Applied Sports Science newsletter – August 20, 2018

Applied Sports Science news articles, blog posts and research papers for August 20, 2018


After ACL tear, Albert McClellan thankful to be back in Ravens training camp

Baltimore Sun, Edward Lee from

While rehabilitating the torn ACL in his right knee that sidelined him for the entire 2017 season, Albert McClellan had plenty of time to kill, and one of his favorite ways to pass the time was to read. One of the Ravens linebacker’s favorite books was a biography of former U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt, but one passage that resonated with him was a quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

“I’ve kind of taken that into perspective, and now day in and day out, play in and play out, meeting in and meeting out, we’ve got to have fun,” he said. “We’ve got to live every day and play every play like it’s our last play because you never know when it’s going to be. Last year, I didn’t know that just planting and going left would be my last play of the season. So you’ve got to have fun each and every play and find ways to win the battle.”


Mauricio Pochettino: No chances are being taken over Harry Kane’s fitness

The Telegraph (UK), Matt Law from

… “We can’t explain how we manage players inside. The people outside don’t know how Harry Kane was after playing 90 minutes last week. They don’t know if Sunday Harry was off, Monday off or training or relaxation or one session or in the gym.

“Be sure that I am not going to take a risk. If we are conscious that we would be taking a risk, be sure he is not going to play. There are 25-30 people who are coaches, sport scientists, physios and we talk a lot about fitness health and everything. If we are wrong, we are 25-30 people wrong.”


Workload monotony, strain and non-contact injury incidence in professional football players

Science and Medicine in Football journal from

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to analyse the association of the workload monotony and workload strain with the injury incidence with professional football players taking part in European football competitions.

Methods: A total of 130 elite football players, from 5 teams playing European competitions, have been followed during a season. The internal workload was calculated using the Session Rate of Perceived Exertion method and the injuries were recorded. The 4-weeks, 3-weeks, 2-weeks and 1-week monotony (mean workload divided by workload standard deviation) and strain (absolute workload multiplied by monotony) were calculated on a daily basis, using a rolling days method.

Results: The 4-weeks monotony was related to injury incidence. The relative risk (RR) of injury is decreased with an increase in 4-weeks monotony (RR = 0.72, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.58–0.90; P = 0.004). The injury incidence was related to the 4-weeks strain. The RR of injury is increased with an increase 4-weeks strain (RR = 1.50, 95% CI 1.14–1.97; P = 0.004).

Conclusions: The links between a high 4-weeks monotony and the injury incidence, and the links between a high 4-weeks strain and the injury incidence indicate that monotony and strain were associated with injury incidence in elite football players and require to be monitored.


The Rise of the College Football Strength Coach

The New York Times, Zach Schonbrun from

… “We always say it’s who you know, not what you know,” said Michael Zweifel, who holds the N.C.A.A. record in career receptions and is now the strength and conditioning coach at the University of Dubuque. “That’s how you get hired in strength and conditioning. You’re not hired based on your qualifications, knowledge and experience. It’s almost more of your brand.”

[Tim] Cortazzo, who went on to work on the strength and conditioning team at Ohio State before becoming a co-owner of a training business based in Pittsburgh, said that “tough love” was part of Court’s approach but that he had never felt that it became abusive. Others have disagreed.

If punishment is what the head coach wants, however, it can be difficult to say no.

Christina Specos, a former strength and conditioning coach at Purdue, said she was aware of plenty of instances where strength coaches had been required to dole out punishment to players who had misbehaved, in effect serving as the head coach’s enforcers.

“Strength coaches and other support staff have this pressure to do things the coach’s way because they’re worried about their job security,” Specos said. “They’re just the ‘do’ boy.”


Defining the Upper Limits of Fitness

Outside Online, Alex Hutchinson from

… For aerobic power, tales of super-high VO2max values have floated around for decades. For example, the mantle of VO2max champion was long granted to Norwegian cross-country skier Bjørn Dæhlie, a 12-time Olympic medalist who reportedly notched a reading of 96 ml/kg/min in the 1990s. When I was researching my recent book, Endure, I got in touch with Stephen Seiler, an American-born sports scientist who has worked in Norway since 1997. He had inspected the data from that test and suspected a calibration problem, in part because the value was 5 points higher than Dæhlie recorded in any other test. That’s a frequent problem with seemingly amazing results: as the new paper points out, most VO2max machines are designed to measure values in hospital patients with abnormally low values, so without special preparation they may not be equipped to handle the prodigious quantities of oxygen that a world-class endurance athlete can breathe.


