Applied Sports Science newsletter – March 27, 2020

Applied Sports Science news articles, blog posts and research papers for March 27, 2020


With 2020 Tokyo Games postponed, athletes re-think training, retirement plans

Yahoo Sports, The Week, Catherine Garcia from

… U.S. swimmer and Olympian Ryan Lochte told the Times he was disappointed to hear the Games were postponed because “I’ve been training my butt off and I’ve been feeling great,” but “this whole thing is way bigger than me. It’s way bigger than the Olympians. It’s affecting the entire world right now.”

The 35-year-old, who was suspended after the 2016 Olympics for lying about an incident that happened in Rio, said this won’t push him into an early retirement. “There’s still so much more I want to accomplish in this sport,” he said. “I’m not going to let this get in the way of it. I guess I have to look at the positive side. I get another year of training and I can get stronger.”

His fellow U.S. swimmer Nathan Adrian, who studied public health at the University of California, Berkeley, said it would have been “tragic to hold the Olympics given the circumstances.”


How Rangers’ minor leaguers are coping without baseball, uncertain futures

Dallas Morning News, Evan Grant from

… When baseball shut down 10 days ago, nobody was harder hit than minor leaguers. They earn a pittance to start with, drawing minimal salaries from baseball only from April through August. Now? What’s less than a pittance?

Not that any of the rank-and-file from the Rangers minor leaguers I contacted last week are complaining. This isn’t a story about minor league pay: It’s pretty universally understood that it is not a living wage, but at the same time there aren’t many guys who would walk away from the opportunity. It’s more about how minor leaguers are adapting to life in the time of the coronavirus when their investment in their livelihood has been put on hold indefinitely.


MLS extends moratorium on training until April 4

Los Angeles Times, Kevin Baxter from

… The training moratorium, first imposed on March 13, the day after the league suspended the season, allows only players requiring specialized medical treatment and rehabilitation that cannot be performed at home to access team facilities. In addition, players have been advised to do conditioning alone at home, and not practice or train in groups.

In addition, the league said it expects players to remain in each club’s respective market although it is now reviewing individual requests by players to relocate by car. With the league observing strict personal-distancing rules, MLS has said it does not want players or staff visiting airports or traveling by plane.


What Should I Do With My Training Since My Goal Race Has Been Canceled?

PodiumRunner, Greg McMillan from

… The main point is that you want a performance result to mark the end of your current training cycle (see options below). Never-ending training cycles lead to mental burnout and a fitness plateau. Without the goal race, it may be difficult to feel like you never really finished off your season, but it is important that you have an end point in your current cycle. Then, you can reboot for your next training cycle.


When there’s nowhere to work out, NBA teams are bringing the gym to the players

ESPN NBA, Tim Bontemps and Tim MacMahon from

… New health guidelines have forced people — including NBA players, strength and conditioning coaches and trainers — into new work patterns.

Players have been accustomed to working out at any hour at team facilities, with pristine basketball courts and state-of-the-art equipment, often with coaches and trainers. With the NBA now a week removed from closing those facilities, and all NBA employees strongly encouraged to self-quarantine, players, coaches and trainers face an unprecedented challenge: How do players work on their bodies and maintain their skills to return and play at the highest level on an undetermined date?

“The tough part is what you don’t know,” said Keith Jones, Houston Rockets senior vice president of basketball operations and a longtime athletic trainer. “You don’t know how long the runway is going to be before you’re full speed. A process that took 10 weeks [at the end of the offseason to ramp up to the regular season] might be compressed into 10 days. Getting their bodies conditioned to play again, we’re going to need some time.


Nick Saban, other top college football coaches adjust to spring upended by coronavirus

ESPN College Football from

… College football programs all across the country are forced to get creative with how to maintain a sense of normality when life is now anything but. Coaches who by nature crave routine have been delivered a fastball of chaos and are trying to remotely keep their players on track with everything from daily nutrition to workouts and grades.

Several schools in the SEC, including Alabama, had hoped to use video conferencing and other technology such as Zoom to do a virtual spring practice and workouts with players. But even that’s on hold for the time being, as SEC presidents and chancellors voted to suspend all athletic activities, including practices, meetings and other organized activities, through April 15.

