Applied Sports Science newsletter – July 9, 2020

Applied Sports Science news articles, blog posts and research papers for July 9, 2020


How NFL offensive linemen escape the 5,000-calorie lunch and transform in retirement

ESPN NFL, Emily Kaplan from

… “If I went two hours without eating, I literally would have cut your arm off and started eating it,” the former offensive lineman said. “I felt if I missed a meal after two hours, I was going to lose weight, and I was going to get in trouble. That was the mindset I had. We got weighed in on Mondays, and if I lost 5 pounds, my coach was going to give me hell.”

Eating in excess isn’t as glamorous as it sounds. In fact, laborious might be the better word. Throughout his career, [Joe] Thomas woke up in the middle of the night and “crushed Tums.” He relied on pain medications and anti-inflammatories, and he had constant heartburn.

One Year After USWNT’s World Cup Victory, The World Has Changed But Pride Remains For Jessica McDonald

Team USA, Michael Lewis from

… “Little things like that are still happening,” said McDonald, speaking to from Utah, where her North Carolina Courage is taking part in the National Women’s Soccer League Challenge Cup. “It’s something that we learned as young black people. My grandmother instilled it in me, to be prepared for moments like that. It’s going to happen. It’s just one of those moments you just turn the other cheek and don’t try and be bothered by any of it. It’s time for that to just come to a stop.”

With the country in the midst of a national conversation about racism ignited by the death of George Floyd, a Black man, while in the custody of Minneapolis police, McDonald has joined a growing number of athletes in sharing her experiences as a person in color in the sports world.

The Phoenix native and University of North Carolina alum is hopeful the pain experienced by so many this summer will help lead to meaningful changes.

How quickly can NBA players get into ‘game shape’?

ESPN NBA, Baxter Holmes from

… “We never envisioned a four-plus-month layoff with no contact,” said one performance coach for a team heading to the Orlando bubble.

The prognosis is about as good as can be expected: So far there are few horror stories of players falling so far out of shape that it would be impossible to recover in time. Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens said his players look good physically “and have clearly worked hard to prepare as well as they can.” One Western Conference athletic training official said, “It’s not like all of them have just been sitting on their couch the whole time.”

And multiple general managers said the pressure to not let down their teammates or appear out of shape when play resumed would motivate players — particularly with a large national television audience tuning in.

Why Do People Avoid Facts That Could Help Them?

Scientific American, Behavior & Society, Francesca Gino from

Several studies suggest that individuals widely prefer to remain ignorant about information that would benefit them when it’s painful—and sometimes when it’s pleasurable

How Your Heart Influences What You Perceive and Fear

Quanta Magazine, Jordana Cepelewicz from

We consider the brain the very center of who we are and what we do: ruler of our senses, master of our movements; generator of thought, keeper of memory. But the brain is also rooted in a body, and the connection between the two goes both ways. If certain internal receptors indicate hunger, for instance, we’re driven to eat; if they indicate cold, we dress more warmly.

However, decades of research have also shown that those sensations do much more than alert the brain to the body’s immediate concerns and needs. As the heart, lungs, gut and other organs transmit information to the brain, they affect how we perceive and interact with our environment in surprisingly profound ways. Recent studies of the heart in particular have given scientists new insights into the role that the body’s most basic processes play in defining our experience of the world.

Deciphering the Secrets of Attention

Simons Foundation, Global Brain from

When you walk through the woods, how you perceive your surroundings will vary based on your state of mind — if you’re ardently scanning the ground for mushrooms rather than simply daydreaming your way through a soothing tunnel of trees, you’re much more likely to spot that prized chanterelle.

Marlene Cohen, a neuroscientist at the University of Pittsburgh and an investigator with the Simons Collaboration on the Global Brain, deciphers the neural mechanisms that enable this kind of seamless switch between intent external focus and internal rumination.

Cohen is a pioneer in studying groups of neurons at the single-cell level as animals change their focus, an approach that has provided key insights into our understanding of attention.

Forgoing earned incentives to signal pure motives

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; Erika L. Kirgios, Edward H. Chang, Emma E. Levine, Katherine L. Milkman, and Judd B. Kessler from

Policy makers, employers, and insurers often provide financial incentives to encourage citizens, employees, and customers to take actions that are good for them or for society (e.g., energy conservation, healthy living, safe driving). Although financial incentives are often effective at inducing good behavior, they’ve been shown to have self-image costs: Those who receive incentives view their actions less positively due to the perceived incompatibility between financial incentives and intrinsic motives. We test an intervention that allows organizations and individuals to resolve this tension: We use financial rewards to kick-start good behavior and then offer individuals the opportunity to give up some or all of their earned financial rewards in order to boost their self-image. Two preregistered studies—an incentivized online experiment (n = 763) on prosocial behavior and a large field experiment (n = 17,968) on exercise—provide evidence that emphasizing the intrinsic rewards of a past action leads individuals to forgo or donate earned financial rewards. Our intervention allows individuals to retroactively signal that they acted for the right reason, which we call “motivation laundering.” We discuss the implications of motivation laundering for the design of incentive systems and behavioral change. [full text]

Introducing the “Starting Lineup” for the 2020 Techstars Sports Accelerator, Powered By Indy

Techstars, Jordan Fliegel from

… From eSports and sports media, to fan engagement, athleisure, athlete wellness, and deep tech like AI and Robotics, these ten companies have demonstrated strong visions and clear paths to profitability and beyond in their industries. Our 2020 class hails from across the United States, from tech hubs like Boston and New York City, to Detroit and Auburn, with two companies out of Europe and two more from Tel Aviv and Bogota. We couldn’t be more excited to bring these ten companies to the city of Indianapolis, one of the best sports towns in the world and an emerging hub for sportstech.

