Applied Sports Science newsletter – July 3, 2019

Applied Sports Science news articles, blog posts and research papers for July 3, 2019


The Rare Greatness of Max Scherzer Has Never Been More Evident, MLB, Tom Verducci from

As Max Scherzer enters the month he will turn 35, he comes off a month in which he dominated in a way few pitchers ever have. In an era of launch-angle swings and endless waves of home runs, Scherzer’s unmistakable talent can’t go unnoticed.


How Technology Helped Andy Murray Back To The Top As He Prepares For Wimbledon Return

Forbes, James Ayles from

… Having spent 18 months struggling with a serious hip injury, this culminated in an emotional revelation at the Australian Open in January that his career may be over, but in a bid to finally fix the problem the three-time Grand Slam champion underwent hip resurfacing surgery in London in January.

Since then, the former World No 1 and his team have worked hard on the court to return to top-level sport, and have been aided by the use of technology to track Murray’s progress compared to the standards he was setting pre-injury.

Jozef Baker, product specialist at Catapult, has worked closely with Murray and his strength and conditioning coach Matt Little since 2017.


Andre Iguodala on the Business of Basketball

The New Yorker, Isaac Chotiner from

What are the biggest changes in the N.B.A. since you entered the league?

We players hold ourselves at a different level now than we did before. Before, it wasn’t as much about how active we were, whether it be socially or from a business perspective, a mental space, all those things. We would like each generation to be able to learn from the previous. . . . I think we’re all trying to be in a better space. And you see that physically, with the way we’re training, with the technology we’re using on and off the court, whether it be with sleep or with yoga or changing our diets. And then you see that with our business, and the way we’ve disrupted the old model of endorsements, and how we’re taking equity in companies, and how we’re running our businesses and how we’re running our brands, and how we’re taking more ownership of our brands. All those things have really changed throughout the last decade.

Was there some aspect of tutelage or mentorship that you didn’t get that is different now than when you entered the league?

I don’t know if there was anything that was missing, but I think we’re just getting access to more, especially with technology, and everything is in front of you. And teams or organizations are using analytics to decide which players will fit better with a team and what players they can get for cheaper and still be as effective. We were able to do the same thing: take those analytics and see the impact that we have on a game and the impact that we have on businesses. So we’ve just smartened up.


Long-haul flights and Super Rugby performance: what the science says

The Conversation, Michele Lo from

… Travel is commonly perceived as “the” major factor affecting a team’s performance. Losing away games reduces the chances of finishing high on the ladder or hosting a grand final. Ultimately, it affects the team’s chance of winning. For example, through the 23 years of the competition, only six visiting teams have won the title and only twice has that occurred following international travel to play the final.

We set out to establish whether this perception was scientifically correct. To better understand the complex relationship between regular air travel and athletes’ psycho-physiological response and performance, we investigated the impact of travel on performance during the first 21 years of Super Rugby (1996-2016).


Is Heavy Lifting Good For Pitchers?

Elite Baseball Performance, Dan Blewett from

If you look around social media, you’ll see that more baseball pitchers are lifting “heavy.” This is, in general, a good trend – pitchers were coddled and treated with fragility for years.

But, pitchers are different – different than position players, and they’re different than other athletes in general.

But, how different are they? Is heavy lifting good for pitchers, in the same way that it’s good for other athletes? Let’s discuss.


‘VNL is the toughest tournament in volleyball’ says Karch Kiraly

Volleyverse, Jacob Newbury from

… The Americans registered 12 wins from 15 matches during the round-robin stage with Kiraly naming an altered line-up for every game, which he says provided him “an opportunity to learn” about some younger players in the squad.

“Part of the purpose behind playing so many combinations was that we had an opportunity to learn about some people who had not spent much time, or any time, in a USA Jersey at an FIVB level competition prior to this Volleyball Nations League,” added the USA boss.

“Also, by playing some of those younger players, it gave us an opportunity to rest some people. For example, Karsta Lowe, Michelle Bartsch-Hackley and Lauren Carlini – they didn’t finish their European club seasons until May 18 when they played the Champions League Final.


The Pentagon has a laser that can identify people from a distance—by their heartbeat

MIT Technology Review, David Hambling from

Everyone’s heart is different. Like the iris or fingerprint, our unique cardiac signature can be used as a way to tell us apart. Crucially, it can be done from a distance.

It’s that last point that has intrigued US Special Forces. Other long-range biometric techniques include gait analysis, which identifies someone by the way he or she walks. This method was supposedly used to identify an infamous ISIS terrorist before a drone strike. But gaits, like faces, are not necessarily distinctive. An individual’s cardiac signature is unique, though, and unlike faces or gait, it remains constant and cannot be altered or disguised.


This cheap smartphone sensor could help you tell if old food is safe to eat

Popular Science, Nexus Media, Marlene Cimons from

With a two-cent microchip, scientists can determine what’s spoiled—and what’s not.


Establishing outcome measures in early knee osteoarthritis

Nature Reviews Rheumatology journal from

The classification and monitoring of individuals with early knee osteoarthritis (OA) are important considerations for the design and evaluation of therapeutic interventions and require the identification of appropriate outcome measures. Potential outcome domains to assess for early OA include patient-reported outcomes (such as pain, function and quality of life), features of clinical examination (such as joint line tenderness and crepitus), objective measures of physical function, levels of physical activity, features of imaging modalities (such as of magnetic resonance imaging) and biochemical markers in body fluid. Patient characteristics such as adiposity and biomechanics of the knee could also have relevance to the assessment of early OA. Importantly, research is needed to enable the selection of outcome measures that are feasible, reliable and validated in individuals at risk of knee OA or with early knee OA. In this Perspectives article, potential outcome measures for early symptomatic knee OA are discussed, including those measures that could be of use in clinical practice and/or the research setting.