“None of us know what’s going to happen after April 15,” Saban said. “We’ll stay connected, the coaches, and work on next year’s opponents and stay in as close touch with our players as we can and keep recruiting as best we can.


Sporting KC’s training renaissance in Year Three of Pinnacle Facility

SB Nation, The Blue Testament blog, Robert Rusert from

Navy Seals, Pendulums, Maximums and sub-maximums, Periodizing, MLS Maxes, and D-day: They are all here in this two-part article focused on Sporting KC’s training renaissance.


Physical characteristics and match performances in women’s international versus domestic-level football players: a 2-year, league-wide study

Science and Medicine in Football journal from

Objective: This study examined the role of physical qualities and physical match performances in distinguishing between elite performance levels in women’s football.

Methods: Over a two-season period (2016–2017), a league-wide study was conducted in which physical qualities and match external loads were collected in all players (n = 220) competing in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in the USA. During the first week of each pre-season, the standing broad jump, 30 m sprint, and the 30–15 intermittent fitness test were conducted under standardized conditions. In each competitive league fixture (3,268 individual match observations), 10 Hz GPS data were collected in all players who completed full matches and playing position was categorized. Total distance, and the distances covered above high (≥12.5 km h–1), very-high(≥19.0 km h–1), and sprinting velocities (≥22.5 km h–1) were used to quantity match physical performances. Players were further categorized as international (INT) or domestic-level (DOM) players according to their country’s squad selections during each season.

Results: There were few meaningful differences between INT and DOM players for either physical qualities or physical match performances.

Conclusion: Whilst physical qualities and match performances may impact upon performance outcomes, they generally do not distinguish between performance levels in elite women’s football.


Video-based AI for beat-to-beat assessment of cardiac function

Nature, James Zou et al. from

Accurate assessment of cardiac function is crucial for the diagnosis of cardiovascular disease1, screening for cardiotoxicity2 and decisions regarding the clinical management of patients with a critical illness3. However, human assessment of cardiac function focuses on a limited sampling of cardiac cycles and has considerable inter-observer variability despite years of training4,5. Here, to overcome this challenge, we present a video-based deep learning algorithm—EchoNet-Dynamic—that surpasses the performance of human experts in the critical tasks of segmenting the left ventricle, estimating ejection fraction and assessing cardiomyopathy. Trained on echocardiogram videos, our model accurately segments the left ventricle with a Dice similarity coefficient of 0.92, predicts ejection fraction with a mean absolute error of 4.1% and reliably classifies heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (area under the curve of 0.97). In an external dataset from another healthcare system, EchoNet-Dynamic predicts the ejection fraction with a mean absolute error of 6.0% and classifies heart failure with reduced ejection fraction with an area under the curve of 0.96. Prospective evaluation with repeated human measurements confirms that the model has variance that is comparable to or less than that of human experts. By leveraging information across multiple cardiac cycles, our model can rapidly identify subtle changes in ejection fraction, is more reproducible than human evaluation and lays the foundation for precise diagnosis of cardiovascular disease in real time. As a resource to promote further innovation, we also make publicly available a large dataset of 10,030 annotated echocardiogram videos.


G League player’s death spurs awareness of sudden cardiac arrest

ESPN, T.J. Quinn from

ESPN spent months going through Zeke Upshaw’s medical records. The picture that emerged was muddled. More than a dozen experts in cardiology and emergency medicine couldn’t agree on what led to his heart attack or even what underlying genetic heart disease afflicted him.

In its report, the Kent County Medical Examiner’s office in Grand Rapids identified a disease called arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC). But several other top cardiologists said they were convinced Upshaw had a similar disease, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). There was no evidence of drug use or any other mitigating factor.

Between November 2016 and March 2018, Upshaw went through three different heart screenings. Two were routine tests required by the NBA and one followed a fainting episode in 2017 — nine months before he died. An unexplained fainting episode, experts say, can be a harbinger of a larger cardiac problem.

Upshaw’s episode happened while he was working out at a Las Vegas gym the morning of June 21. By 6 a.m. that day, the temperature outside was already 106.


NHL chief medical officer cautions against early return

ESPN NHL, Emily Kaplan from

The NHL’s chief medical officer is urging caution toward the league returning to play this season — including the idea of playing in empty arenas.

