Applied Sports Science newsletter – August 3, 2020

Applied Sports Science news articles, blog posts and research papers for August 3, 2020


Keeping Aaron Rodgers healthy and making Lambeau ‘the safest place in Green Bay’

ESPN NFL, Rob Demovsky from

Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love and Tim Boyle in an isolation chamber and an emergency quarterback who lives a separate existence.

It might not be that extreme, but Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur admitted that he’s considered extra precautions to insulate his quarterbacks in an effort to protect them from the coronavirus and even possibly employing a “quarantine backup” who isn’t around the team as much.

“We’ve floated around that idea a little bit,” LaFleur told reporters on a Zoom call Sunday that served as the unofficial opening of training camp. “Have not made a decision on that at this point, but that’s certainly something that’s not out of the realm.”

What Jusuf Nurkic gained from losing a year to injury

ESPN NBA, Ramona Shelburne from

… The Blazers have performed their own analysis of the play to see if something predisposed the 7-foot, 290-pound Jurkic to bone fractures. He suffered a stress fracture in 2017 on his right leg, so it warranted deeper investigation. Nothing jumped out as a red flag.

“When something just randomly happens like that, you wonder what’s going on,” Nurkic said. “But at the same time, I do believe everything happens for a reason.”

And during the 16 months away, Nurkic believes he learned what that is.

Weightlifter Mattie Rogers is one very busy woman

Olympic Channel, Evelyn Watta and Rory Jiwani from

… After the pain and disappointment of just missing out on Rio 2016, Rogers is staking her claim to be among Team USA’s top picks for Tokyo.

In an exclusive interview with Olympic Channel, the 24-year-old former gymnast reveals why she took up the sport and how she’s helping inspire a new generation of female lifters in the United States.

The Effect Sleep Has on Running

Podium Runner, Molly Hanson from

… For some it’s easier said than done, but if you’re serious about running (and feeling) your best, it’s imperative that you prioritize getting a good night’s sleep as if it were written into your training plan.

Repair Tissue and Build Muscle

If you’re logging a lot of miles, you’re depleting your energy and fluid stores and breaking down muscle tissue. We all know that hydration and proper fueling are necessary parts of recovery after training, but sleep is one of the most important, yet overlooked, components of the recovery process. Particularly during tapering before a big race.

Running-based high-intensity interval training vs. small-sided game training programs: effects on the physical performance, psychophysiological responses and technical skills in young soccer players

Biology of Sport journal from

This study aimed to compare the effects of 5-week running-based high-intensity interval training (HIIT) vs. small-sided game training (SSG) on the physical performance, psychophysiological responses and technical skills in young soccer players. Twenty young male soccer players (age: 14.2±0.5 years, height: 161.8±7.9 cm) participated in this study and were assigned to two groups: the HIIT group (n=10) and SSG group (n=10). Both groups trained twice per week with a similar total training duration. The SSG consisted of two 5–9 minutes of 2-a-side with 2-minute passive rest periods, whereas the HIIT consisted of 12–20 minutes of continuous runs at intensities (90 to 95%) related to the velocity obtained in the 30–15 intermittent fitness test. Before and after the 5-week training periods the following tests were completed: maximum oxygen consumption (VO2max) from the Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test level 1 (YYIRTL-1), 10–30-m sprint test, countermovement jump [CMJ], squat jump [SJ], and drop jump [DJ]), 1000-m run test, zigzag agility, repeated sprint ability, 30–15 intermittent fitness test and speed dribbling ability test. Our results revealed meaningful improvements in YYIRTL-1 performance (SSG: +12.8%, standardized effect size [d]=-1.46; HIIT: +16.4%, d=3.27 and VO2max (SSG: +3.3%, d=-1.48; HIIT: +4.3%, d=2.61). There was a meaningful greater improvement in agility and technical test performances following the SSG training compared with the HIIT (p ≤ 0.05, d=ranging from 0.92 to 1.99). By contrast, the HIIT group showed meaningfully higher performance responses in terms of the 1000-m running time and repeated sprint test ability (p ≤ 0.05, d=ranging from 0.90 to 2.06). These results confirmed that SSG training might be a more effective training regime to improve technical ability and agility with greater enjoyment, whereas HIIT might be more suitable for speed-based conditioning in young soccer players. [full text]

How the Menstrual Cycle Affects Athletic Performance

Outside Online, Alex Hutchinson from

The current status of research on sex differences in sports science brings to mind a famous quote from a friend of Mark Twain’s named Charles Dudley Warner: “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” The problems with taking decades of research on mostly male subjects and simply assuming that the conclusions can be applied to women are clear, and people are certainly talking about them. But translating that new awareness into action, and identifying specific ways that women should train and compete differently than men, remains a challenge.

That makes a new open-access study in the journal Sports Medicine, published by a group of researchers in Britain co-led by Kelly McNulty of Northumbria University and Kirsty Elliott-Sale of Nottingham Trent University, all the more welcome. The research team performed a meta-analysis of all the studies they could find on the effects of menstrual cycle phase on exercise performance. The results, as it turns out, are as interesting for what they didn’t find as for what they did.

The Relationship Between Training Load and Performance: It’s Complicated

Training Peaks, Coach Blog, Rebecca Johansson from

Spend some time at a race expo or start line and it won’t take long until you hear banter about what athletes are doing for training. There is no doubt that training is a necessary and important variable in athletic performance. But how much does training contribute to performance? My Ph.D. data explored this topic in endurance runners, and I found that the issue is far more complex than meets the eye.

