Applied Sports Science newsletter – March 12, 2020

Applied Sports Science news articles, blog posts and research papers for March 12, 2020


Inside Dominik Kubalik’s journey to the Chicago Blackhawks’ top line

ESPN NHL, Emily Kaplan from

… In January 2019, with no path to the NHL in sight, Kubalik’s rights were traded to the Blackhawks for a fifth-round pick. He came to Chicago’s training camp cautiously optimistic, and he didn’t want to think too far down the line on contingency plans.

“My GM in Switzerland said if I didn’t make the [Blackhawks], to let him know, and we can talk,” Kubalik said. “So I knew I had options. I believed I was NHL-ready, and I hoped I was, but there was some doubt. I think all the guys [who come] from Europe have those thoughts. What’s going to happen if you don’t make it? Should I stay [in North America] and battle? Should I just go home? If I do, will I ever make it back?”

Not only did Kubalik make the Blackhawks’ opening night roster — and play his first NHL game in Prague as part of the NHL’s Global Series — but he has also shined as one of the few bright spots in Chicago’s lineup this season.


Chronobiology and Sight: How the Eyes Synchronize Our Internal Clocks, Elizabeth Wescott from

Without vision, we would miss out on a variety of experiences. We would have trouble navigating our world and performing certain careers. There are also intangible elements of sight that would be lost, such as seeing the faces of loved ones or appreciating a piece of fine art. However, we are beginning to discover that are our eyes are not only important for sight alone. According to several recent studies on chronobiology and sight, our eyes also play a role in helping to set our internal clocks.


How A Good Night’s Sleep Helps Your Blood Sugar Levels

MSN, The Healthy, Amy Marturana Winderl from

Regularly getting a good night’s sleep is important if you want to generally be awake, productive, and not cranky. Sleeping well at night helps us all to be functional. But it’s also key in keeping our hormones in check and helping us avoid metabolic diseases, like type 2 diabetes.

In fact, research shows a link between poor sleep and type 2 diabetes. “Overall, the literature suggests people with sleep disorders have a 25-30 percent higher risk of developing prediabetes or type 2 diabetes,” says Robert H. Eckel, MD, professor of medicine emeritus in the division of endocrinology, metabolism, and diabetes at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, and president of medicine and science at the American Diabetes Association.


Discovering the Brain’s Nightly “Rinse Cycle”

NIH Director's Blog, Dr. Frances Collins from

Getting plenty of deep, restful sleep is essential for our physical and mental health. Now comes word of yet another way that sleep is good for us: it triggers rhythmic waves of blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that appear to function much like a washing machine’s rinse cycle, which may help to clear the brain of toxic waste on a regular basis.

The video above uses functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to take you inside a person’s brain to see this newly discovered rinse cycle in action. First, you see a wave of blood flow (red, yellow) that’s closely tied to an underlying slow-wave of electrical activity (not visible). As the blood recedes, CSF (blue) increases and then drops back again. Then, the cycle—lasting about 20 seconds—starts over again.

The findings, published recently in the journal Science, are the first to suggest that the brain’s well-known ebb and flow of blood and electrical activity during sleep may also trigger cleansing waves of blood and CSF. While the experiments were conducted in healthy adults, further study of this phenomenon may help explain why poor sleep or loss of sleep has previously been associated with the spread of toxic proteins and worsening memory loss in people with Alzheimer’s disease.


Exercise and the brain: why moving your body matters

BBC Science Focus Magazine, Daniel Levitin from

We humans were not made to be sedentary. We evolved in a world that required us to explore the environment, to move, and without that stimulation the brain ceases to function at its full potential. When we no longer use our brains to organise physical action, could it be that it slows down, atrophies, and becomes disorganised?

At the most fundamental level, the brain is a giant problem-solving device. Most of its problem-solving capabilities evolved to allow us to adapt to a wide range of environments, and continued exploration of these environments is one way we can age well.

Our brains were built to move our bodies toward food and mates, and away from predators. Exercise is important for two reasons. The obvious one is that it oxygenates the blood. The brain runs on oxygenated glucose, carried by haemoglobin in the blood, and a fresh supply of oxygen is good.


Why should I test my athletes in the heat several months before Tokyo 2020?

British Journal of Sports Medicine from

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be held from 24 July to 9 August, in hot and humid environments, in the world’s largest metropolitan area. Two years to the day before the 2020 Olympics, temperatures surpassed 41°C with over 65 heat-related deaths recorded in a single week. Protecting the health and performance of the athlete under these conditions is a shared responsibility among the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the local organiser (LOC), the International Federations (IFs), the National Olympic Committees (NOCs), the national federation medical staff, the coaching staff and the athletes themselves. Unfortunately, these various stake holders do not always have the appropriate information to adopt the necessary preventive countermeasures. Following the motto ‘By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail’ (Benjamin Franklin, 1706–1790), a series of editorials will be published between now and the Olympics with clear information for practitioners on how to prepare.


