Applied Sports Science newsletter – May 18, 2017

Applied Sports Science news articles, blog posts and research papers for May 18, 2017


U.S. Soccer’s New Goal: Attracting the World’s Young Stars

OZY, The Huddle, Edgar Acero from

Miguel Almirón moves in the middle of the field with the ball on his feet, showcasing the type of flair that South American soccer players are known to naturally possess. A baby-faced Paraguayan who looks younger than his 23 years, Almirón places a perfect pass to teammate Josef Martínez, a Venezuelan striker, also 23, who controls the ball before rounding the opposing goalkeeper and slotting it in the back of the net.

Similar goal sequences from talented young stars take place every week in South America, where soccer, or fútbol, dominates the sports culture. This particular play between Almirón and Martínez, however, occurred this spring at Atlanta’s Bobby Dodd Stadium, home of Major League Soccer’s new club, Atlanta United. “I knew I was going to learn a lot, and I knew it would be a great experience for me,” says Almirón, who joined the MLS club after winning Argentina’s Primera División title with Lanús in 2016. “I came here to keep growing my career and get to the highest level of the sport.”

Almirón and Martínez are the latest additions to a surprising trend — young international soccer stars who opt to ply their trade in North America, bringing with them a level of play that wasn’t part of soccer here as recently as 10 years ago. “It used to be that older players came into the league,” says MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott. “What we’re seeing now is great young players coming in.”


The WNBA’s Kelsey Plum and the audacity of hoops

espnW, Hallie Grossman from

… “She’s like an alpha female,” says Brianna Ruiz, Plum’s former teammate on the Huskies.

She lives for moments like last July, when she challenged John Ross, Washington’s star wide receiver and eventual top-10 2017 NFL draft pick, to go one-on-one because “guys think they can just take girls in a game.” (“They think if they yell ‘Steph Curry’ before they shoot,” she says, “they have a better chance.”) She beat Ross 11-2. “John’s broke!” she says now with a laugh. “He. Cannot. Shoot. To. Save. His. Life.”


Revealed: The cutting-edge science behind Plymouth Argyle’s promotion to League One

Plymouth Herald from

Plymouth Argyle have been keeping their players in tip-top condition for manager Derek Adams’s gruelling training sessions with the help of shellfish.

Knight Scientific, a Plymouth-based sports science firm, mixes the Pilgrims’ squad’s blood with a chemical found in piddocks, a rare mollusc, to determine whether a player is about to fall ill.


NBA — Cavs favor machine for training edge

ESPN NBA, Dave McMenamin from

… “If I could only have one piece of equipment to train with for the rest of my life,” James says to ESPN, “this would be it.”

James, 32, is defying the odds in extending his prime — once considered a three- to four-year window for a player — well into a decade of dominance even as his odometer will hit 50,000 career minutes played during the first quarter of Wednesday’s Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals in Boston. James did not get to this point without carefully managing his body.

He was introduced to the VersaClimber in his third season in the league by a former Cavs strength coach and has included it in his workout routine ever since.


Older Adults Learning Computer Programming: Motivations, Frustrations, and Design Opportunities

Communications of the ACM, blog@ACM, Philip Guo from

… There is now tremendous momentum behind initiatives to teach computer programming to a broad audience, yet many of these efforts (e.g.,, Scratch, ScratchJr, Alice) target the youngest members of society: K-12 and college students. In contrast, I wanted to study the other end of the age spectrum: how older adults aged 60 and over are now learning to code.

Why study older adults in particular? Because this population is already significant and also quickly growing as we all (hopefully!) continue to live longer in the coming decades. The United Nations estimates that by 2030, 25% of North Americans and Europeans will be over 60 years old, and 16% of the worldwide population will be over 60. There has been extensive research on how older adults consume technology, and some studies of how they curate and produce digital content such as blogs and personal photo collections. But so far nobody has yet studied how older adults learn to produce new technologies via computer programming.


