Applied Sports Science newsletter – June 29, 2018

Applied Sports Science news articles, blog posts and research papers for June 29, 2018


Losing is Jon Lester’s nightmare. So he has no choice but to win

ESPN MLB, Jesse Rogers from

“He’s always been that way, from the time he signed as a high school kid,” Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein said recently. “He was always holding himself to a really high standard, always really accountable and always competing with himself in some ways. He loves the competition of the game and beating other lineups, but I see it as he’s in competition with himself.”

It’s a theme repeated over and over by those who know him best. With Lester, the competition is internal. He’s accomplished just about everything in the game — including three World Series titles, four All-Star appearances, three top-five Cy Young finishes and one of the game’s richest contracts — yet he keeps on competing like a rookie trying to make the team for the first time.


Agent says Rick Nash unsure if he’ll play next season

ESPN NHL, Greg Wyshynski from

One of the biggest names in NHL free agency has informed teams he’s not on the market.

Rick Nash, 34, is taking time to contemplate whether to play in the 2018-19 season, according to his agent Joe Resnick, who declined to detail what Nash’s considerations were with regard to his future.

Nash has suffered several reported concussions during his NHL career, most recently in March as a member of the Boston Bruins. He missed six weeks with concussion symptoms in 2013 while with the Rangers.


Nick Fitzgerald Rehabs and Readies to Embrace an Offense That Could Make Him Better Than Ever, College Football, Ross Dellenger from

Nick Fitzgerald’s final year at Mississippi State comes with sky-high expectations under a new head coach calling the shots in Starkville. As he recovers from the gruesome injury that ended his 2017, the unique quarterback is driven to take the Bulldogs and his own production to new heights.


Improving acceleration performance in football players

JB Morin, PhD from

Unlike the 100-m dash, football is not about who creates the highest linear running velocity during a single effort in a sprint lane, and maintains it towards the finish line. Most of the time, football is about changing velocity, i.e. accelerating one’s body mass. Starting from various velocities (rarely standing still) and positions, a player has to produce high amounts of “pure acceleration” to leave an opponent behind (offense), get the ball/position first, or catch-up with an opponent (defence). Other actions require the production of “mixed acceleration” (negative-positive) during changes of direction, cutting manoeuvres, or even vertically-oriented acceleration in the case of single- or double-leg jumps.

This article focuses on understanding the biomechanical determinants of sprint acceleration in football, how to evaluate them accurately in field conditions, and how to improve them on an individual basis. This may eventually help improve players’ physical performance, and better managing sprint related injuries. Note that our view of player’s performance and readiness/availability does not distinguish between physical preparation and injury prevention/rehabilitation. Seeking to improve players’ performance includes, de facto, injury management (primary, secondary prevention and rehabilitation post-injury)


MIT Publishes Findings that Link Agility & Athletic Performance to 4 Key Metrics

APDM Wearable Technologies from

When we consider an elite athlete’s performance in a competition, time is often the metric used to rank their overall performance. We describe professional athletes as being fast, agile, strong, and powerful. Agility is a large component of athleticism, but what factors or strategies translate to being more agile? First let’s consider the definition of agility, of which there are two types. Agility, the ability to quickly change speed or direction, can be planned or reactive [1]. Planned agility refers to the physical action of changing direction and is evaluated by navigating a pre-defined path. Reactive agility incorporates a cognitive component by involving perception and reaction to a cue signaling turn direction [2]. An example of a drill that tests reactive agility is navigating a set of cones as fast as possible in response to a vocal cue.

What Makes an Athlete Agile?

Chika Eke and Leia Stirling of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology surveyed a number of human performance experts in the military, clinical, and sports domains to better understand what metrics are considered important for assessing reactive agility technique [3].


On the apparent decrease in Olympic sprinter reaction times

PLOS One; Payam Mirshams Shahshahani, David B. Lipps, Andrzej T. Galecki, James A. Ashton-Miller from

Reaction times of Olympic sprinters provide insights into the most rapid of human response times. To determine whether minimum reaction times have changed as athlete training has become ever more specialized, we analyzed the results from the Olympic Games between 2004 and 2016. The results for the 100 m and 110 m hurdle events show that minimum reaction times have systematically decreased between 2004 and 2016 for both sexes, with women showing a marked decrease since 2008 that eliminated the sex difference in 2012. Because overall race times have not systematically decreased between 2004 and 2016, the most likely explanation for the apparent decrease in reaction times is a reduction in the proprietary force thresholds used to calculate the reaction times based on force sensors in starting blocks—and not the result of more specialized or effective training.