“From a medical perspective, I think we’d have to understand what the risks are for the different groups,” Dr. Willem Meeuwisse said on a call with reporters Wednesday. “What are the risks to the players? What are the risks to the staff that would be required to run an event? And what are the risks to the fans?

“Once we know what those things are, I think we can make a more intelligent decision.”


Epidemiology of exertional heat illnesses in organised sports: A systematic review

Journal of Science & Medicine in Sport from


This systematic review summarises reports of the incidence of exertional heat illnesses (EHI) in organised sports, to examine any trends in the EHI incidence over time, and to describe EHI incidence based on sporting activity, geographic location, and type of EHI.

Three electronic databases (CINAHL, PubMed, SportDiscuss) were searched from inception to January 2019. Original data in all epidemiological studies (any design except case-studies and case-series) that reported EHI incidence data in organised sports, across all age categories, and published in an English language peer-reviewed journal were included.

The primary search yielded 3556 results of which 62 studies were included in the final analysis, with 71% being from the USA. Reported EHI incidence rates ranged from 0.01 (cheerleading) to 4.19 (American football) per 1000 athletic-exposures (AEs), and 0.01 (mini-marathon) to 54.54 (desert ultra-marathon) per 100 participants. Endurance type events (running, cycling, adventure races) reported the highest EHI incidence rates per 100 participants. There was a considerable increase in EHI fatalities reported in the literature over the last three decades in American football and an increased reporting of EHI incidence in endurance type events during the last 5-years.

Use of different terminology and injury definitions in most studies have resulted in an inconsistency in reporting EHI incidence data, and also likely underreporting of less-severe forms of EHI conditions. Longitudinal studies focused on different sports and conducted in more countries (outside the USA), are needed for better understanding the global impact of EHI and the impact of prevention measures.


Introducing Offensive Sequences and The Hockey Decision Tree

Hockey Graphs, Thibaud Chatel from

Video coaches often break down game tape to highlight certain plays, such as a rush-based attack or a zone exit under pressure. I wanted to do the same and divide a game in as many parts as necessary, or “Sequences”. Roughly, every time the puck changes possession between teams, a new Sequence” begins. That’s about 250 Sequences per game.

Looking at this from the point of view of the team that owns the puck, offensive Sequences extend from the moment a team gets control of the puck and starts moving forward, to the moment she loses it for good, and it must include a shot attempt in the process to have a positive value. How does this work? Let’s say a player gets the puck back in your defensive zone, you try a zone exit but fail. Sequence starts over, there can only be one exit recorded in the Sequence. So he tries another zone exit and succeed, gets into the offensive zone, the team records a couple of shot attempts, loses the puck and if the other teams gets enough control of it to try a zone exit, it means the end of the Sequence.

How does this help? Well, the basic principle is to see the total value of a Sequence. We’re use Expected Goals as our measure of “value”. To do that, we add the Expected Goals of the shot attempts in the Sequence.


The Importance of Understanding The Market

MRKT Insights, Matt Lawrence from

You wouldn’t go to the greengrocers to pick up a premium cut of steak, so why do clubs continue to go to the wrong shop to buy the ingredients they are looking for?

Like anyone who shops regularly, football clubs will continue to return to markets where they have a proven track record of successful purchases. This is a natural and logical step, but it means that the purchaser can become bound to a supply of limited stock. First, we need to understand why clubs continue to shop in these proven markets. Often it is due to similarity in playing style between leagues, with domestic markets proving reliable sources of players able to adapt to the league.

Let’s take the example of an EFL League One club looking to bring in a dominant centre back. Traditionally clubs look to the EFL and National League due to the similar demands that are asked of centre backs in these leagues. League One requires a centre back to contest a high volume of aerial duels, as do League Two and the National League. However, it is likely that the other 23 clubs in League One are also looking in these markets.


The Free Agent Salary Dominoes

FanGraphs Baseball, Dan Szymborski from

… How much would hitting free agency a year later affect baseball’s best upcoming free agents? To get a sense, I took some of the biggest names anticipated to hit free agency for the first time over the next two offseasons and projected five-year contracts based on their “normal” free agent entry season, along with the projections if they hit free agency a year later.


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