There is wide variation in amount of training completed:

One of the studies we did included following a group of 69 runners for six weeks leading up to a 56 km road ultramarathon race. There was no minimum training requirement to be part of the study. We plotted runners’ relative race performance (race speed as a percentage of best 10 km race speed in the last year) against the total training load completed in the six weeks (AUC rTSS: area under the curve running training stress score) (figure 1). There was a positive linear relationship whereby runners with better relative performances completed higher amounts of training. However, there is a lot of variation around the line. If you just take the two data points circled in blue in figure 1 — The data point towards the top of the graph represents a runner with a relative race performance of 92 percent and an average of 112 km per week in training. The data point towards the bottom represents a runner with a relative race performance of 91 percent and an average of 47 km per week in training. These are two runners who have nearly the exact same relative performance but nearly a 2.5-fold difference in the amount of training they completed.

WIMU, the device that tracks athlete data

FC Barcelona from

Developed by RealTrack Systems in association with Barça Innovation Hub, this system analyses data for the football, basketball, handball, rink hockey and futsal teams

An Olympian-turned-scientist helped a $1 million basketball tournament tip off amid COVID-19

Science, Eli Cahan from

… Perhaps the biggest U.S. success story thus far comes from a relatively little-known contest called The Basketball Tournament (TBT), which awarded a $1 million prize to the winner of this year’s 24-team competition. In early July, TBT navigated through the pandemic—despite several positive coronavirus tests in players and staff before and during the competition—thanks to planning help from a former Olympic swimmer–turned–public health expert, Tara Kirk Sell of Johns Hopkins University.

Sell, who specializes in trying to reduce the health impacts of large-scale events such as disasters and terrorism, advised TBT—which has been running since 2014 and is perhaps the sport’s premier winners-take-all competition—on issues such as transportation, lodging, hygiene, and how to test players, coach, and staff for SARS-CoV-2. “I was excited by the idea of a collaboration between private organizations and public health that could help us all figure out what we can do, and how we can do it safely,” she says.

NCAA polled 37,000 student-athletes. The majority reported experiencing high rates of mental distress since the outset of the pandemic.

CBS8, KMFB, Kelly Hessedal from

NCAA polled 37,000 student-athletes. The majority reported experiencing high rates of mental distress since the outset of the pandemic.

A Data Viz Driven Case for Anthony Davis as Defensive Player of the Year

Medium, Nightingale, Daniel Bratulić from

… I’ll introduce now a chart which will be used throughout this post, and which paints the picture of how effectively one player defends areas on the basketball court.

In the chart below you can see the defensive efficiency by Davis in the 2014–15 season. When I say efficiency, I mean how effectively Davis stopped shots by opposing players in certain areas. The areas are defined by the distance from the rim (as seen with approximated arcs). If the color is blue, that means that opposing shooters were cold from that area, meaning that the defensive player — in this case Anthony Davis — was effective in stopping them. On the other hand, if the color of an area is red, that means that the defensive player defended poorly from that area. The data for this chart and all other Defensive Efficiency Charts is retrieved from (link goes to data by Anthony Davis).

A Conversation with Andy McKay, Mariners Director of Player Development (Part One)

FanGraphs Baseball, David Laurila from

Andy McKay oversees one of the best farm systems in the game. Seattle’s Director of Player Development does so with a sports-psychology background — McKay has an MBA in Organizational Behavior Studies — as well as a deep appreciation for data and technology. The former college coach is anything but old school when it comes to developing young talent. Case in point: Mariners prospects have their regularly-revisited player plans put together not by coaches, but by analysts.

In Part One of a wide-ranging interview, McKay addresses several of his philosophies, as well as how the Mariners are approaching development without a minor league season.

Inside new Red Sox boss Chaim Bloom’s wild first 280 days on the job

ESPN MLB, Joon Lee from

… “I don’t think anybody could have possibly imagined a lot of what has gone on over the last eight, nine months,” Bloom told ESPN. “I mean, I think a lot of the stuff that we went through as an organization, even prior to the pandemic shutting down our sport, would have seemed like a pretty remote possibility.”

With new manager Ron Roenicke holding the clubhouse and Boston fans still recovering from the loss of a generational player, the bar for success moving forward is extremely high — as it always is.

It might feel like even longer, but here’s a taste of how Bloom’s first 280 days have gone.

G+Boost: Measuring What Happens After the Pass

American Soccer Analysis, John Muller from

… American Soccer Analysis’s new goals added model measures how every action affects a team’s chances of scoring and conceding, and the model doesn’t care whether a pass is completed except to the extent it affects those chances. Goals added (g+) gives us a radically different picture of Darlington Nagbe. Even though he didn’t misplace a single pass against Atlanta, Nagbe’s passes were mostly sideways, slowing Columbus’s movement and hurting the team’s chances of outscoring the opponent over the next couple possessions. The goals added model rated his passing that night as below average for his position. In fact, across three group stage games, no midfielder in MLS had a better pass completion rate than Nagbe, but no midfielder had a worse passing g+.

Does that make Nagbe a bad passer? It might not be that simple.

Brentford close in on Premier League dream. Just don’t thank ‘Moneyball’ for their success

ESPN FC, Tom Hamilton from

… Brentford’s journey to the brink of the Premier League is unorthodox and confounds those who believe you have to spend big to get promoted. Guided by owner Matthew Benham, a former professional gambler, they had the fourth-lowest wage budget in the Championship last season, and their record signing stands at the £5.85 million they spent on Bryan Mbeumo last summer. Mbeumo, who arrived from Troyes in Ligue 2, embodies the club’s transfer policy: they look for raw talent and underrated players, do background checks on their personality and then watch them thrive.

But there’s more to Brentford’s success than just good scouting. It’s number-crunching and analysis like you wouldn’t believe. It has taken them to the verge of the Premier League. Just, whatever you do, don’t mention “Moneyball.”

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