s ability to remember things tends to vary a lot, says Michael Kahana, who directs the computational memory lab at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Some days we’re at the top of our game,” he says, “and some days we’re just off our game.”


Big Whoop About NFL Players Using Wearable Tech, Selling Personal Health Data

Forbes, Lee Igel from

… As part of the deal, the NFLPA and WHOOP will use data to study the effects that factors such as travel, sleep, scheduling, and injuries have on player recovery. The objective is to prepare reports that enhance player performance and safety. On their own, reports of this sort may eventually prove beneficial to athletes including weekend warriors outside the NFL player ranks. But wrap some context around them and it’s likely to make for a different story.

For example, consider the recent Dell End-User Security Survey. The study across industries found that 72% of employees felt they would share sensitive, confidential, or regulated information in situations in which they determined doing so would be legitimate. Those situations include when management sends a directive to do so, during correspondence with an authorized party, or the risk is perceived to be low and the benefit high. Now, add to it the reality that many professional athletes tend to operate with the idea of doing all they can to earn all they can during their playing careers and the vulnerabilities increase exponentially.


The 4 Essential Elements of Device Design Today

MDDI Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry News Products and Suppliers, Marie Thibault from

The Medical Design Excellence Awards (MDEAs) attract entries from a wide variety of therapy areas, everything from over-the-counter products to cardiovascular technology to imaging devices. Yet every year, a few common refrains about what matters most in medical device design emerge from these disparate categories. No matter what disease or which patient group a product is intended for, there are some unifying themes to good device design, like ease of use, wider access, and putting the patient first.

These are four key features medical device makers are keeping in mind to create products that benefit patients, clinicians, and the healthcare system.

Theme 1: A Simple, Elegant User Interface


Deep Learning Is a Black Box, but Health Care Won’t Mind

MIT Technology Review, Monique Brouillette from

Earlier this year, artificial intelligence scientist Sebastian Thrun and colleagues at Stanford University demonstrated that a “deep learning” algorithm was capable of diagnosing potentially cancerous skin lesions as accurately as a board-certified dermatologist.

The cancer finding, reported in Nature, was part of a stream of reports this year offering an early glimpse into what could be a new era of “diagnosis by software,” in which artificial intelligence aids doctors—or even competes with them.

Experts say medical images, like photographs, x-rays, and MRIs, are a nearly perfect match for the strengths of deep-learning software, which has in the past few years led to breakthroughs in recognizing faces and objects in pictures.


Time for a paradigm shift in the classification of muscle injuries

Journal of Sport and Health Science from

Muscle injuries remain one of the most common injuries in sport, yet despite this there is little consensus on how to either effectively describe, or determine the prognosis of a specific muscle injury. Numerous approaches to muscle classification and grading have been applied over the last century of medicine, but over the last decade the limitations of historic approaches have been recognised. As a consequence in the past 10 years, clinical research groups have begun to question the historic approaches and reconsider the way muscle injuries are classified and described. Using a narrative approach, this manuscript describes several of the most recent attempts to classify and grade muscle injuries, highlighting the relative strengths and weaknesses of each system. While each of the new classification and grading systems have strengths, there remains little consensus on a system which is both comprehensive and evidence based. Few of the currently identified features within the grading systems have relevance to accurately determining prognosis.


FQG: Using Goals Above Replacement to Measure Injury Impact

Hockey Graphs, Alan Wells from

Injuries are an inevitable part of the NHL. An 82 game schedule guarantees that all teams are going to deal with injuries during the season but not all teams deal with them equally. Quantifying the impact of injuries is difficult. The introduction of better individual player impact stats gives us some new tools with which to approach this concept. In particular, DTMAboutHeart‘s Goals Above Replacement stat seems a useful place to start because it allows for estimating how many goals above replacement a team loses while a player is injured.


Marginal gains matter but gamechangers transform

Tim Harford from

“As Olympic athletes have shown, marginal improvements accumulated over time can deliver world-beating performance,” said Andrew Haldane in a speech on Monday, which is quite true. Mr Haldane, the Bank of England’s chief economist, went on to suggest that the productivity of companies in general would benefit from the same approach.

It’s a bold claim, made more so by the regrettable fact that the most celebrated exponents of “marginal gains”, Team Sky and British Cycling, have been in the headlines for the wrong reasons.

But Mr Haldane may have a point; he usually does. The marginal gains philosophy tries to turn innovation into a predictable process: tweak your activities, gather data, embrace what works and repeat. In British cycling such tweaks reportedly include rubbing alcohol on tyres to improve grip, electrically heated overshorts to maintain muscle temperature and a ban on bikini waxes to prevent saddle sores.


The N.F.L. Draft Is Here. Let’s Talk About Explosive Hips.

The New York Times, John Branch from

… Lance Zierlein, a sports radio talk show host in Houston who analyzes players for’s “draft tracker,” writes about 500 scouting reports a year. The trick is to make the reports informed and individual, but also readable.

“I would be lying if I said I didn’t go to frequently,” he said. “I want to be accurate and I don’t want to be boring. If you giggle a little bit along the way, that’s good, too.”


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.