Key Success Factors for Merging Sport Science and Best Practice

International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance from

The gap between sport science and field practice has been the subject of considerable debate. While there are numerous examples describing how poorly research often applies to the field, there are numerous success stories from which lessons can be learned. As an employee at Olympiatoppen (the Norwegian Olympic Sport Center) in the time period 1994–2019, I was continuously involved in discussions around the importance of research for sport performance. At the beginning of this century, most elite athletes and coaches at Olympiatoppen were not interested in sport science, based on the arguments that academic institutions addressed research questions of limited relevance to the elite sport community and the large majority of scientific studies were performed on young and/or untrained athletes/students. However, we were also challenged by research groups with convincing arguments based on results from short-term training interventions on more or less untrained populations, without having the ability to provide strong scientific evidence for our best practice approach. This dilemma created confusion among athletes and coaches. One notable example was that endurance athletes were strongly recommended to solely focus on high-intensity intervals, whereas low-intensity training was considered a waste of time. This was followed by a marked performance decline in many endurance sports after the 2002 Olympics, particularly for Norwegian cross-country skiing. It was not until Stephen Seiler and his associates published a series of articles related to intensity and duration distribution in endurance athletes that the polarized training concept was “reborn.” This concept detailed that 80% to 90% of the total training duration should be performed at low intensity, whereas 10% to 20% should be performed at higher intensity zones. At the same time, this knowledge was implemented when Norwegian cross-country skiing clarified its training philosophy, based on a mix of science and best practice, together with researchers Espen Tønnessen and Øyvind Sandbakk. This period of reflection was followed by a long-term success for Norwegian winter endurance sport. The take-home messages from this story are that (1) caution should be used when sport scientists with limited practical experience provide “groundbreaking” training prescriptions for elite athletes and (2) the likelihood for success increases when training implementation is founded on an interaction between best practice and science. [full text’


Inverse dynamics analysis of youth pitching arm kinetics using body composition imaging. – PubMed – NCBI

Sports Biomechanics journal from

This study’s objectives were to: (1) assess whether dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA)-mass inverse dynamics (ID) alters predictions of youth pitching arm kinetics and (2) investigate correlations between kinetics and body composition. Eighteen 10- to 11-year-olds pitched 10 fastballs. DXA scans were conducted to obtain participant-specific upper arm, forearm, and hand masses. Pitching arm segment masses and kinetics calculated with scaled and DXA masses were compared with paired t-tests and correlations were investigated with linear regression. Hand (p < 0.001) and upper arm (p < 0.001) DXA masses were greater, while forearm (p < 0.001) DXA masses were lesser, than their scaled masses. Shoulder compressive force (p < 0.001), internal rotation torque (p < 0.001), and horizontal adduction torque (p = 0.002) increased when using DXA masses. Shoulder compressive force correlated with body mass (p < 0.001) and body mass index (BMI; p = 0.002) and elbow varus torque correlated with body mass (p < 0.05). The main conclusions were that (1) using participant-specific mass ratios leads to different predictions of injury-related pitching arm kinetics and, thus, may improve our understanding of injury risk factors; and (2) pitching arm kinetics were correlated with body composition measures and a relatively high total body mass and/or BMI may increase shoulder and/or elbow injury risk.


The Bundesliga’s five most important sports innovation trends

SportsPro Media, Bundesliga from

… According to Andreas Heyden, executive vice president of digital innovations at the German Football League (DFL), there are five overarching trends pushing innovation in sports media forward and changing the industry fundamentally: artificial intelligence (AI), mixed reality (XR), 5G, over-the-top (OTT) and data.

The first of these is AI – using algorithms to analyse vast amounts of data, which enables machines to perform tasks which previously could only be completed thanks to human intelligence. AI is already widely used in our daily lives, for example whenever you search for something online, or do online shopping. AI programs are using algorithms to find the best responses for you.

At the DFL, AI is viewed as the underlying approach that will improve and enable all high-tech capabilities in the future. For example, through its partnerships with leading technology companies such as WSC Sports and Amazon Web Services (AWS), the DFL is able to create personalised highlight clips for Bundesliga fans. So, for example, in Norway clips from Erling Haaland could feature more heavily, whereas fans in Brazil could receive more of Philippe Coutinho’s highlights.


CarbMetSim: A discrete-event simulator for carbohydrate metabolism in humans

PLOS One; Mukul Goyal et al. from

This paper describes CarbMetSim, a discrete-event simulator that tracks the blood glucose level of a person in response to a timed sequence of diet and exercise activities. CarbMetSim implements broader aspects of carbohydrate metabolism in human beings with the objective of capturing the average impact of various diet/exercise activities on the blood glucose level. Key organs (stomach, intestine, portal vein, liver, kidney, muscles, adipose tissue, brain and heart) are implemented to the extent necessary to capture their impact on the production and consumption of glucose. Key metabolic pathways (glucose oxidation, glycolysis and gluconeogenesis) are accounted for in the operation of different organs. The impact of insulin and insulin resistance on the operation of various organs and pathways is captured in accordance with published research. CarbMetSim provides broad flexibility to configure the insulin production ability, the average flux along various metabolic pathways and the impact of insulin resistance on different aspects of carbohydrate metabolism. The simulator does not yet have a detailed implementation of protein and lipid metabolism. This paper contains a preliminary validation of the simulator’s behavior. Significant additional validation is required before the simulator can be considered ready for use by people with Diabetes. [full text]


Does Exercises Boost Immunity?

