Applied Sports Science newsletter – February 15, 2021

Applied Sports Science news articles, blog posts and research papers for February 15, 2021


In Kevin Durant’s recovery, the bottom line was medical science plus ‘bloody, hard work’

Vox Media, Nets Daily blog, Net Income from

It was a big gamble. Literally days after Kevin Durant blew out his Achilles, the Nets, under their then principal owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, and their incoming one, Joe Tsai, agreed to pay KD $164 million over four years, including $38 million in the first year, understanding he wouldn’t play at all.

What would the future Kevin Durant would look like? Would he be 50 percent of the old KD? 80 percent? 90 percent? NO ONE believed he’d be 100 percent … but he is. Maybe even better! Okay, maybe two people believed it — Durant and Dr. Martin O’Malley, the Hospital for Special Surgery orthopedist who had repaired Durant’s ankle when he was with the Thunder, and who wore another hat as well, that of the Nets foot/ankle specialist.

“I have this ongoing relationship with him,” O’Malley told Ben Cohen of the Wall Street Journal. “And his feet.”

Cohen — and True Hoop’s Tom Haberstroh in a separate story — laid out the process that brought Durant back from an injury that in the not-too-distant past meant a player was done.

Crystal Dunn is an American soccer star, but still the USWNT’s best left back

Philadelphia Inquirer, Janathan Tannenwald from

… Why did Dunn decide to finally let loose now? She reflected on that in a news conference Saturday ahead of Thursday’s SheBelieves Cup opener against Canada (7 p.m., FS1, TUDN)

“I think I’ve always given the very soft answer of, ‘Yeah, I don’t like playing left back, you know, but I’m a team player,’ and all of that is so true,” she said. “But I think it’s also important people realize what I deal with on a daily basis is very much different than most players, you know.”

Dunn played an attacking midfield role for her former club, the North Carolina Courage. She is expected to have a similar job in Portland. She said she feels “more myself” in that position, “playing freely, getting involved in the attack, and just, you know, expressing myself in the way that I’ve always thought was the way I should be expressing myself.”

No excuses: In the wake of a lost season, Chicharito might have found himself

Los Angeles Times, Kevin Baxter from

… If such a precipitous fall can happen in the span of a season, Hernández believes the climb back can be made just as quickly. And making it happen is a mission he has embraced with the faith and fervor of a 12-step program, first admitting his failings, then charting his redemption.

“When the end of the season came, I did a very profound critique. About my life, about myself. And I just decided that I can do much, much better,” he said. “In the emotional and very spiritual side, when COVID hit, it was like a perfect time to expose the things that I haven’t worked with.

Exclusive – Tony Strudwick’s praise for ‘proper club’ Sheffield Wednesday, and his thoughts on his Owls role and the mental aspect of injuries

The Star (UK), Joe Crann from

… On a Saturday morning sometimes I’d come in and there would be a community-based programme at 9am, then the academy would come in, and the U18s, then the first team would arrive for prematch, and it was a hub.

“For me, if I had a vision of what a football club should be like, with real links to the local community, that would’ve been it.

“The expectations are high, but with a club with this kind of potential then expectations should be high. But there’s a good feel about the club, it’s got good people and the working class values – everybody works really hard for the cause – make sure it’s fresh.

How Thunder’s Vanessa Brooks blazed historic trail as NBA physical therapist/trainer

The Oklahoman, Joe Mussatto from

Vanessa Brooks was in a residency program at Duke when she received a LinkedIn message from Donnie Strack, the Thunder’s vice president of human and player performance.

Strack had seen Brooks’ impressive resume, which included athletic training experience from her undergrad days at Georgia, a doctorate degree from Emory University in Atlanta, sports medicine work at Duke and what would soon be a physical therapy sports fellowship at Wake Forest.

But despite her credentials, Brooks, then in her mid 20s, didn’t know how to respond.

“I first thought, ‘Oh no, LinkedIn has spam, too,’” Brooks said.

Do skeletal muscle motor units and microvascular units align to help match blood flow to metabolic demand?

European Journal of Applied Physiology from


We explore the motor unit recruitment and control of perfusion of microvascular units in skeletal muscle to determine whether they coordinate to match blood flow to metabolic demand.

The PubMed database was searched for historical, current and relevant literature.

