Applied Sports Science newsletter – February 10, 2020

Applied Sports Science news articles, blog posts and research papers for February 10, 2020


Adam Mokoka’s Unconventional Path to the NBA

Chicago Bulls, Sam Smith from

Adam Mokoka had what would seem like an unusual sophomore year in high school. Forget homecoming. He left home. But to play basketball, and then three years later at 17 started playing for one of the top men’s professional basketball teams in France.

Maybe it was just too much trouble to get a date for the senior prom.

“My mother, she wasn’t in agreement with that so much,” Mokoka admitted. “But she let me go; it was my goal. My first three years it was more for fun, but then it was to be a professional.

“At 17 at first I was really happy just to be professional, just to play and be on a team and be on the court,” Mokoka related. “Just to work hard and be better. But when I was on the national team (winning two U-16 and U-18 championships) and I see other players from other countries, I saw I could compete against them and they can be in the NBA. I feel I can be, too.”


Aaron Ramsdale: ‘I’m very grateful Eddie Howe gave me a second chance‘

The Guardian, Ben Fisher from

“It is quite hard to sum up,” Aaron Ramsdale says, scrambling to find the words to describe his metamorphosis from misfit to mainstay at Bournemouth and being mooted as a future England goalkeeper. “Eighteen months ago I was nowhere near the team here. I was probably annoying a lot of people, especially the manager and the goalie coaches because I wasn’t fulfilling my potential. I’d come in one day and I’d be good and the next day I’d come in and look like I’d been dragged through a bush.”

The trigger for Ramsdale’s rise rests on a clanger 14 months ago, when he was due to be among the substitutes for a Carabao Cup quarter-final at Stamford Bridge, in a matchday squad for the first time since returning from a loan spell at Chesterfield. “I missed the bus. Slept in,” he says, sheepishly. “We had to be in at 9.30am for the pre-match walkthrough because it was an evening game and the bus was leaving at 10.30am. Zeina [the club’s player liaison officer] came and woke me up at the house. I was about an hour late for being on time to training and about 20 minutes after the bus as well.


How Donovan Mitchell and Pascal Siakam went from late bloomers to All-Stars

Yahoo Sports, Seerat Sohi from

… In 2012, when Mitchell was a high school sophomore, he never envisioned being an NBA All-Star. He dabbled in basketball. But he dabbled in drums and soccer, too. He aspired to play pro baseball until a broken wrist wiped out his AAU season and turned his attention toward basketball. At the same time, a 17-year-old Pascal Siakam was just starting to play organized ball. Now, they are both first-time All-Stars. Early specialization has set off a crisis in amateur basketball. Young athletes practice and play excessively, sometimes to their own detriment. Yet the top of the NBA is littered with late bloomers. Giannis Antetokounmpo discovered the game five years before he was drafted. Joel Embiid, a Cameroonian like Siakam, started playing when he was fifteen.

David Epstein’s new book, “Range”, is filled with stories of generalists who took the long and winding road to success, eventually finding a field of expertise that suited them. He suggests the seemingly uncanny improvement of late bloomers is actually not uncanny or unique, but instructive. “Eventual elites typically devote less time early on to deliberate practice in the activity in which they will eventually become experts,” he writes. “Instead, they undergo what researchers call a ‘sampling period.’ They play a variety of sports, usually in an unstructured or lightly structured environment; they gain a range of physical proficiencies from which they can draw; they learn about their own abilities and proclivities; and only later do they focus in and ramp up technical practice in one area.” Epstein’s argument is convincing and well-researched, but it’s counter-intuitive and it runs against modern edicts. You almost have to have lived it to believe it. Siakam and Mitchell did.


The Next Step After A Poor Performance: Recovery That Defines An Athlete

Swimming World News, Michael J. Stott from

At one time or another, disappointment haunts the dreams of even the best swimmers. And often it is the recovery from that disappointment that defines the athlete and, perhaps, the swimmer’s future.

How can coaches help athletes move on from disappointing performances?

“I don’t have any real magic,” says Gregg Troy, three-time U.S. Olympic coach and now the elite performance coach at the Gator Swim Club. “We need to be honest with our athletes.” Troy notes that it is important to distinguish mid-season evaluations of process (and opportunities to institute immediate change) from evaluations of season-ending disappointment. “The latter entails a discussion between athlete and coach about where you are, where you wanted to go and why you didn’t get there,” he says.