Women's Running, Amby Burfoot from

Exercise physiologist David Nieman has spent the last 40 years studying links between exercise and immunity. It’s not a new field. But with the increasing rate of race cancellations and general concern around the global COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, plenty of runners have found themselves wondering whether their intense training is helping, or hurting, their health.

Exercise studies show that regular, modest exercise boosts immunity, and lowers your risk of infection. That’s the good news—and the reason so many scientists believe that running and other regular exercise is a healthy, body-strengthening activity.

On the other hand, hard, continuous, long-effort exercise like marathons and ultra marathons can lower your resistance for 24 to 72 hours, and lead to increased colds and respiratory illnesses for a week or two. Too much exercise volume and intensity turns the corner on what experts refer to as the J curve—and your risk of infection goes up.


How to Train and Eat to Boost Your Immunity from Coronavirus

PodiumRunner, Amby Burfoot from

Early in his career as an exercise physiologist, David Nieman taught a “marathon” course at Pacific Union College. He was a marathoner himself, eventually accumulating 58 marathon finishes, and his students entered a marathon at the end of the semester. Like others at the time, Nieman thought marathon running was just about the best thing anyone could do for their health.

So he was confused and concerned when a number of his students came down with colds after their marathon. He says he “felt sorry for them,” because it was also time for their final-exams. Who wants to be sick when they’re cramming for finals?

Nieman has spent the last 40 years studying links between exercise and immunity. It’s not a new field.


Mind the Soft Tissue Gap – “Acute Knee Injuries”

BJSM blog, Dr Irfan Ahmed from

Over the last week, I have had time to reflect on the twitter feedback from my first blog. I must confess to feeling slightly overwhelmed, the “#softtissuegap” is trending, and has certainly outgrown its initial aim.

One thread debated ‘if SEM should focus on acute care, secondary MSK clinics or even the private sector?’ I have to admit the answers to these questions were not in my initial Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle, but I would welcome the STIM model being adopted in all three!

Planning a new STIM clinic

The initial pitch was simple; I was a new SEM registrar with a bright idea, (I think!). For what we lack in numbers, the SEM community more than makes up for in enthusiasm. Perhaps if we had some evidence-based “soft tissue” pathways, we could amplify our footprint.


Miami Dolphins doctors’ poor record of predicting durability

Miami Herald, Armando Salguero from

… Joe Philbin had experienced similar frustrations with Miami’s doctors when they could not (or would not) give him predictive certainty on a foot injury to Ja’Wuan James in 2015 and Branden Albert’s recovery in 2015 from knee surgery in 2014.

Still not the first time.

This followed concerns among some in the Miami personnel department about assurances, or lack thereof in one case, they got from the medical staff about Dion Jordan’s shoulder issues coming out of Oregon in 2013.

The connection in all these cases during multiple years?

Dolphins doctors didn’t wish to “make a definitive call,” according to one source, about how the players in question were going to respond and what durability they would show going forward after sustaining injuries.


[2003.01712] Player Chemistry: Striving for a Perfectly Balanced Soccer Team

arXiv, Computer Science > Social and Information Networks; Lotte Bransen, Jan Van Haaren from

Soccer scouts typically ignore the team balance and team chemistry when evaluating potential signings for their teams. Instead, they focus on the individual qualities of the players in isolation. To overcome this limitation of their recruitment process, this paper takes a first step towards objectively providing insight into the question: How well does a team of soccer players gel? We address that question in both an observational and a predictive setting. In the former setting, we observe the chemistry between players who have actually played together, which is relevant when selecting the best possible line-up for a match. In the latter setting, we predict the chemistry between players who have never played together before, which is particularly relevant to assess the fit of a potential signing with the players who are already on the team.
We introduce two chemistry metrics that measure the offensive and defensive chemistry for a pair of players, respectively. The offensive chemistry metric measures the pair’s joint performance in terms of scoring goals, whereas the defensive chemistry metric measures their joint performance in preventing their opponents from scoring goals. We compute our metrics for 361 seasons in 106 different competitions and present a number of concrete use cases. For instance, we show that the partnership between Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino in Liverpool’s 2017/2018 Champions League campaign exhibited the highest mutual chemistry between two players. Furthermore, we show that Mesut Özil’s chemistry has rapidly started declining following Alexis Sánchez’ departure to Manchester United in 2018.


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