Applied Sports Science newsletter – April 2, 2021

Applied Sports Science news articles, blog posts and research papers for April 2, 2021


Best athletes in each farm system; Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo, Sam Dykstra from

There’s long been a desire to attract more athletes to the sport of baseball, and for good reason. Watching those with premium athleticism roam the outfield or the basepaths can be exciting, and many of the top stars in Major League Baseball today would fit on a list of elite athletes.

Athleticism doesn’t just mean pure running speed, though that’s a big part of it, but can also include other tools on the field, from bat speed at the plate to arm strength in the field. You’ll see a lot of them playing up-the-middle premium positions, which is why so many of the top athletes for each organization listed below play shortstop or center field.

How humans became the best throwers on the planet

The Conversation, Michael P. Lombardo and Robert Deaner from

… MLB pitchers aren’t the only expert throwers; most healthy people can throw faster than our much stronger chimpanzee relatives, who max out at around 30 mph. A study of boys from the ages of 8 to 14 who were only moderately trained in throwing could still throw two times faster than chimps.

So how and why did humans evolve to become expert throwers?

Stanford Undergrads Design Motivator for At-Home PT

Lower Extremity Review Magazine from

As undergraduates in Stanford University’s Biodesign for Digital Health course, Ryan Kalili and James Savoldelli set out to help injured athletes do their prescribed physical therapy (PT) regimen that must be done regularly at home to maximize healing.

“On average, 6 months of PT is needed after an injury like a ligament tear in the knee,” said Savoldelli. “A significant share of this has to be done at home, but people find the exercises tedious and the experience lonely. As a result, most patients ‘self-discharge,’ in less than 3 months, leading to poor outcomes and a high rate of reinjury.”

Kalili and Savoldelli uncovered this problem while searching for an important unmet need to address for their class project. To get started, they interviewed numerous Stanford Health Care clinicians and surveyed patients who had received orthopedic care. “Resistance to doing exercises at home came up over and over, so we set out to learn as much as we could about the problem,” said Kalili.

If Your Company Uses AI, It Needs an Institutional Review Board

Harvard Business Review, Reid Blackman from

Conversations around AI and ethics may have started as a preoccupation of activists and academics, but now — prompted by the increasing frequency of headlines of biased algorithms, black box models, and privacy violations — boards, C-suites, and data and AI leaders have realized it’s an issue for which they need a strategic approach.

A solution is hiding in plain sight. Other industries have already found ways to deal with complex ethical quandaries quickly, effectively, and in a way that can be easily replicated. Instead of trying to reinvent this process, companies need to adopt and customize one of health care’s greatest inventions: the Institutional Review Board, or IRB.

We built an eye tracker using an event-based camera that operates at 10KHz and above in a low-power and small form-factor. It has accuracy of 0.5deg in central FOV.

Twitter, Anastasios Angelopoulos from

Event-based sensors allow dynamic sampling of the eye’s motion.
Events are only generated when the eye moves.
We can also sample frames + combine with events to make a robust, fast system.

Live Basketball Stats Company ShotTracker Lands Hearst Investment

Sportico, Jacob Feldman from

Hearst Ventures has invested $2 million in ShotTracker parent company, DDSports Inc., as the startup continues pursuing media deals. DDSports previously secured $11 million from Evertz Microsystems and Verizon Ventures as part of the now-completed funding round.

ShotTracker uses player, ball and court sensors to create a live log of advanced stats, while also offering tools to help interpret the data. Its systems are currently deployed across the Mountain West, Big 12 and (with some work to be completed) Big Ten conferences, with SEC, ACC and Pac-12 installations planned, according to CEO Bill Moses. The company gives the data to its partner schools, while also selling it to media companies. With data being collected automatically from the sensors, Moses said ShotTracker can deliver true real-time data in a way competitors cannot. “We think we have a decisive market advantage,” he said.

Cohesive circuit protection for wearable electronics

EurekAlert! Science News, Osaka University (Japan) from

… In a study recently published in ACS Applied Nano Materials, researchers from Osaka University developed self-healing cellulose nanofibers that slightly disperse in water and act to protect a copper electrode, enabling the electrode to function for an extended period. The researchers’ flexible circuit protection mechanism retains electrode function underwater and can undergo hundreds of bending cycles.

“In our initial work, an unprotected copper electrode failed after 5 minutes of dripping water onto it,” says Takaaki Kasuga, lead author. “Remarkably, a cellulose nanofiber coating prevented failure over at least a day of the same water challenge.”

