Applied Sports Science newsletter – July 27, 2020

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


The Tokyo Olympics were set to start July 24; instead, there’s zero pomp and many circumstances

ESPN Olympic Sports, Wayne Drehs from

… Gyms are closed in Arizona, where the 28-year-old water polo player lives. The neighbors in Obert’s apartment building are less than understanding of the noise that accompanies the workouts of a 6-foot-6, 233-pound Olympian. And exercising in the sun-soaked July heat is unbearable at best, dangerous at worst.

So, sometime around 8:30 Thursday morning, [Alex] Obert will unfold his rubber yoga mat on the desert floor, in the shade beneath a Tucson overpass. He’ll connect his iPad to a Zoom call with his U.S. water polo teammates, grab the exercise bands in his backpack and virtually work out with his team. In other words, it will be like any other day during the pandemic.

“Sometimes there are pigeons when I arrive,” he said. “I haven’t seen any reptiles yet. It’s pretty wild. Definitely not normal.”

Jacob deGrom feeling the Mets pressure in shortened season

New York Post, Zach Braziller from

Jacob deGrom knows a repeat of last season won’t be good enough. Not with a 60-game schedule. He can’t afford to get off to a slow start again.

“I don’t like giving up runs and I lost some sleep over some starts [from early last year],” he said on Tuesday, referring to a three-start stretch when he allowed 14 earned runs in 13 innings and suffered three straight losses. “Definitely in a 60-game [season], you’re going to feel a little bit more pressure. You only get so many times out there and you feel like you need to be on your game every time.”

Forget the asterisk, NHL playoffs present grueling test

Associated Press, John Wawrow from

Sorry, Drew Doughty.

It’s difficult to find anyone — from Hockey Hall of Fame goalie Ken Dryden to French-born Avalanche forward Pierre Edouard Bellemare— supporting Doughty’s assertion that these expanded NHL playoffs won’t produce, as the Los Angeles Kings defenseman put it in April, “a real” Stanley Cup winner.

“I could not agree less,” Bellemare said. “The level of play might take a day or two to get to the competitiveness, but this Stanley Cup playoff is going to be the toughest ever.”

Alabama Football: Coach Ballou and Dr. Rhea amping up workouts

Fansided, Bama Hammer blog, Lauri Springer from

New strength and condition coach, David Ballou, and his partner, Dr. Matt Rhea, have brought a new scientific spice to Alabama Football’s summer workouts

Alabama Football players seem to be excelling under new strength and conditioning coach, David Ballou and Dr. Matt Rhea’s training program. The two have completely transformed the strength and conditioning aspect of the Tide’s team away from the hard-nosed, Fourth Quarter Program under former coach Scott Cochran. The pair look to be the latest example of Nick Saban identifying and developing talent.

In fact, Dr. Matt Rhea even revealed his true perception of the weight room to be a complete 180 from former Coach Scott Cochran

Habit building system to increase productiviy

Fast Company, MIcah Bennett-Zapier from

… How you set up your system for accountability is personal—you need to find a system that works for you. For me, it involved adding things to Todoist, my to-do list app. I was already in the habit of checking that app daily, so I added tasks with due dates for the things I intended to do. That way, what I “should” be doing becomes very real when I check the app.

A great example of this in action was in doing a better job with home maintenance. There were a bunch of things I knew I should be doing regularly if only to avoid bigger problems later. Relying on myself to remember what they were, when they should happen, and how often they should happen was too much. To solve for this, I took a few minutes to add a handful of those tasks into Todoist for the time of year they need to be done. I also made sure to space the tasks out, so I didn’t get an overwhelming rush of tasks to be done that I’d be less likely to follow through with.

