Applied Sports Science newsletter – July 13, 2021

Applied Sports Science news articles, blog posts and research papers for July 13, 2021


Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo has shortened his free throw routine in NBA Finals, and it’s paying off big time, Sam Quinn from

… Antetokounmpo hit seven of his 12 attempts in Game 1, right in line with his overall postseason percentage. Then he shot 11 of 18 in Game 2, a bit better, but nothing to write home about. Finally, this culminated in a 13-for-17 performance in Game 3 that represented the most free throws he’s made in a 2021 playoff game and was the second-highest percentage he shot at the line in the postseason, trailing only a 6-for-7 outing in Game 2 of the first round against the Miami Heat.

So what changed? While correlation does not necessarily equal causation, the obvious answer is that Giannis has slowly but surely trimmed seconds off his routine at the line. Measuring the length of that routine after the fact is an inexact science. Doing so on some shots simply isn’t possible because the television cameras aren’t focused on Antetokounmpo when he receives the ball. But using timestamps from Synergy Sports’ full-game video log, I tracked how long it took Antetokounmpo to get his shots up in four separate postseason games.

Are You ‘You’ or ‘I’ When You Talk to Yourself on the Run?

PodiumRunner, Scott Douglas and Noel Brick from

Research shows how you address yourself on challenging runs affects your performance.

Stanford study shows children recycle brain regions when acquiring new skills

Stanford University, Stanford News from

Scientists studied the brain activity of school-aged children during development and found that regions that activated upon seeing limbs (hands, legs, etc.) subsequently activated upon seeing faces or words when the children grew older. The research, by scientists at Stanford University and published in the journal Nature Human Behavior, reveals new insights about vision development in the brain and could help inform prevention and treatment strategies for learning disorders.

“Our study addresses how experiences, such as learning to read, shape the developing brain,” said Kalanit Grill-Spector, a professor of psychology at the School of Humanities and Sciences. “Further, it sheds light on the initial functional role of brain regions that later in development process written words, before they support this important skill of reading.”

A new understanding of sleep may explain why the mind wanders

Inverse, Sarah Sloat from

The classical idea of sleep is that it’s an all-or-nothing phenomenon. If someone is responsive, they are awake. If they are not awake, they are in snooze-town.

This concept is bolstered by what we observe in the brain. Tests that detect electrical activity show this activity looks different during wakefulness and sleep, and especially during deep sleep. Slow wave activity is most common during our deepest moments of slumber, a beating rhythm of neurons linked to memory and learning consolidation.

Rate of Force Development as an Indicator of Neuromuscular Fatigue: A Scoping Review

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience journal from

Because rate of force development (RFD) is an emerging outcome measure for the assessment of neuromuscular function in unfatigued conditions, and it represents a valid alternative/complement to the classical evaluation of pure maximal strength, this scoping review aimed to map the available evidence regarding RFD as an indicator of neuromuscular fatigue. Thus, following a general overview of the main studies published on this topic, we arbitrarily compared the amount of neuromuscular fatigue between the “gold standard” measure (maximal voluntary force, MVF) and peak, early (≤100 ms) and late (>100 ms) RFD. Seventy full-text articles were included in the review. The most-common fatiguing exercises were resistance exercises (37% of the studies), endurance exercises/locomotor activities (23%), isokinetic contractions (17%), and simulated/real sport situations (13%). The most widely tested tasks were knee extension (60%) and plantar flexion (10%). The reason (i.e., rationale) for evaluating RFD was lacking in 36% of the studies. On average, the amount of fatigue for MVF (−19%) was comparable to late RFD (−19%) but lower compared to both peak RFD (−25%) and early RFD (−23%). Even if the rationale for evaluating RFD in the fatigued state was often lacking and the specificity between test task and fatiguing exercise characteristics was not always respected in the included studies, RFD seems to be a valid indicator of neuromuscular fatigue. Based on our arbitrary analyses, peak RFD and early phase RFD appear even to be more sensitive to quantify neuromuscular fatigue than MVF and late phase RFD. [full text]

Very interesting neuroscience review paper: “What Happened to Mirror Neurons?”

Twitter, Melanie Mitchell from

TL;DR: mirror neurons were way over-hyped, and many of the claims have fallen apart, but there is still something interesting going on, especially with low-level motor tasks.

Team finds brain mechanism that automatically links objects in our minds

Johns Hopkins University, Hub from

When people see a toothbrush, a car, a tree—any individual object—their brain automatically associates it with other things it naturally occurs with, allowing humans to build context for their surroundings and set expectations for the world.

By using machine-learning and brain imaging, researchers measured the extent of the “co-occurrence” phenomenon and identified the brain region involved. The findings appear in Nature Communications.

“When we see a refrigerator, we think we’re just looking at a refrigerator, but in our mind, we’re also calling up all the other things in a kitchen that we associate with a refrigerator,” said corresponding author Mick Bonner, a Johns Hopkins University cognitive scientist. “This is the first time anyone has quantified this and identified the brain region where it happens.”

New ‘mirror’ fabric can cool wearers by nearly 5°C

Science, Alex Viveros from

While it’s easy to engineer clothing that keeps you warm, it’s far harder to come up with an outfit that can keep you cool on a scorching summer day. Now, researchers have designed a fabric that looks like an everyday T-shirt, but can cool the body by nearly 5°C. They say the technology, if mass produced, could help people around the world protect themselves against rising temperatures caused by climate change.