How you can achieve peak brain performance, according to science

World Economic Forum, Knowledge @ Wharton from

Advances in cognitive neuroscience are enabling insights into the brain like never before. Neuroscientist Friederike Fabritius and Hans Hagemann, co-founder of the Munich Leadership Group, combine science with management consulting to discover which techniques for peak performance actually work, in their book The Leading Brain: Powerful Science-Based Strategies for Achieving Peak Performance. Hagemann recently joined the Knowledge@Wharton show, which airs on SiriusXM channel 111, to discuss science-based strategies for peak performance.

Here are five key takeaways from the interview:

Regulating your negative emotions is critical to peak performance. When you try to inhibit negative emotions that you feel — anger, frustration, disappointment — in the workplace, the rational and emotional systems in you compete with each other. When your brain is busy trying to tamp down negative feelings, you become too distracted to perform well. “Two systems in your brain are competing,” Hagemann said. “That leads to not being focused on anything anymore.” To regain cognitive control, recognize and ‘label’ how you feel, he said.


How Athletes Are Using Dogs to up Their Mental Game, Chris Foster from

At the 2016 Swimming Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb., tensions were high. Swimmers from all over the country had waited for this moment since they were little kids, and yet most of them would end their Olympic dreams there in Omaha, not in Rio. With the stakes looming so large, organizers decided to do something a bit unorthodox: They invited about 30 pet therapy dogs to the trials in an effort to relieve the anxious swimmers.

“Therapy animals don’t know someone is in a ‘winner take all’ race, so in that moment they wouldn’t put the same amount of pressure on a competition that another person might,” says Lani Chin, Psy.D., who has been using canine-assisted therapy with her patients since she opened her Los Angeles-based psychology practice in 2012. “They have a way of being present that can benefit most people.” Especially athletes in the throes of pre-competition stress.

“Most people don’t really appreciate the level of intensity and the level of stress that athletes undergo pre-performance,” says San Luis Obispo-based mental performance specialist Jeff Troesch. “Anything that can help them break through that—as long as it doesn’t disrupt their routine in a negative sense—is good.”


Bridging the gap between the physical and digital worlds

Body Labs from

The physical and digital worlds are growing ever more entwined. We talk to virtual assistants as if we know them. We immerse ourselves in gaming environments that are almost tangibly realistic. We buy, sell, and recommend almost every good or service in the commercial world through online marketplaces, exchanges, and eCommerce sites. Yet, the gap between the physical and virtual world still remains. Virtual assistants are unembodied and video conferencing is still fraught with Max Headroom-like deficiencies. We still need to suspend our disbelief to enter virtual worlds. And, our online purchases are still complicated by suboptimal ways of assuring the right size, fit, or personalization.

Body Labs provides a key element for bridging this remaining gap, and it’s as simple as using the camera as the portal between those worlds. From photos or videos, we can accurately, automatically, and cheaply extract human body shape, pose, and motion and recreate it in a digital environment. This is the human body as a digital platform. It enables applications across countless vertical markets to incorporate accurate human shape and motion to bring ourselves or others into the digital world in a fundamentally better and different way.


Design Futures | Nike’s Next Generation Footwear Meets Next-Gen Tech

LinkedIn, Valerie Vacante from

Nike has always had audacious ambitions to drive innovation, enhance the performance of athletes and propel the future of modern sport. At Dell EMC World recently, Nike’s Ken Black, Vice President of Digital Design Transformation, shared insights on how Nike is unleashing the limits of human potential and the future of design through creation and collaboration with next generation technology.


[1705.05548] Intel RealSense Stereoscopic Depth Cameras

arXiv, Computer Science > Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition; Leonid Keselman, John Iselin Woodfill, Anders Grunnet-Jepsen, Achintya Bhowmik from

We present a comprehensive overview of the stereoscopic Intel RealSense RGBD imaging systems. We discuss these systems’ mode-of-operation, functional behavior and include models of their expected performance, shortcomings, and limitations. We provide information about the systems’ optical characteristics, their correlation algorithms, and how these properties can affect different applications, including 3D reconstruction and gesture recognition. Our discussion covers the Intel RealSense R200 and RS400.