Ortho injuries are not the only reason baseball players miss time.

Twitter, Christopher Camp from

See our analysis of >8,000 illnesses (nearly 40,000 missed days) in @MLB and @MiLB. Viral illness, GI, infection & dehydration most common issues


Does the Human Microbiome Make Us a Superorganism?

Nautilus, Margaret E. Farrell from

… The cells in the microbiome contain as many as 2 million genes—compare that to the approximately 22,333 genes in your own human DNA. The National Institute of Health funds The Human Microbiome Project, whose purpose is to study the various microbial communities in the human body and their roles in human health and disease. We now know that the microbiome contributes a substantial amount to human growth, development, and function. Perhaps the most popular is the gut microbiome, which impacts human digestive health (this is the science behind your daily probiotic yogurt). Aside from digestive health, some scientists are studying the relationship between the composition of the microbiome and the development of the central nervous system, and some psychologists want to take this a step further to investigate the relationship between the microbiome and phenomena like emotion, learning, and social behavior.

But what is the microbiome, exactly? Two biologists, Nicolae Morar and Brendan Bohannan, of the University of Oregon, recently surveyed the metaphors scientists use to talk about the microbiome (an “organ” or a “part of the immune system”) and the human-microbiome complex (a “superorganism,” a “holobiont,” or an “ecosystem”). These metaphors influence scientific understanding and can shape medical treatment. For example, some physicians support fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT); that is, swallowing a pill full of someone else’s poo to treat malfunction of the gut microbiome. FMT follows the same basic principles as an organ transplant, and the treatment is arguably a consequence of viewing the microbiome as an organ.


Rutgers Researchers Identify the Origins of Metabolism

Rutgers University, Rutgers Today from

A Rutgers-led study sheds light on one of the most enduring mysteries of science: How did metabolism – the process by which life powers itself by converting energy from food into movement and growth – begin?

To answer that question, the researchers reverse-engineered a primordial protein and inserted it into a living bacterium, where it successfully powered the cell’s metabolism, growth and reproduction, according to the study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We are closer to understanding the inner workings of the ancient cell that was the ancestor of all life on earth – and, therefore, to understanding how life arose in the first place, and the pathways life might have taken on other worlds,” said lead author Andrew Mutter, a post-doctoral associate at Rutgers University’s Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences.


Why Science Can Be So Indecisive About Nutrition

The Atlantic, Amanda Mull from

… In spite of study-to-study variation, most nutritionists and researchers agree on the broad strokes. Eating a variety of fresh, minimally processed foods and plenty of fruits and vegetables is one of the simplest ways humans can bolster their health, even if that reality isn’t as new or exciting as many journalists writing about nutrition might wish it were. (Sorry.)

New research on the variation of people’s responses to particular foods may also explain the circuitous route science has taken to establishing how certain foods affect health. “Everybody assumed there was this one diet which was somehow magic for all people, which couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Eric Topol, another panelist and the executive vice president of Scripps Research. “Finally, what we can acknowledge is that we have this unique response to food, and it’s not just the gut microbiome, but that’s a big part of the story.”


A 58-game NBA regular season makes a lot of sense

The Washington Post, Neil Greenberg from

… In 2006, Tom Tango, an alias used by the senior database architect of stats for MLB Advanced Media, explained how True Score Theory, which assumes that any observed result is the sum of an underlying “true” skill and a random error component, can be used to decipher how many games you need to play in various sports leagues to witness the truly better team have the better record. I will spare you the mathematics involved (available here) but when you look at the NBA over the past five seasons we find it took roughly 15 games, or 18 percent of the league’s 82-game schedule, to learn as much about the true talent level of an NBA team as we do about a pro football team in 12 NFL games (75 percent of the 16-game schedule).

Think about that: It takes almost one quarter of the time to know which NBA team is better than another than it does in the NFL, yet the NBA plays a season that is more than five times as long. And this has been the case for years. In 2012, Neil Pane, writing for the now defunct Basketball Prospectus, found 12 NBA games were equivalent to 10 games in the NFL using data from 2005 to 2011, strengthening the case that the time for shortening the NBA is perhaps overdue.


Who rates players in Madden NFL 20? Go inside the ratings process

ESPN NFL, Michael Rothstein from

Andre Weingarten sticks his head through the space between the whiteboard and the edge of Dustin Smith’s end-of-row cubicle. They watch one of three computer screens on Smith’s desk. A YouTube video of Kyler Murray, the former Oklahoma quarterback who would become the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft six weeks later, is playing on one of them.

Together they watch. For hours. Daily. Prospect by prospect they go, the bespectacled 34-year-old Smith and the bearded 23-year-old Weingarten — making the decisions for how digital players will rate in this year’s Madden video game.

Ten years ago, Smith was a game-tester for Electronic Arts, searching for bugs in the game and ways to make the player likenesses more accurate. Weingarten was a teenage fan who eventually went to school to learn, among other things, scouting. Now, they make some of the game’s most-discussed decisions at their two desks on the sixth floor of a building in a nondescript office park 30 miles northeast of Disney World.


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