In partnership with our founding partners Pacers Sports & Entertainment, NCAA, Next Level Fund/50 South Capital and Indiana Sports Corp, and supporting partners the Indianapolis Colts, NTT IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Techstars Sports is thrilled to announce our 2020 class.

Barça Innovation Hub and Pixellot to develop new systems for automated recording of training sessions and games

Barca Innovation Hub from

FC Barcelona, through the Barça Innovation Hub (BIHUB), has signed an agreement with Pixellot, the sports technology company that specializes in audiovisual technology, to develop a system for automated recording and processing of images of the ordinary sporting activities that take place on the Club’s premises, mainly at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper training ground and in the Estadi Johan Cruyff. Thanks to this partnership, the Club will become a testing laboratory for developing new products for automated artificial intelligence-based viewing and recording of training sessions and matches, the aim being to improve technical and tactical analysis by the managers of different professional sports at the Club. These new products will also be used to support the methodology employed by the Barça Academy.

For the last three years, Pixellot has been supplying this technology to the Club in the form of automated cameras installed at the Ciutat Esportiva, and more recently in the Estadi Johan Cruyff, which record all of the sporting activities that happen there without the need for any human intervention.

Tech That Could Help Pro Sports Adapt to the Pandemic

WIRED, Science, Eric Niiler from

… “This coronavirus crisis is an opportunity for innovation,” says Pete Giorgio, a sports practice leader at the consulting firm Deloitte. “A lot of things that teams are doing right now that feel short term will become long term. People will be asking, ‘Why didn’t we do this 10 years ago?’”

Giorgio says these technological adaptations to pro sports are being driven by the need to keep athletes safe from the novel coronavirus while still playing—and recouping some of the estimated $5 billion in revenues lost by the five major sports leagues, plus the National Collegiate Athletic Association, during the first few months of the pandemic shutdown.

The National Football League is gearing up for its fall kickoff with a new face shield and mask combination designed by sunglasses manufacturer Oakley, according to Thom Mayer, medical director of the NFL Players Association, the union that represents pro football players. Mayer says it will be made with the anti-ballistic, anti-fog lenses that Oakley uses to make combat goggles. “We are close to getting prototypes to the players,” Mayer says. “They want to see how it works.”

An open letter to the Stanford community and the Stanford Athletics family

Stanford University, Stanford News from

… we are writing today with some extremely difficult news. In consultation with the Board of Trustees, we have made the decision to reduce the breadth of our athletics programs and staffing. Stanford will discontinue 11 of our varsity sports programs at the conclusion of the 2020-21 academic year: men’s and women’s fencing, field hockey, lightweight rowing, men’s rowing, co-ed and women’s sailing, squash, synchronized swimming, men’s volleyball and wrestling. All of these teams will have the opportunity to compete in their upcoming 2020-21 seasons, should the circumstances surrounding COVID-19 allow it, before they are discontinued at the varsity level. Regretfully, 20 of our support staff positions are being eliminated as part of this realignment.

Increased risk of injury in contact sports after prolonged training restrictions

EurekAlert! Science News, University of Bath from

As professional sports look to make a phased return behind closed doors across much of Europe, researchers from the University of Bath caution that the prolonged individual training players have been exposed to for months is insufficient to help athletes maintain the physical fitness and mental strength they need for competition.

Writing in the International Journal of Sports Medicine the researchers and sports physicians express their fears that injuries could increase once competitions resume and make recommendations for resuming training.

Data-Driven Return to Activity

Medium, Plantiga blog, Kaila Holtz from

Earlier this year Sean Ross-Ross, Plantiga’s CTO, posted about his recovery from a right ankle fracture and syndesmotic injury he suffered in November 2019 after slipping on a wet dock. In this post, I review Sean’s Plantiga data and discuss his rehabilitation progress, 7 months later.

Masters Athletes: Eat This to Recover Faster

TrainingPeaks, Philip Mosley from

… unless you’re already training to your optimum and have reached your fitness ceiling (which is doubtful), you’ve room to grow. This is especially true for parental triathletes whose available time will grow once their children flee the nest. It’s also shown that age-related decline in maximum heart rate is smaller than for sedentary folk.

Another piece of good news is that altering your diet can reduce your muscle soreness and shorten recovery time.

The protein guru, Stuart Phillips of McMaster University, suggests that around 0.3g to 0.4g protein per kilogram bodyweight is ideal for active individuals during recovery. It’s why researchers used this as a benchmark when having eight well-trained masters triathletes complete a muscle-damaging 30-minute downhill run.

Why Sports Still Leads the Analytics Revolution

MIT Sloan School of Management, Three Big Points podcast from

… MIT Sloan senior lecturer Ben Shields argues that the use of data and analytics in sports is years ahead compared with many other industries. “It comes down to one word: competition,” Shields says in this week’s episode of the Three Big Points podcast. “For as long as sports have been played, teams and athletes are looking for a competitive edge. And it just so happens that today, and well into the future, data and analytics are going to be a source of a competitive edge for teams.”

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