Deep learning–based cell composition analysis from tissue expression profiles

Science Advances; Kevin Menden, Stefan Bonn et al. from

We present Scaden, a deep neural network for cell deconvolution that uses gene expression information to infer the cellular composition of tissues. Scaden is trained on single-cell RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) data to engineer discriminative features that confer robustness to bias and noise, making complex data preprocessing and feature selection unnecessary. We demonstrate that Scaden outperforms existing deconvolution algorithms in both precision and robustness. A single trained network reliably deconvolves bulk RNA-seq and microarray, human and mouse tissue expression data and leverages the combined information of multiple datasets. Because of this stability and flexibility, we surmise that deep learning will become an algorithmic mainstay for cell deconvolution of various data types. Scaden’s software package and web application are easy to use on new as well as diverse existing expression datasets available in public resources, deepening the molecular and cellular understanding of developmental and disease processes. [full text]

Researchers develop 3D hand-sensing wristband

Cornell University, Cornell Chronicle from

In a potential breakthrough in wearable sensing technology, researchers from Cornell and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, have designed a wrist-mounted device that continuously tracks the entire human hand in 3D.

The bracelet, called FingerTrak, can sense and translate into 3D the many positions of the human hand, including 20 finger joint positions, using three or four miniature, low-resolution thermal cameras that read contours on the wrist. The device could be used in sign language translation, virtual reality, mobile health, human-robot interaction and other areas, the researchers said.

Big data, big players. Ankle injuries in the NBA and NFL with Dr Mackenzie Herzog. Episode #436 by BMJ talk medicine

BJSM podcast from

Dr Mackenzie Herzog (@MackenzieHerzog) has a PhD in Sports Injury and Orthopaedic Epidemiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is currently a Lead Epidemiologist on the Injury Surveillance and Analytics team at IQVIA. She was part of a team assessing the risks of sustaining an ankle sprain whilst playing in the NBA across four seasons. In this podcast we explore the findings from the paper (published in AJSM), the need to collect robust data to inform injury prevention strategies, how data science and sports epidemiology is evolving and her insights on working with teams in the NBA and NFL. [audio, 24:50]

Ultrasound-guided tendon debridement improves pain, function and structure in persistent patellar tendinopathy: short term follow-up of a case series

BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine journal from

There is a need for effective therapeutic options for resistant patellar tendinopathy. Ultrasound (US)-guided arthroscopic debridement has demonstrated promising clinical results.

Objectives To prospectively evaluate pain, function, tendon structure and adverse events after US and colour Doppler (CD)-guided arthroscopic debridement for persistent painful patellar tendinopathy.

Materials and methods Twenty-three consecutive patients (19 males and 4 females, mean age 28 years (±8), symptom duration 25 months (±21)), who had failed conservative management including progressive loading, were included. US+CD and ultrasound tissue characterisation (UTC) examination verified the clinical diagnosis and quantified baseline tendon structure. Patients were treated with US+CD-guided arthroscopic debridement followed by a specific rehabilitation protocol. Outcomes were VISA-P score for pain and function and UTC for tendon structure. Adverse events were specifically elicited.

Results At 6-month follow-up, mean VISA-P score increased from 40 (±21.0) to 82 (±15) (mean deviation (MD)=42.0, 95% CI 32 to 53, d=2.4), while organised echo pixels (combined UTC type I+II) increased from 55.0% (±17.0) to 69.0% (±15.0) (MD=14.0, d=0.7, 95% CI 2 to 21). Both outcomes exceeded minimum detectable change values. Twenty-one participants returned to their prediagnosis activity levels, and there were no significant adverse events.

Conclusions US-guided patellar tendon debridement for persistent patellar tendinopathy improved symptoms and tendon structure without complications at 6-month follow-up. A majority (21/23) of the patients returned to their preinjury activity level. Further studies with longer follow-ups, preferably randomised and controlled, are needed. [full text]


Barca Innovation Hub from

The relationship between health and athletic performance go hand in hand, and elite sports couldn’t be understood without the direct supervision of specialized doctors. This relationship becomes even closer as competitive demands increase, as in the case of F.C. Barcelona’s first women’s team: participating in more tournaments and playing more matches during the season is a major challenge for the medical department. Women’s football has its own medical needs, which in some areas are different from men’s football, but these needs are not always supported by sufficient scientific publications. There’s less specific medical research literature focussed on women’s football than for men’s football, and also less if we compare it to other women’s sports.

