Applied Sports Science newsletter – March 31, 2020

Applied Sports Science news articles, blog posts and research papers for March 31, 2020


Chris Sale’s elbow injury probably wasn’t predictable, experts explain

Boston Herald, Jason Mastrodonato | from

When the Red Sox revealed that Chris Sale’s elbow was acting up again this spring, there was a chorus of folks who felt like his wacky throwing motion — which begins with his body closed off to the hitter and finishes with his arm flying from a low-three-quarter arm slot and slinging high-90s heaters to the plate — was prone to injury.

That he finally needed Tommy John surgery, they said, seemed inevitable.

“People have been telling me this was going to happen for years,” Sale said when he discussed his elbow injury three weeks ago. “I don’t know if they get to say, ‘I told you so,’ or if I made it long enough to where that’s dissolved, I’m not worried about that. I’ve done what I’ve done and I’m at where I’m at.”

But talking to doctors, pitching coaches and injury prevention experts, two of whom work for other MLB clubs, the idea that Sale’s elbow injury was “expected” is unrealistic, and is based more on myth than scientific evidence.


As MLB ponders post-virus season, players worry about health

Associated Press, Howard Fendrich from

As Major League Baseball and the players’ union contemplate various ways to create a schedule for whenever the coronavirus pandemic subsides, Cincinnati Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart raised a concern that is surely shared by others around the sport: Could trying to cram in games, and maybe extend the season into late November or December, lead to injuries?

“The player safety piece is a big thing,” Barnhart, a union representative, said Monday on a conference call with reporters.


Youth Single-Sport Specialization in Professional Baseball Players

Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine from


An increasing number of youth baseball athletes are specializing in playing baseball at younger ages.

The purpose of our study was to describe the age and prevalence of single-sport specialization in a cohort of current professional baseball athletes. In addition, we sought to understand the trends surrounding single-sport specialization in professional baseball players raised within and outside the United States (US).
Study Design:

Cross-sectional study; Level of evidence, 3.

A survey was distributed to male professional baseball athletes via individual team athletic trainers. Athletes were asked if and at what age they had chosen to specialize in playing baseball at the exclusion of other sports, and data were then collected pertaining to this decision. We analyzed the rate and age of specialization, the reasons for specialization, and the athlete’s perception of injuries related to specialization.

A total of 1673 professional baseball athletes completed the survey, representing 26 of the 30 Major League Baseball (MLB) organizations. Less than half (44.5%) of professional athletes specialized in playing a single sport during their childhood/adolescence. Those who reported specializing in their youth did so at a mean age of 14.09 ± 2.79 years. MLB players who grew up outside the US specialized at a significantly earlier age than MLB players native to the US (12.30 ± 3.07 vs 14.89 ± 2.24 years, respectively; P < .001). Additionally, MLB players raised in the US recalled a significantly higher incidence of sustaining an injury attributed to specializing in baseball than MLB athletes raised outside the US (27.7% vs 20.6%, respectively; P = .05). Conclusion:

This study challenges the current trends toward early youth sport specialization, finding that the majority of professional baseball athletes studied did not specialize as youth and that those who did specialize did so at a mean age of 14 years. With the potential cumulative effects of pitching and overhead throwing on an athlete’s arm, the trend identified in this study toward earlier specialization within baseball is concerning.


NCAA student athletes ask NCAA to help with housing and food amid coronavirus

Yahoo Sports, Chris Cwik from

A group of NCAA student athletes from the biggest conferences are asking the NCAA to step up and take care of them. While player eligibility remains a major focus of student athletes, the group is also asking the NCAA to assist with proper food and housing amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The group, called the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), organized to serve as a unifying presence for college athletes. Student athletes from the five power conferences — the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC — make up the SAAC.

The NCAA Division I Council will get together Monday to vote on how to handle eligibility relief for athletes affected by the cancellation of spring seasons. Before that vote, however, the SAAC made some recommendations to the NCAA, the first of which dealt with making sure players receive housing and food amid the coronavirus-related shutdown.


Premier League discusses isolated camps for hosting remaining games amid coronavirus pandemic

The Independent (UK), Miguel Delaney from

The Premier League has developed plans for clubs to play televised games in isolated “World Cup-style” camps in the midlands and London over June and July, in order to try and finish the 2019/20 season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The football authorities have been in discussion about ideas over the weekend, with games “behind closed doors” still seen as the likeliest solution, but the idea of isolated camps is one the clubs keep returning to. It has gained increasing traction in the last few days.


Rene Maric interview (Borussia Mönchengladbach): “The players understand the challenges better than the manager”

Spox (Germany), Jochen Tittmar from

Rene Maric from Borussia Mönchengladbach is the youngest assistant manager of the Bundesliga at 27 years of age. A few years ago, the founding member of tactics website contacted Marco Rose. Maric and Rose have been working together since 2016 – and won four titles in three seasons.

In the interview with SPOX and Goal, Maric talks about his time as a community member at SPOX, the importance and the coaching of the principles of play, a coach who worked with children’s rhymes and his simplified view of soccer-specific topics based on his accumulated experience in professional football.