To make clothing that beats back the Sun, fashion designers typically use light-colored fabric, which reflects visible light. But another method reflects the Sun’s electromagnetic radiation, including ultraviolet (UV) and near-infrared (NIR) radiation. NIR warms objects that absorb it and slowly cools them as they emit it. That cooling process, however, is stymied by our atmosphere: After being emitted from an object, NIR is often absorbed by nearby water molecules, heating up the surrounding air.

To speed up the cooling process, researchers are turning to mid-infrared radiation (MIR), a type of IR with longer wavelengths. Instead of being absorbed by molecules in the surrounding air, MIR energy goes directly into space, cooling both the objects and their surroundings. This technique is known as radiative cooling, and engineers have used it over the past decade to design roofs, plastic films, wood, and ultra-white paints.

Microchip Nanosensor Detects Stress Hormone from Drop of Blood

Medgadget, Conn Hastings from

Researchers at Rutgers University have developed a microchip that can perform real-time measurements of stress hormone levels in a drop of blood. The technology could provide a replacement for bulky and expensive lab tests for such hormones, and allow patients to monitor their stress levels more easily. The chip includes tiny wells that contain antibodies, and the technology monitors antibody binding through impedance measurements performed using electrodes within the device.

What the NBA “bubble” can teach us about COVID-19

American Medical Association, Public Health from

In JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers published an investigation of the NBA “bubble” campus in Orlando, Florida, that allowed teams to play against each other with only limited contact with the outside world.

The retrospective cohort study used data collected from June 11–Oct. 19, 2020, as part of the NBA’s closed campus occupational health program in Orlando. The camp required daily COVID-19 testing and restricted outside access. Nearly 4,000 NBA players, staff and vendors participated in the program.

Prevalence and Burden of Physical Problems in Female College Basketball Athletes: A 135-Day Prospective Cohort Study

Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine from

Introduction: The purpose of this prospective cohort study was to investigate the prevalence and burden of “any physical complaint” in college female basketball athletes using a daily questionnaire.
Methods: Fifty-four female college basketball players were recruited and followed up for 135 days using the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Centre questionnaire.
Results: The questionnaire response rate was 96.4% (95% confidence interval: 95.7– 97.1). The average daily prevalence of any problem was 44.4%, whereas that of substantial problems was 16.0%. The anatomical areas found to be most frequently affected by physical problems were the ankle (average daily prevalence: 14.5%, 95% confidence interval: 13.4– 15.7), lower back (14.4%, 95% confidence interval: 13.7– 15.2), and knee (9.6%, 95% confidence interval: 9.0– 10.2). The cumulative severity score, calculated by summing severity scores and dividing by number of respondents, showed that ankle, knee, and lower back problems exhibited greater relative burden.
Discussion: Injuries common in basketball athletes, such as ankle sprain, anterior cruciate ligament injury, overuse knee pain, and low-back pain, are reflected in the present data. [full text]

Banned from the Tokyo Olympics for pot? Let the athletes decide what drugs should be allowed

The Conversation, Angela Schneider from

… At the time the first banned list was created, I was director for ethics and education at WADA and I attended some of those early meetings of the agency. There was no question the United States was not going to sign on the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC) unless marijuana was on the banned list. At that time, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, wanted the code to deal with recreational drugs too, which were part of his office’s mandate.

Caffeine was also on the banned list at the time because of pressure from South American representatives, who didn’t have the money to run an educational campaign to combat an abuse problem in the region. They wanted WADA to deal with the issue instead. Caffeine was eventually taken off the list, but not before some athletes lost their medals for its use.

Should marijuana still be banned from sport?

University of Colorado, CU Boulder Today from

… CU Boulder Today asked Psychology and Neuroscience Professor Angela Bryan, who studies the risks and benefits of cannabis, what the science says about the relationship between weed and sport.

PROOF POINTS: Three strikes and you’re out

The Hechinger Report, Jill Barshay from

… In a new study, a team of economists scrutinized all the “strikes” and “balls” shouted and signaled by Major League Baseball (MLB) umpires from 2008 to 2018. There were a lot of calls — over three million across more than 26,000 games — about whether a ball in flight, often traveling faster than 90 miles per hour, was inside or outside of a batter’s strike zone.

Thanks to video technology called PITCHf/x, the economists determined the accuracy of the umpires’ calls. The umpires were pretty good. They called the pitches correctly 84 percent of the time and got them wrong 16 percent of the time.

What’s interesting is how this accuracy fluctuated during a game. During a pivotal moment, say, when a pitch call could break a tie at the end of a game, umpire accuracy soared.

“MLB umpires systematically vary the effort they apply to individual decisions, applying greater attention to those associated with higher stakes,” the economists from the University of Maryland, the University of Ottawa and Columbia University wrote in a paper about their analysis.

England’s seven steps to redemption

Training Ground Guru, Simon Austin from

… Change was often painful and there were setbacks along the way, including humiliation by Iceland at the last Euros, but overall England have been on an upward curve.

Many people have contributed, from grassroots coaches to parents to scouts to players to administrators, and I apologise in advance for not being able to mention all of them in this piece.

1. Improving the quality of our young players

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