A microvascular, or capillary unit consists of 2–20 individual capillaries. Individual capillaries within a capillary unit cannot increase perfusion independently of other capillaries within the unit. Capillary units perfuse a short segment of approx. 12 muscle fibres located beside each other. Motor units consist of muscle fibres that can be dispersed widely within the muscle volume. During a contraction, where not all motor units are recruited, muscle fibre contraction will result in increased perfusion of associated capillaries as well as all capillaries within that capillary unit. Perfusion of the entire capillary unit will result in an increased blood flow delivery to muscle fibres associated with active motor unit plus approximately 11 other inactive muscle fibres within the same region. This will result in an overperfusion of the muscle resulting in blood flow in excess of the muscle fibre needs.

Given the architecture of the capillary units and the dispersed nature of muscle fibres within a motor unit, during submaximal contractions, where not all motor units are recruited, there will be a greater perfusion to the muscle than that predicted by the number of active muscle fibres. Such overperfusion brings into question if blood flow and metabolic demand are as tightly matched as previously assumed.

What to do when your health and fitness goals turn against you

Wired UK, Becca Caddy from

… The problem with health & fitness tracking

I’ve reviewed many different health and fitness tracking devices over the years, and, at times, I became overly concerned with hitting specific goals each day – to the point where I’d feel panicked or like a failure if my wearable told me I hadn’t burned enough calories or taken enough steps.

I’ve since learned this behaviour wasn’t motivated by fitness challenges or an interest in my health – which would have been my excuses at the time. Instead, this focus on everything my fitness tracker was telling me about my body, my health and my food intake had exacerbated problems I’d had with disordered eating in my teens. Except now I had a smart device strapped to my wrist making the worries about food and weight all that more difficult to escape from.

Contributed: When fitness data becomes research data, your privacy may be at risk

MobiHealthNews; Luca Foschini, Jennifer Goldsack, Andrea Continella and Yu-Xiang Wang from

Google’s $2 billion acquisition of Fitbit last month has been met with concern from privacy advocates worried about how the tech giant will use personal fitness data. This reaction prompted the tech giant to clarify that the acquisition is “about devices, not data.”

The deal has brought to light a larger issue that we all seem to gloss over: Every day, millions of people publicly share seemingly innocuous personal health information with many stakeholders, including employers, insurance companies, providers and even publicly on the Internet.

This becomes especially concerning during a time when there are literally hundreds of clinical studies, some of them with hundreds of thousands of participants, that may request permission to use the same fitness-tracker data to study everything from obesity to COVID-19 symptoms. In the service of public health, many of these datasets are then made publicly available to allow other researchers to reproduce their research or perform new research. But this is not a risk-free situation.

Investor roundtable: Sports tech experts talk trends, startups and entrepreneurs to watch in 2021

SportsPro Media from

… In the wake of Covid-19, few sectors have benefitted from this ‘phygital’ trend quite like connected fitness. Major funding rounds announced in recent months have illustrated ravenous investor appetite in the sector, whose rise continues unabated having been boosted by a physical contact-starved public leading stay-at-home lives. Meanwhile, new technologies designed to facilitate things like remote content production, virtual coaching and youth participation have grown in importance in line with the continuing push to deliver professional-grade products and solutions to amateur sports enthusiasts everywhere.

Together, these trends are reflected in the direction of travel for the sports tech sector at large. Never has there been a time when sports have felt a more pressing need to build and nurture digital fan communities. For rights holders large and small, technology now has a pivotal role to play in delivering more personalised and interactive experiences, particularly those built around immersive content, gamification and social viewing – all of which is invariably rooted in first-party data intelligence and AI-driven analytics.

It is against this backdrop that, for the second year running, SportsPro presented its pick of 20 early-stage startups whose products and services should be on every sports tech investor’s radar. To help compile the Class of 2021, the opinions and predictions of investors, advisors, executives and analysts were sought from across the global sports tech ecosystem, each of whom shared their views on the standout companies and top trends to watch in the sector in 2021.

Forget Blood—Your Skin Might Know If You’re Sick

WIRED, Science, Max G. Levy from

A river of biological information flows just beneath the outermost layers of your skin, in which a hodgepodge of proteins squeeze past each other through the interstitial fluid surrounding your cells. This “interstitium” is an expansive and structured space, making it, to some, a newfound “organ.” But its wealth of biomarkers for conditions like tuberculosis, heart attacks, and cancer has attracted growing attention from researchers looking to upend reliance on diagnostic tools they say are inefficient, invasive, and blood-centric.

“Blood is a tiny fraction of the fluid in our body,” says Mark Prausnitz, a chemical engineer at Georgia Tech who has been studying drug delivery through the skin since the 1990s. “Other fluids should have something useful—it’s just hard to get those fluids.”