Why Ethiopia’s running success is about more than poverty and altitude

The Guardian, Michael Crawley from

It is 3.15am and I have just woken from a fitful four-hour sleep. I am already wearing running shorts and I quickly pull on a T-shirt and step outside. It is pitch black and my breath turns to mist in the cold air. Fasil is washing his face at the outdoor tap. He has a night off his job guarding a half-constructed building and is staying with Hailye. He beams, clearly surprised that I kept my word about joining them for this session. “Ante ferenj aydelehim,” he says. “Jegna neh”; you’re no foreigner, you’re a hero.

We jog slowly to Kidane Mehret church and down the asphalt hill in silence before Hailye turns, crosses himself and leads our first run up the hill. The only light comes from the occasional bare bulb hanging outside a kiosk. By the seventh or eighth rep, I have learned that the hilltop comes faster if you watch your feet, not the summit. After an hour, Hailye stops. “Buka,” he says. Enough. As we jog home, he tells me: “Now you should have a cold shower outside and then you should sleep. That’s going to be the most wonderful sleep.”

He was not wrong. This training session was the start of the time – six months or so after starting fieldwork with Ethiopian long-distance runners in Addis Ababa – when Fasil started telling me I was habesha, a term denoting unified, proud Ethiopia.


Pushing for a multi-sport approach to kids’ sport and activity

Canada Sport Information Resource Center (SIRC), Jim Grove from

We know that today’s kids face a myriad of obstacles to getting active and developing physical literacy. From obsession with smartphones and video games, to increasing confinement in urban spaces, kids today are facing challenges that most of their parents never had to confront.

As a consequence, for better or for worse, organized sport and activity has become the main venue for many kids to explore physical activity. The problem is that we don’t always do organized sport well. As parents, coaches, and program organizers, we often unwittingly create conditions that do more to discourage kids in activity than encourage them. A primary example is the tendency to push kids to specialize too early in one sport or activity, especially if they show even a glimmer of possible talent before they enter their teens.


‘Junction Boys syndrome’: how college football fatalities became normalized

The Guardian, Patrick Hruby from

When Scott Anderson learned that University of Maryland football player Jordan McNair had died in June following a spring workout, he was saddened – but not surprised. The head athletic trainer at the University of Oklahoma, Anderson has spent roughly two decades studying deaths in college football, coming to a sobering conclusion.

The sport is needlessly and heedlessly killing athletes with overly intense workouts.

“Unfortunately, [Jordan McNair’s] story is not unfamiliar,” Anderson says.

“February through July should not be deadly months for college football players. But they are. Non-traumatic deaths should not outnumber traumatic deaths. But they do.


Scientists Are Developing a Unique Identifier for Your Brain

WIRED, Science, Raleigh McElvery from

The physical links between brain regions, collectively known as the “connectome,” are part of what distinguish humans cognitively from other species. But they also differentiate us from one another. Scientists are now combining neuroimaging approaches with machine learning to understand the commonalities and differences in brain structure and function across individuals, with the goal of predicting how a given brain will change over time because of genetic and environmental influences.

The lab where [Michaela] Cordova works, headed by associate professor Damien Fair, is concerned with the functional connectome, the map of brain regions that coordinate to carry out specific tasks and to influence behavior. Fair has a special name for a person’s distinct neural connections: the functional fingerprint. Like the fingerprints on the tips of our digits, a functional fingerprint is specific to each of us and can serve as a unique identifier.


University of Virginia Multidisciplinary Engineering Team Designs New Technology for Smart Materials

University of Virginia, Engineering from

University of Virginia mechanical engineers and materials scientists, in collaboration with materials scientists at Penn State, the University of Maryland and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, have invented a “switching effect” for thermal conductivity and mechanical properties that can be incorporated into the fabrication of materials including textiles and garments.

Using heat transport principles combined with a biopolymer inspired by squid ring teeth, the team studied a material that can dynamically regulate its thermal properties – switching back and forth between insulating and cooling – based on the amount of water that is present.

The invention holds great promise for all sorts of new devices and materials with the ability to regulate temperature and heat flow on demand, including the “smart” fabrics.


Novel sensors could enable smarter textiles

University of Delaware, UDaily from

A team of engineers at the University of Delaware is developing next-generation smart textiles by creating flexible carbon nanotube composite coatings on a wide range of fibers, including cotton, nylon and wool. Their discovery is reported in the journal ACS Sensors where they demonstrate the ability to measure an exceptionally wide range of pressure – from the light touch of a fingertip to being driven over by a forklift.