Why athletes need a ‘quiet eye’

BBC – Future, David Robson from

If anyone knows how to grab a victory from the jaws of defeat, it’s Serena Williams. Just consider her semi-final against Kim Clijsters at the 2003 Australian Open. At 5-2 down in the final set, she was within a hair’s breadth of losing her place in the tournament. But rather than slipping into despair, she saved two match points before winning the next five games. Somehow, each serve and each return landed just where she wanted them to – and she would ultimately go on to win the whole tournament.

A single such feat would be an exceptional occurrence in any career, but Williams has since made similarly breath-taking comebacks at the Australian Open in 2005, at Wimbledon in 2009, and at the China Open in 2014, managing to pull back even when her opponents are serving a match point. In each case, the extreme pressure, rather than causing her to crumble, only seemed to sharpen her concentration.

Psychologists and neuroscientists have now identified some of the common mental processes that mark out elite athletes such as Williams. And one of the most intriguing aspects appears to be a phenomenon known as the “quiet eye” – a kind of enhanced visual perception that allows the athlete to eliminate any distractions as they plan their next move. Intriguingly, quiet eye appears to be particularly important at times of stress, preventing the athlete from ‘choking’ at moments of high pressure. It may even lead to the mysterious ‘flow state’.


Respa Breathing Sensor Enables Everyday Athletes to Monitor Ventilatory Threshold and Avoid Overtraining, According to Winthrop University Study

PR Newswire, Zansors from

Respa(TM), the world’s first breathing sensor and future of fitness, today announced findings from a three-month study conducted with Winthrop University investigator Tyrone Ceaser, PhD to measure the effectiveness of detecting the onset of athletes’ ventilatory threshold.

The patent-pending Respa is an easy-to-use, but highly sophisticated, wearable analyzer that tracks breathing patterns for the duration of workouts. The small device and companion app allow users to train smarter and practice better as they get real-time alerts that help them stay in their optimal breathing zone, in addition to post-workout analyses to track progress and plan workouts.

According to the study, Respa is an effective method for enabling everyday athletes to measure lactic acid and ventilatory threshold levels, arming them with the data needed to avoid overtraining and preventing muscle damage.


Spit-checking mouthguard can tell if athletes are tired or mentally drained

Digital Trends, Luke Dormehl from

Xerox Parc, the legendary research and development center, is probably best known to readers as the research lab that Steve Jobs visited in the late 1970s, getting his first glimpse at the graphical user interface concept he later made famous with the Mac. But Parc has been involved in plenty of other innovative research projects over the years — and its latest is no different. Working with flexible hybrid electronics group NextFlex and the University of California, San Diego, Xerox’s Parc development lab has created a smart mouthguard biosensor which can detect early signs of dehydration, exhaustion, and mental engagement levels, based on nothing more than a sample of your saliva.


New sensors open door to wearable medical diagnostic device

Australian National University from

Scientists from ANU have designed tiny optical sensors that open the door to developing a wearable device that allows doctors to medically diagnose people’s health in real time.

Associate Professor Antonio Tricoli said the sensors, which are 50 times thinner than a human hair, promised to one day help doctors detect diseases such as diabetes much earlier than is possible today, and better manage a range of chronic diseases.

“These ultra-small sensors could be integrated into a watch to literally provide a window on our health,” said Dr Tricoli, leader of the Nanotechnology Research Laboratory at the ANU Research School of Engineering.


Towards a complex systems approach in sports injury research: simulating running-related injury development with agent-based modelling. – PubMed – NCBI

British Journal of Sports Medicine from


There have been recent calls for the application of the complex systems approach in sports injury research. However, beyond theoretical description and static models of complexity, little progress has been made towards formalising this approach in way that is practical to sports injury scientists and clinicians. Therefore, our objective was to use a computational modelling method and develop a dynamic simulation in sports injury research.

Agent-based modelling (ABM) was used to model the occurrence of sports injury in a synthetic athlete population. The ABM was developed based on sports injury causal frameworks and was applied in the context of distance running-related injury (RRI). Using the acute:chronic workload ratio (ACWR), we simulated the dynamic relationship between changes in weekly running distance and RRI through the manipulation of various ‘athlete management tools’.

The findings confirmed that building weekly running distances over time, even within the reported ACWR ‘sweet spot’, will eventually result in RRI as athletes reach and surpass their individual physical workload limits. Introducing training-related error into the simulation and the modelling of a ‘hard ceiling’ dynamic resulted in a higher RRI incidence proportion across the population at higher absolute workloads.

The presented simulation offers a practical starting point to further apply more sophisticated computational models that can account for the complex nature of sports injury aetiology. Alongside traditional forms of scientific inquiry, the use of ABM and other simulation-based techniques could be considered as a complementary and alternative methodological approach in sports injury research.


The Relationship Between Training Load and Injury in Athletes: A Systematic Review | SpringerLink

Sports Medicine journal from


The relationship between training load and musculoskeletal injury is a rapidly advancing area of research in need of an updated systematic review.