Biomarkers normally course around your body like molecular records of past challenges to your immune system. Some reach far back in time, like the antibodies from childhood chickenpox; others, such as cytokines, correspond to stressed immune systems in real time. Following a blood draw, doctors have used cytokines as experimental indicators of severe immune response to Covid-19, for example.

“This Is Exhausting”: How NBA Staffers Are Handling New Responsibilities Under COVID-19 Protocols

The Ringer, Paolo Uggetti from

Trainers and front-office members are largely in charge of implementing the league’s COVID-19 protocols on a team level, and many say the process has been confusing, taxing, and incredibly stressful

How the NFL navigated COVID-19 this season – 959,860 tests, $100 million and zero cancellations

ESPN NFL, Kevin Seifert from

… NFL players and staff upended their lives to make it through the 2020 season, which came to an end on Feb. 7 with Super Bowl LV. They reprogrammed their long-held football habits, suspended their sense of competitive equity and embraced a well-funded and turbocharged version of the COVID-19 mitigation efforts that the entire country has been advised to follow.

The results were better than anyone could have imagined. When veterans reported to training camp on July 28, positive coronavirus cases in the United States had already reached 4.3 million in the four-plus months since the epidemic changed the country’s way of life, and more than 140,000 people had died from the virus. (Nationwide cases have now surpassed 27 million.) Many questioned the viability of completing a full season, and those concerns only grew when an outbreak hit the Titans in Week 4. But in the end, the NFL postponed just five of its 256 regular-season games to allow outbreaks to run their course, and moved 10 others to accommodate them, but not a single game was canceled. How’d the league do it?

Backed by an investment that sources said exceeded $100 million, the NFL and NFL Players Association built an infection control system so robust that they submitted multiple scientific papers to recommend applications outside of football — including one that was published last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Energy drinks can be really bad for heart cells

Futurity, Texas A&M from

As reported in Food and Chemical Toxicology, cardiomyocytes—human heart cells grown in a laboratory—exposed to some energy drinks showed an increased beat rate and other factors affecting cardiac function.

When placed in the context of the human body, researchers have linked consumption of these beverages to improper beating of the heart, cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle which makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood), increased blood pressure, and other heart conditions.

With the global sales of energy drinks estimated at $53 billion in 2018 and rapidly growing, it is important to understand the potential unintended health consequences associated with these beverages, says Ivan Rusyn, professor in the veterinary integrative biosciences department at the Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVMBS).

Why “Trusting the Science” Is Complicated

Los Angeles Review of Books, Suman Seth from

… It can be very tempting, from our contemporary vantage point, to try to tease apart the commendable from the seemingly absurd results above; to applaud the realization that oranges could work against scurvy while condemning the thought that sparkling water might; to sort, in short, the scientific silver from the seemingly unscientific dross. And yet, as the contemporary plaudits and awards indicate, “experts” at the time would not have made the same decisions. Nor is it likely that methodological distinctions will help us much. Precisely the same methods, and precisely the same leaps of brilliance and faith that led in some cases to science that has withstood the test of centuries, led also to results that were rapidly cast into oblivion. Wish as we might, little more than the passage of time and thus hindsight tells us what was “good science” as opposed to a poor guess, based on faulty inferences and deep misunderstandings.

Jump forward almost two centuries from Pringle’s experiments, and a similar question was animating discussions in Austria: How to demarcate science from pseudoscience? Was Sigmund Freud a scientist? What of Karl Marx? It is to the Viennese philosopher Karl Popper that we are indebted for the term “the demarcation problem.” His response — the falsifiability criterion — is most often given as its solution. For a field to be scientific, Popper argued, it must make predictions that could be proven wrong. Were they indeed proven wrong, he further insisted, then we should celebrate rather than lament, for science proceeds not by becoming more true but instead by becoming less false.

However, as Michael Gordin, professor of the history of science at Princeton University, notes early on in his lively and thought-provoking survey of multiple dodgy and perhaps-not-as-dodgy-as-you-thought scientific areas, falsification invariably fails almost before it starts. How do you know that you’ve actually falsified a theory?

Lost LOV: A Once-Bustling Market for College-Athlete Insurance Falls on Hard Times

Sportico, Daniel Libit and Eben Novy-Williams from

At a watershed moment for college athlete earning potential, the insurance industry is reducing access to a once-popular product designed to protect the future income of professional prospects.

The market for loss-of-value (LOV) insurance, which for decades has been sold to athletes to guard against injury and illness during their college careers, has quietly undergone a major contraction in the last two years, industry experts tell Sportico.

“There were so many guys getting loss-of-value that should have never got it,” said Eric Chenowith, the former Kansas basketball star who runs a health and life insurance brokerage that caters to athletes.

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