Return to sport after hip arthroscopy: are you ready?

Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy journal from

Return to sport (RTS) is undoubtedly of great importance to many patients. Patients often aim to return to their previous sport following hip arthroscopy, and those who return are most satisfied following surgery and rehabilitation [10]. Unfortunately, only 50% of patients with femoroacetabular impingement syndrome undergoing hip arthroscopy return to their pre-injury sport, and only 1 in 5 return to their previous level of performance [4, 10]. In this editorial, we look beyond anatomy and physical recovery following surgery, and consider alternative explanations as to why some patients may or may not return to sport following hip arthroscopy – are you ready for it? [full text]

Does Past Groin Pain Increase Risk of Soccer Injury?

Orthopedics This Week, Tracey Romero from

Soccer players with previous groin pain are at increased risk for groin problems in the new season, according to data from a new study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The study, “Past-season, pre-season and in-season risk assessment of groin problems in male football players: a prospective full-season players: a prospective full-season study,” published on March 10, 20210 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, assessed past-season, pre-season and in-season risk factors for groin pain in male amateur soccer players.

An update of the Japanese Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center questionnaires on overuse injuries and health problems

PLOS One, Sonoko Mashimo et al. from

Monitoring the health of athletes is important for their protection, and questionnaires such as those produced by the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center (OSTRC) are a valuable tool in this process. In 2020, several changes were made to the OSTRC questionnaires (OSTRC-O, OSTRC-H), including changes to the wording, structure, and logic of the original questionnaires. In the present study, the Japanese versions of the OSTRC questionnaires (OSTRC-O.JP, OSTRC-H.JP) were revised to meet the requirements of the updated versions and to analyse new and previously collected data to illustrate the impact of the changes on Japanese athletes. Proposed changes were categorized as minor or more substantial; minor changes were effected to the questionnaire instructions and to the wording of all four questions, and more substantial changes were made to the wording of question 2. The updated questionnaires also included changes to questionnaire logic and answer categories. To assess the consequences of the changes to the wording of question 2, 101 athletes were asked to complete the OSTRC-H.JP, which included both the original and updated versions of question 2, over 10 consecutive weeks. We calculated the number of health problems identified when new gatekeeper logic was and was not applied, using 1585 OSTRC-H.JP responses to assess the consequences of the changes to the questionnaire logic. The kappa coefficient, which measures the level of agreement between the responses to question 2 of the original and updated versions, was high. By applying gatekeeper logic, there was a remarkable reduction in the number of injuries and illnesses among all health problems but less reduction in substantial health problems and time loss health problems. These changes will make it easier for Japanese athletes to complete the questionnaires and improve the quality of collected data. [full text]

Pac-12, Fitbit and Stanford Medicine team up on COVID-19 research effort to help prevent spread of illness in student-athletes

Pac-12 Conference from

As part of its Student-Athlete Health & Well-Being Initiative (SAHWBI), the Pac-12 Conference today announced a research collaboration with Fitbit and researchers at Stanford Medicine that will invite student-athletes from all Pac-12 universities to participate in a new voluntary study using Fitbit devices to further investigate whether data from wearable devices can be used to help detect, track and contain infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

The study, expected to run through 2021, will recruit 1,000 student-athletes from participating Pac-12 Conference spring athletic programs and other sports practicing for their upcoming seasons. The project will focus on students participating in sports such as basketball, football, soccer and volleyball who receive frequent COVID-19 testing as part of their athletic program. Stanford Medicine researchers will compare wearable health data from Fitbit SenseTM smartwatches against results from COVID-19 testing and weekly surveys about potential exposure and symptoms to help provide insights into the active student population.

What Happens to Your Body When You Give Up Processed Food

Eat This Not That blog from

… When your diet contains more processed than unprocessed foods, ultimately, you can deprive yourself of the nutrients your body needs. Processed foods are often stripped or void of nutrients, so they tend to be lower in the health-promoting nutrients unique to whole foods, like antioxidants.

From weight loss to migraine relief, here are some of the serious health benefits you can reap if you give up processed foods.

Virginia Tech student athletes getting nutritional food in a new on campus facility

WFXRtv (Roanoke, VA), Jermaine Ferrell from

Virginia Tech is all about making sure their student-athletes find success whether it’s on the field or on the court. One way the university is ensuring they accomplish this feat – is through a project that caters to their nutritional needs. What used to be the old Bowman Room in the Jamerson Athletic Center at Virginia Tech – has now been transformed into something new.