Inter- and intraindividual variability in daily resting heart rate and its associations with age, sex, sleep, BMI, and time of year: Retrospective, longitudinal cohort study of 92,457 adults

PLOS One; Giorgio Quer, Pishoy Gouda, Michael Galarnyk, Eric J. Topol, Steven R. Steinhubl from


Heart rate is routinely measured as part of the clinical examination but is rarely acted upon unless it is well outside a population-based normal range. With wearable sensor technologies, heart rate can now be continuously measured, making it possible to accurately identify an individual’s “normal” heart rate and potentially important variations in it over time. Our objective is to describe inter- and intra-individual variability in resting heart rate (RHR) collected over the course of two years using a wearable device, studying the variations of resting heart rate as a function of time of year, as well as individuals characteristics like age, sex, average sleep duration, and body mass index (BMI).
Methods and findings

Our retrospective, longitudinal cohort study includes 92,457 de-identified individuals from the United States (all 50 states), who consistently—over at least 35 weeks in the period from March 2016 to February 2018, for at least 2 days per week, and at least 20 hours per day—wore a heart rate wrist-worn tracker. In this study, we report daily RHR and its association with age, BMI, sex, and sleep duration, and its variation over time. Individual daily RHR was available for a median of 320 days, providing nearly 33 million daily RHR values. We also explored the range in daily RHR variability between individuals, and the long- and short-term changes in the trajectory of an individual’s daily RHR.

Mean daily RHR was 65 beats per minute (bpm), with a range of 40 to 109 bpm among all individuals. The mean RHR differed significantly by age, sex, BMI, and average sleep duration. Time of year variations were also noted, with a minimum in July and maximum in January. For most subjects, RHR remained relatively stable over the short term, but 20% experienced at least 1 week in which their RHR fluctuated by 10 bpm or more.

Individuals have a daily RHR that is normal for them but can differ from another individual’s normal by as much as 70 bpm. Within individuals, RHR was much more consistent over time, with a small but significant seasonal trend, and detectable discrete and infrequent episodes outside their norms.


Novelty speeds up learning thanks to dopamine activation

VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology) from

​Brain scientists led by Sebastian Haesler (NERF, empowered by IMEC, KU Leuven and VIB) have identified a causal mechanism of how novel stimuli promote learning. Novelty directly activates the dopamine system, which is responsible for associative learning. The findings have implications for improving learning strategies and for the design of machine learning algorithms.


Why Flies and Humans Freeze When Startled

NIH Director's Blog, Dr. Frances Collins from

… You may have already heard about serotonin because of its role in regulating mood and appetite in humans. Now, a team led by Richard S. Mann and Clare Howard, Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute, New York, has discovered that fruit flies naturally release serotonin to turn on neural circuits that downshift and steady the speed of their gait.

As detailed recently in Current Biology [1], serotonin is active under myriad conditions to tell flies to slow things down. For example, serotonin helps flies weather the stress of extreme temperatures, conserve energy during bouts of hunger, and even walk upside down on the ceiling.


In 5 Years We’ll Each Have a GPS to Guide All Our Food Choices, says Suggestic CEO

The Spoon, Catherine Lamb from

Ten years ago if you were driving somewhere you’d have to either memorize directions or print out a paper map. Cut to now, and it’s almost unheard of to drive anywhere new without a GPS guiding you, turn by turn.

That’s exactly what Victor Chapela, CEO of personalized nutrition company Suggestic, thinks will happen to our diets. He believes that in five years, AI-driven technology will “drive” our food decisions just like a GPS drives our directions now. The result? Very high personalization, and comprehensive food discoverability.


Innovations To Increase Player Health and Safety Take Center Stage at 1st & Future Competition

Pro Player Insiders, Carita Parks from

The health and safety of NFL players has emerged as an important topic for the league over the past few years. While there are several initiatives to address these concerns, the NFL’s annual pitch competition, 1st and Future, brought together startups and special guests in Miami to spur innovation in player health, safety, and performance two days before the Super Bowl. The live pitch competition was a collaboration between the NFL, University of Miami, and Amazon Web Services (AWS).


Brown University, Miriam Hospital studying new device that records what you eat

WPRI Eyewitness News, Pete Mangione from

A new study taking place at Brown University takes the expression “watch what you eat” to a whole new level.

Associate Professor Graham Thomas said they’re currently researching whether a wearable device can help people lose weight.

Thomas said a new device developed at the University of Alabama, called an “Automatic Ingestion Monitor,” can automatically monitor people’s eating habits. The device is a sensor that attaches to a pair of eyeglasses.

A study of the new device is being conducted in several phases and involves a team of universities and organizations, including Brown and The Miriam Hospital Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center. [video, 1:51]


Molecular ‘switch’ reverses chronic inflammation and aging

University of California-Berkeley, Berkeley News from

Chronic inflammation, which results when old age, stress or environmental toxins keep the body’s immune system in overdrive, can contribute to a variety of devastating diseases, from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s to diabetes and cancer.