The NHL’s coronavirus pause – Possible playoff formats, players’ workout plans, free agency and more

ESPN NHL, Greg Wyshynski and Emily Kaplan from

… “One of the things we did almost immediately was check right away on building availability for all our clubs,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly told 101 ESPN in St. Louis on Friday. “Originally, it was through the end of July. With the IOC [International Olympic Committee] canceling the Summer Olympic Games, realistically we have a window through the end of August. That’s for building dates. Again, a lot of different factors involved.”

Much, if not all, of this depends on the federal and local governmental restrictions on shelter-in-place, mass gatherings and especially travel. Then there are the medical experts whose input will be vital in determining when it’s safe for the players to return to competition.


The Irish sports tech firm helping soccer, rugby and GAA stars stay in shape during the lockdown

The 42 (Ireland) from

And many of the leading teams across European soccer, rugby, NFL, NBA, AFL and GAA will be monitoring players wearing products made by Northern Ireland-based sports tech firm StatSports.

The company, which turns 13 this year, was founded by Louth natives Sean O’Connor and Alan Clarke.

They have developed wearable devices that contain GPS technology and heart-rate monitors. They track player performance in real-time, providing live data to coaching staff across various metrics like distance, speed, fatigue levels, playing positions during games and even risk of injury.


How athletes (and the rest of us) can deal with uncertainty

The 42 (Ireland), Sean Farrell from

… A 2016 University of London study found participants to display less stress when they knew a bad outcome – in this case an electric shock – was on the way than if they were left uncertain whether the shock would come or not.

Hope is a core trait of humanity that keeps us on an even keel and willing to struggle on through uncertain times like these. But sportspeople are humans too, and through them we can see an innate reservoir of hope that can help even the most weekend of warriors to ride out this doldrum of inactivity.

“It’s not just optimism, we can plan to get there,” says Dr Tadhg MacIntyre, course director of the University of Limerick’s Masters in Sports Psychology.


Is It Wrong for Baseball Players to Get Tommy John Surgery?

Sports Illustrated, Emma Baccillieri from

Pro athletes are already under fire for preferential treatment during the coronavirus crisis—and medical ethicists say this is another example.


Probiotics and Athletes: A Science to Practice Overview

YouTube, Institute of Performance Nutrition from

In this episode of the IOPN “Science to Practice” overview series, Dr Laurent Bannock focusses on “Probiotics and Athletes”, and explores the relevant scientific evidence and its appropriate translation into real-world practice.


THREAD: Resources for learning to code in the context of sports analytics

Twitter, Measurables from

These fantastic resources compiled by members of the sports analytics community are a great way to start doing your own analysis.

If you know of additional resources not included here, DMs are open!


Murtough leading development of Man Utd data science strategy

Training Ground Guru, Simon Austin from

Manchester United Head of Football Development John Murtough is heading up a working group developing the club’s data science strategy.

Unlike rivals such as Manchester City, Liverpool and Leicester City, United do not currently have a single data scientist on the football side of their business. Data scientists can be simply characterised as people who gain insights from data, using computer modelling and advanced statistical analysis to do so.

The club do have data scientists on the corporate side, known as programmers; and they do have data analysts on the football side, but no data scientists on the football side.

As has been reported elsewhere, the club have employed headhunters to interview candidates who might potentially head up the department but, contrary to these reports, the job title and scope hasn’t yet been decided and an appointment is not imminent.


No games, big losses: Money crisis faces US Olympic sports

Associated Press, Eddie Pells from

The postponement of the Tokyo Games has catapulted the sports organizations that make up the backbone of the U.S. Olympic team into crisis.

At least one has already started layoffs and others are desperate to stay solvent. Some are expecting a major downturn in membership dues, while others are reeling from event cancellations totaling more than 8,000 across all sports.

A database analyzed by The Associated Press shows combined projected losses of more than $121 million in revenue between February and June for 43 of the 50 national governing bodies that responded to a survey from the NGB Council in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.


One year later

21st Club Limited, Aurel Nazmiu from

… Over the past 18 months, England has played the youngest group of players among all 20 qualified nations with an average age of 25.6, followed by Turkey (26.5) and Germany (26.6). When it comes to the youngest players, only Wales had given more minutes to under-21 players than England. Teenagers Greenwood, Saka, Williams and Foden have all played over 1000 minutes for their clubs this season and are likely to benefit from the rescheduling. According to our Player Contribution model, England has 8 of the top 25 teenagers in the world, more than any other country.

Despite missing out on the last two major international tournaments, the Netherlands have been on an upward trajectory and are now rated as the best European side according to our models. Their leader, Virgil van Dijk, will still be at the peak of his powers next summer and those around him, including Frenkie de Jong, van de Beek and de Ligt will only have improved and gained more experience through the course of the year. The Netherlands will benefit from the extra year given their young squad and hopefully be able to show that they’ve learned from previous lessons.


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