“So we’re standing in the Student Athlete Performance Center in the athletic department at Virginia Tech and this is an absolute game changer for our student-athletes. They’re able to come up here once a day throughout the week and get a very well-balanced nutritious meal. Some of our teams are getting brunch and some are getting dinner, and some are getting both,” said Senior Director of Sports Nutrition at Virginia Tech Alyson Onyon.

Roy Williams’ retirement a reminder that college basketball’s old guard is on its way out

Yahoo Sports, Pete Thamel from

… Williams’ retirement offers a reminder that many of the coaches we now know as the faces of the sport are on the cusp of their swan songs. As coaches face the most seismic landscape shift in perhaps the last half century of college sports, don’t be surprised if Williams’ decision is viewed in retrospect as a bellwether for the old guard.

It’d be shocking if the direction that the sport is shifting to — essentially a free agent transfer market and the complications inherent to name, image and likeness — weren’t part of Williams’ reasoning in retiring. For the generation of coaches that grew up essentially with total roster control, the power shift to the players is something that’s a significant adjustment.

It’s not discussed much out loud, but rest assured it’s spoken about every day by coaches in college football and basketball. This isn’t a judgment either way whether players should have more rights, rather an acknowledgement that the older generation of coaches are going to have to make an extreme adjustment to roll on in the next generation.

Purdue data science student ready for a full season of statistics from the ballpark

Purdue University, News from

After a year that many would consider a nightmare, a full season of baseball is back. That means a dream opportunity for a Purdue University sophomore who’s developed quite a following.

The start of the Major League Baseball brings Jeremy Frank’s favorite things: A traditional baseball season and the flood of player and team statistics it brings.

Frank, a data science major in Purdue University’s Department of Computer Science in the College of Science, is excited about the upcoming season after last year’s COVID-shortened year, which reduced the season to only 60 games, well short of the traditional 162 games.

He runs @MLBRandomStats, a Twitter account that features past and present baseball statistics and MLB commentary. It has grown to more than 67,000 followers.

Making Sense Of: Accountability in Sports Science

Growing up in Southern Connecticut I was a regular reader of Amby Burfoot’s local running column in the Hartford Courant, even though I wasn’t a runner and mostly played basketball. The appeal then, as it is now, is that here was writer who told me things that I didn’t know, who leaned into scientific research, and who I felt I could trust.

I’m not alone in that perspective. Highly-regarded technology journalist Clive Thompson made a point this week about the value in having expert academics contribute to efforts to hold technology accountable, “Part of the reason we have such better tech writing these days is that we’re not limited to traditional journalists. Some of the best discussions of technology in the public sphere are authored by people who you wouldn’t traditionally think of as journalists, like academics who happen to be really good at adding context to current events.”

Thompson points to academics Ian Bogost, Zeynep Tufekci, Ethan Zuckerman, Safiya Umoja Noble, danah boyd as stellar examples (with more names at his Twitter) as his favorite academics writing for large audiences about tech.

Sports has a few academics doing great work. The Wharton Moneyball crew talks far more than it writes, but it’s good information. Zach Binney, the Emory epidemiologist, is outstanding but also not writing much outside of his Twitter. Spain’s Barca Innovation Hub has pushed out quality sports science research content for the past few years. When I hear about sports writing at The Conversation, a site devoted to academics writing journalism, I’m there asap.

Fortunately the list of academic-adjacent journalists who cover sports science is long. Malcolm Gladwell, Stephen Dubner, David Epstein write on sports as well as other research-based subjects. Tom Verducci, Alex Prewitt, Sean Ingle, Suzanne Wrack, Alex Hutchinson, Tom Haberstroh, Joe Lemire, Christie Aschwanden are sports and/or science journalists who regularly turn to academic research sources in their articles.

There is, I think, demand for more academic research participation in sports science journalism. Earlier this week, Nature, a top scientific research journal, gave readers an ad-sponsored Outlook supplement on “science in elite sport.” British Journal of Sports Medicine has a blog for less rigorous material, but the audience seems to be Journal readers, not the science-interested public-at-large.

The sort of tech accountability that Thompson sees isn’t quite there for sports tech and sports science, but it could be. Academic experts, writing by themselves or aided by professional journalists, can help the broad public to make sense of what’s new and hard to understand. One payoff from those exercises in public sense-making is improved accountability.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

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