This systematic review examined the evidence for the relationship between training load and musculoskeletal injury risk in athlete, military, and first responder (i.e. law enforcement, firefighting, rescue service) populations.

The CINAHL, EMBASE, MEDLINE, SportDISCUS, and SCOPUS databases were searched using a comprehensive strategy. Studies published prior to July 2017 were included if they prospectively examined the relationship between training load and injury risk. Study quality was assessed using the Newcastle–Ottawa Quality Assessment Scale (NOS) and Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine levels of evidence. A narrative synthesis of findings was conducted.

A total of 2047 articles were examined for potential inclusion. Forty-six met the inclusion criteria and 11 known to the authors but not found in the search were added, for a total of 57 articles. Overall, 47 studies had at least partially statistically significant results, demonstrating a relationship between training load and injury risk. Included articles were rated as poor (n = 15), fair (n = 6), and good (n = 36) based on NOS score. Articles assessed as ‘good’ were considered level 2b evidence on the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine Model, and articles assessed as ‘fair’ or ‘poor’ were considered level 4 evidence.

Our results demonstrate that the existence of a relationship between training load and injury continues to be well supported in the literature and is strongest for subjective internal training load. The directionality of this relationship appears to depend on the type and timeframe of load measured.


Drink Up! An Intro to Fluid & Nutrient Replacement Strategies in Tennis

Matt Kuzdub, Mattspoint blog from

There was a time, not too long ago, where it seemed like everyone was advocating the use of sports drinks to aid fluid balance, electrolyte replenishment and overall sporting performance. As a performance coach in an academy setting, I would travel the junior circuit, going from tournament to tournament. Youngsters would be gulping down neon coloured Gatorades yet could barely see over the net.

But then, a wave of anti-sugar marketing ads began coming to light. And all of a sudden, sugar-free sports drinks became the norm (if you were seen with a ‘regular’ Gatorade, you’d receive a long, evil stare – from coaches, parents and other players).

Today, there’s confusion. Which camp should we listen to? Sugar-free or sugar-full? Perhaps there’s a time when one is warranted over the other? Or maybe we should simply stick to water?

This post will try to answer these prevailing questions while tackling other topics related to hydration during tennis – including hydration and skill, physical performance and whether a predetermined fluid plan is necessary. While the evidence on the topic can at times be misleading (and contrasting), when it comes to replacing fluid, electrolyte and glycogen stores, there are some definite guidelines that every player should follow.


Major League Baseball’s aging cycle — How Mike Trout becomes Albert Pujols

ESPN MLB, Sam Miller from

… Thirty-three feels so far away, but it’s already happening. The 23-year-old’s lean body mass peaked sometime in the preceding five years. His bone-mineral density too. He’s at the age when the body begins producing less testosterone and growth hormone. His body, knowing it won’t need to build any more bone, will produce less energy. Male fertility peaks in the early 20s, the same time as pitch speed and exit velocity. Athleticism is, crudely speaking, about showcasing what a body looks like when it’s ready to propagate a species. The 23-year-old’s machine works as it was designed to. It is undamaged, unsmudged, and every circuit in it is trained to carry on his family’s tradition of survival. When you’re 23, the 32-year-old Mark Trumbo says wistfully, “performance is the only thing holding you back.” To watch a 23-year-old athlete is to see the perfect machine running perfectly.


Questionable Behavior

Football Outsiders, Zach Binney from

… What happened when the NFL removed Probable as a game status designation and only allowed teams to report players as Questionable, Doubtful, or Out? First, Figure 1a demonstrates that the overall number of players listed on injury reports did not change that much: there were approximately 4,500 player-weeks listed for each of the last four years. This is because the “injury report” actually consists of two separate documents: practice reports (Full/Limited/Did Not Practice) and game status reports (Questionable/Doubtful/Out). There are also in-game injury reports, but they are not relevant for this analysis. Nowadays all reported injuries result in a practice report, but a player only appears on the game status report if he is in danger of not playing. For example, the Lions reported Ameer Abdullah as suffering from an ankle injury during Week 5’s practices in 2017, but because he was in no danger of missing his Week 5 game he did not receive a game status designation. We call such players “Blanks.” Before 2016, these Blanks effectively all received a “Probable” designation.

In 2016, about two-thirds of the former Probables appeared to become Blanks (the team didn’t bother issuing a game status report), while teams reported the other third as Questionable. This led Questionables to have a much higher probability of playing than they did in the past (75 percent vs. 55 to 60 percent, Figure 1b). In 2017, after a year of getting comfortable with the new system, it appears teams may have shifted some of those new Questionables over to Blanks, moving Questionable closer towards but still above its historical meaning (67 percent). It will be interesting to see if that percentage continues to drop back toward historical levels in 2018.


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