Now, scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have identified a molecular “switch” that controls the immune machinery responsible for chronic inflammation in the body. The finding, which appears online Feb. 6 in the journal Cell Metabolism, could lead to new ways to halt or even reverse many of these age-related conditions.


Does Overexertion Correlate With Increased Injury? The Relationship Between Player Workload and Soft Tissue Injury in Professional American Football Players Using Wearable Technology

Sports Health journal from


The relationship of training load to injury using wearable technology has not been investigated in professional American football players. The primary objective of this study was to determine the correlation between player workload and soft tissue injury over the course of a football season utilizing wearable global positioning system (GPS) technology.

Increased training load is associated with a higher incidence of soft tissue injuries.
Study Design:

Case-control study.
Level of Evidence:

Level 3.

Player workloads were assessed during preseason and regular-season practice sessions using GPS tracking and triaxial accelerometry from 2014 to 2016. Soft tissue injuries were recorded during each season. Player workload during the week of injury (acute) and average weekly workload during the 4 weeks (chronic) prior to injury were determined for each injury and in uninjured position-matched controls during the same week. A matched-pairs t test was used to determine differences in player workload. Subgroup analysis was also conducted to determine whether observed effects were confounded by training period and type of injury.

In total, 136 lower extremity injuries were recorded. Of the recorded injuries, 101 injuries with complete GPS and clinical data were included in the analysis. Injuries were associated with greater increases in workload during the week of injury over the prior month when compared with uninjured controls. Injured players saw a 111% (95% CI, 66%-156%) increase in workload whereas uninjured players saw a 73% (95% CI, 34%-112%) increase in workload during the week of injury (P = 0.032). Individuals who had an acute to chronic workload ratio higher than 1.6 were 1.5 times more likely to sustain an injury relative to time- and position-matched controls (64.6% vs 43.1%; P = 0.004).

Soft tissue injuries in professional football players were associated with sudden increases in training load over the course of a month. This effect seems to be especially pronounced during the preseason when player workloads are generally higher. These results suggest that a gradual increase of training intensity is a potential method to reduce the risk of soft tissue injury.
Clinical Relevance:

Preseason versus regular-season specific training programs monitored with wearable technology may assist team athletic training and medical staff in developing programs to optimize player performance.


Preventing injuries before they happen is football’s next data evolution

Football Critic (UK), Paul MacDonald from

The maths are simple: in each of the last five Premier League seasons, there has been more injuries than the last.

JLT, the insurance and risk management brokers on the 2018/19 season, they recorded a 44% increase in injuries involving players who had competed at the 2018 World Cup. Lost minutes cost PL clubs in excess of £200m in that same season. In a sport finally getting involved in the idea of Big Data, injury prevention remains a grossly inefficient process.

But the idea that a team can be merely ‘unlucky’ when it comes to an accumulation of injuries is a regularly used, but spurious, argument from managers. In reality, in most cases player training regimes aren’t being properly monitored. Players are being asked to play more, and play harder, than ever before. Injuries will happen unless you prepare against it. And there’s an emerging organisation that is putting the data to the test at the highest level, with startling results.


New Research Shows You’re Not As Hot As You Think

WBUR, Here and Now, Lynsey Jeffery and Robin Young from

The familiar 98.6-degree standard for healthy body temperature may not be accurate for the modern world, new research finds.

According to a recent study from Stanford University, the current average body temperature is actually closer to 97.5 degrees. So where does the “norm” of 98.6 degrees come from anyway? [audio, 5:58]


MLB news: Andrew Friedman, Chaim Bloom bound by Mookie Betts blockbuster

Yahoo Sports, Tim Brown from

The thing about talent in ballplayers is it sometimes gets homesick. Or breaks. Sometimes it’s not having any fun anymore. Sometimes it hates the manager. So it pouts. Or the hitting coach. So it pouts more. Sometimes it drinks too much. Sometimes the three hours when it must be present is prioritized behind the 21 hours it doesn’t want to be, and so talent leaks away. It always grows old and slow and, then, maybe, a little defensive, and there’s not much to be done about that. Not since testing.

Talent is a glorious, moody little beast that wins games and saves jobs and makes money and downs a Bud Light on a parade float and permits us to feel better about ourselves if that’s necessary too. Unless it doesn’t. And then the opposite of all that happens, including downing a Bud Light under a parade float, which is worse.

So, on the morning after the Los Angeles Dodgers traded for, and the Boston Red Sox traded away, Mookie Betts, it seemed natural to think of the men who decide what talent is and how long it will last and what it is worth and whether they make those decisions and then sob for two hours or retch for two hours.


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