Fabric coated with this sensing technology could be used in future “smart garments” where the sensors are slipped into the soles of shoes or stitched into clothing for detecting human motion.

Carbon nanotubes give this light, flexible, breathable fabric coating impressive sensing capability. When the material is squeezed, large electrical changes in the fabric are easily measured.

“As a sensor, it’s very sensitive to forces ranging from touch to tons,” said Erik Thostenson, an associate professor in the Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering.


Stanford engineers create new AI camera for faster, more efficient image classification

Stanford University, Stanford News from

The image recognition technology that underlies today’s autonomous cars and aerial drones depends on artificial intelligence: the computers essentially teach themselves to recognize objects like a dog, a pedestrian crossing the street or a stopped car. The problem is that the computers running the artificial intelligence algorithms are currently too large and slow for future applications like handheld medical devices.

Now, researchers at Stanford University have devised a new type of artificially intelligent camera system that can classify images faster and more energy efficiently, and that could one day be built small enough to be embedded in the devices themselves, something that is not possible today. The work was published in the August 17 Nature Scientific Reports.


Hamstring stiffness pattern during contraction in healthy individuals: analysis by ultrasound-based shear wave elastography. – PubMed – NCBI

European Journal of Applied Physiology from


To assess the stiffness of hamstring muscles during isometric contractions in healthy individuals, using ultrasound-based shear wave elastography to (1) determine the intra- and inter-day assessment repeatability, (2) characterize the stiffness of semitendinosus (ST) and biceps femoris long head (BFlh) along the contraction intensity, and (3) characterize stiffness distribution among the hamstring muscles and inter-limb symmetry.

Two experiments were conducted. In experiment I (n = 12), the intra-day repeatability in assessing the BFlh and ST stiffness were determined at intensities between 10-60% of maximal voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC) in a single session. In experiment II (n = 11), the stiffness of the hamstring muscles of both thighs was assessed at 20% of MVIC in the first session; and retested (for one randomly chosen thigh) in a second session. Isometric contraction of knee flexors was performed with the knee flexed at 30° and with the hip in a neutral position.

Moderate-to-very-high intra- and inter-day repeatability was found (ICC = 0.69-0.93). The BFlh/ST stiffness ratio increased with contraction intensity. At 20% of MVIC, the ST showed the highest stiffness among the hamstring muscles (p < 0.02), with no differences between the remaining hamstring muscles (p > 0.474). No differences were found between limbs (p = 0.12).

The stiffness distribution among the hamstring muscles during submaximal isometric contractions is heterogeneous, but symmetric between limbs, and changes depending on the contraction intensity. Shear wave elastography is a reliable tool to assess the stiffness of hamstring muscles during contraction.


What is Sport 2030 really about? Fewer medals, less expense

ESPN, Daniel Brettig from

There was the exclusive “drop” to the national newspaper, the Canberra Press Club address, and a series of radio interviews from the federal sports minister Bridget McKenzie. No-one was left in any doubt that the Australian government and its major sporting oversight body – the Australian Sports Commission now rebadged as Sport Australia – wanted a discussion about the role of sport in this country.

The upfront issues raised by the Sport 2030 report included a greater emphasis on protecting the integrity of sport, with a clear eye towards the maelstrom of the Newlands ball tampering scandal not far back in the rearview mirror, and the ongoing battle to reverse trends towards sedentary lifestyles, obesity and chronic disease, described as placing a A$13 billion annual healthcare burden on the nation that will only grow in coming years.

And there was the formalisation of a mounting argument that Australia can no longer compete with the world’s larger economic powers in the “arms race” for sporting achievement in terms of Olympic medals or major trophies. As the report stated: “Our aspirations must acknowledge that success in high performance sport is correlated to investment and we should measure our performance using more than just the medal table … measurement of success must now also include the impact of athletes as role models, their engagement with the community, and delivering a respected system.”

So in terms of elite performance, the essential concept is to get away from targets, and to emphasise “inspirational stories” of athletes over medal or trophy wins.


The early-season paradox

21st Club Limited, Omar Chaudhuri from

On Saturday, Chelsea host Arsenal in a match that is ostensibly a chance for both teams to continue to assess their own progress under new head coaches. The narrative goes that given it’s early in the season, it would be wrong to read too much into the result, and in any case there is plenty of time for both teams to win the games they need in order to finish in the top four.

But herein lies the paradox of early-season matches. While it is right not to drawn major conclusions from one or two games, it’s important not to forget that these matches are as consequential now as they are later in the season.


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