Dr Eva Ferrer, from F.C. Barcelona’s first women’s team, highlights the three most relevant areas: the effects of the menstrual cycle in high-performance competition, the high prevalence of cruciate ligament tears in women, and the so-called “athlete triad”.

Is there evidence of COVID-19 outbreaks due to youth sports?

Aspen Institute Project Play, Jon Solomon from

The short answer is we don’t know of any research exploring youth sports outbreaks around the U.S., where testing and contact tracing have posed challenges in some communities. Anecdotally, there are some concerning reports connecting COVID-19 outbreaks to the return of kids playing sports.

Sports nutrition innovation wave

Natural Products INSIDER, Mark LeDoux from

… So, where does innovation come into focus during these disruptive times to our sense of normalcy? First, widespread education and access to verifiable information is critical for sports nutrition, and frankly for other components of nutrition as well. This has already been facilitated through the marvels of the internet and the efforts of industry pioneers such as Dr. Jim Stoppani and Kris Gethin. Significant work has been done by industry leaders to subject products to independent scientific scrutiny in well-designed clinical studies on humans to verify perceived benefits, and to subject the findings for peer review in prestigious scientific journals for publication. One of the leading components of our industry in creating ground-breaking science has been the area of sports nutrition, with emphasis on the seminal work done on creatine, branched chain amino acids, and lactic acid buffering agents such as CarnoSyn beta-alanine. U.S. and international leading researchers have begun to assess the role many of these extraordinary nutrients play in other facets of health care, including immunology.

Iowa football: Kirk Ferentz was alerted to racial bias claims in 2019

Iowa City Press-Citizen, Hawk Central blog, Mark Emmert from

Fourteen months before Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz said he was startled to hear of allegations of racial bias in his program, the university’s athletic department prepared a nine-page report that identified many of the same issues.

Ferentz, who has led the Hawkeyes’ most high-profile sport since 1999, said at a Thursday news conference that he had read that full report and has been revisiting it periodically since dozens of his former players, most of them Black, took to social media starting in early June with complaints about their time at Iowa.

The report was issued in April 2019, and Ferentz said he met with his players last August after reading about discrepancies in the way Black athletes at Iowa feel they are treated relative to their white peers.

Gabe Kapler’s anthem protest a masterclass in being an ally, Donnovan Bennett from

A key part of leadership is being a living example. I’m not sure how Gabe Kapler is going to be in terms of handling his bullpen or his situational substitutions. But I now know he’s a leader — and we all now know he’s an ally.

The 44-year-old San Francisco Giants manager joined several members of his team in taking a knee during the national anthem before Monday’s pre-season game against the Oakland Athletics. Outfielders Jaylin Davis, Austin Slater and Mike Yastrzemski and first-base coach Antoan Richardson also participated in the protest. Ahead of another pre-season game on Tuesday, Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval and Mauricio Dubón joined them and also took a knee.

Kapler and the Giants aren’t alone in MLB circles in their visible support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Four Cincinnati Reds players — Amir Garrett, Phillip Ervin, Alex Blandino, and Joey Votto — knelt during the national anthem on Tuesday. It is, of course, noteworthy to see so many baseball players doing what NFL players have been doing for years, but even in numbers their gestures don’t drive conversation the way Kapler’s did.

College basketball coaches wait for next shoe to drop amid coronavirus pandemic

ESPN Men's College Basketball, Jeff Borzello from

… “[We are] preparing for an on-time start as [a] precaution, but not confident,” UNC Wilmington coach Takayo Siddle said.

“We are planning on an on-time start just because it wouldn’t make sense to be targeting a Jan. 1 start until it’s announced,” a Patriot League assistant said. “Ultimately, the feeling is we aren’t going to play nonconference.”

For the Power 5 conferences, decisions regarding football could inform the protocol and timetable for basketball. Earlier this month, the Big Ten and Pac-12 announced they were playing conference-only schedules in football. The ACC, Big 12 and SEC have not made any final decisions yet, but late July has long been perceived as the deadline for those determinations. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said on ESPN Radio recently, “We are running out of time.”

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