Harvard study suggests some NFL health and safety changes

The Washington Post, Rick Maese from

The physical demands are different. The types and severity of injuries are different. And the economics can vary wildly. But there are several common threads shared by professional sports leagues when it comes to health and safety issues, and a new report from the Harvard Law School is seeking to identify, study and compare them.

The study, released Monday by researchers at the Petrie-Flom Center, found that the NFL offers many health benefits superior to other professional sports leagues but identified several areas for improvement. They included improving life insurance offerings, expanding its pension benefit and amending some of the rules that govern inherent and inevitable injuries, such as concussions.


An ACL injury is no longer a career killer, but can athletes ever truly be the same?

The Guardian, Ian McMahon from

Even the best professional athletes are only as strong as their weakest link. For an unfortunate few, that weak link is the ACL, the anterior cruciate ligament. But for such an important structure, the ACL isn’t much. A little band of connective tissue in the center of the knee, it often tears during a routine cut or jump, giving way like overcooked fettuccine.

Adam Eaton of the Nationals, Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United, Zach LaVine of the Timberwolves and Devin Smith of the Jets have all torn their ACLs in recent months, putting their careers in a state of limbo. For those athletes, after surgery and six to 12 months of rehab, the million-dollar question is: will I ever be the same again?

Thirty years ago, an ACL injury was career-ending, but today, thanks to arthroscopy and refined surgical techniques, most athletes are able to return to sports. Happily, the answer to the above question is most likely a yes – but with qualifications.


Running Backs Are Finally Getting Paid What They’re Worth

FiveThirtyEight, Benjamin Morris from

Being a productive rusher in the NFL takes a rare mix of skills and talents, such as speed, elusiveness, vision and anticipation. Those who have excelled at it have historically been rewarded with team-defining roles, league accolades, furious media attention and nice contracts to boot.

Of late, however, top rushers have seen their roles diminished and their pay stagnate. In the modern NFL, teams appear reluctant to commit resources to ball carriers like they used to.

Perhaps this reflects the new offensive landscape in the NFL, in which teams pass more and better than ever before. But it may also reflect a growing recognition that, for all their talent, traditionally great running backs probably don’t actually contribute that much to their teams’ chances of winning.


Toronto FC impressive winning streak a testament to talent deep roster – ESPN FC

ESPN FC, Jeff Carlisle from

… any discussion of Toronto’s run always comes back to its depth. How often have you heard an MLS manager point to injuries as an explanation for a poor run of results? It usually starts with the caveat, “Everyone has injuries, but …” at which point, said manager will point to how the injuries afflicting his team weighed heavier on results.

Toronto has made a mockery of such thinking. Manager Greg Vanney has gone so far as to claim in an interview with the Toronto Sun that his side is the “deepest team in the history of the league,” and it’s not an idle boast. Vanney has used 19 players during the current run, and last season’s defensive mainstay, Drew Moor, isn’t even among them, having been sidelined by a heart ailment. Sebastian Giovinco, the 2015 MVP, played just 44 minutes over the past three games. Last weekend against Minnesota United, Vanney was forced to make three injury or illness-induced substitutions, and Toronto still managed to win 3-2.

So how is it that Toronto has been able to construct such a deep roster?


Steve Kerr’s Absence: The True Test Of A Leader, Chris Ballard from

… One element of his absence is worth dwelling on, though. Here is a man who owns one of the highest winning percentages in league history, who has been named NBA Coach of the Year, and who has become so popular that there is a movement—increasingly less facetious—for him to run for office. In theory, the Warriors should be lost without him. And yet, they literally have not lost without him. Without Kerr, Golden State finished off Portland, swept Utah, and, most recently, pulled out Sunday’s 113-111 comeback win over the Spurs.

Which means that over the span of two seasons, and a pair of interim coaches—first Luke Walton and now Mike Brown—Golden State is now 46-4 without Kerr.

How are we supposed to make sense of this? How can a coach be both essential and unnecessary?


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