Applied Sports Science newsletter – July 28, 2021

Applied Sports Science news articles, blog posts and research papers for July 28, 2021


From devastating injury to Olympic medal, Australia’s Owen Wright makes surfing history

The Guardian, Kieran Pender from

… “I’ve been through some bloody battles, and all my close friends and family stood beside me,” Wright said following his bronze medal win on Tuesday. “Coming from that, I had this goal to stand here with a medal around my neck and I didn’t know what colour it was gonna be and it definitely pushed me through those hard times a few years ago now.”

Jesse 2.0: How Man United’s Jesse Lingard revitalised his career via West Ham

ESPN FC, Rob Dawson from

Written on a whiteboard in the window of Jesse Lingard’s Stratford flat overlooking the London Stadium were the words “European Championships.”

It might have seemed an ambitious target when he joined West Ham from Manchester United on loan in January, but by the time England manager Gareth Southgate named his provisional squad for Euro 2020 in May, there was no surprise Lingard’s name was on the list. The turnaround was made possible by his impressive form at West Ham, but also with the help of a tight inner circle including his brother, Louie Scott, and UEFA Pro Licence coach, Alexandros Alexiadis.

This is how they turned Jesse Lingard into Jesse 2.0 and, in turn, revitalised his career.

A different Diana Taurasi arrives at Tokyo Olympics

ESPN Olympics, Josh Weinfuss from

… But behind her coarse on-court bravado is someone who has fiercely fought for her privacy. She’s not active on social media, a rarity for athletes these days. She loathes interviews about anything other than basketball. Quietly, she’s spent the past half-decade transforming her life off the court hoping to get this opportunity in Tokyo, knowing it might be her last.

She gave up late nights at the clubs. She stopped eating meat. She married her former teammate, Penny Taylor. She became a mom to Leo. She overcame injuries. She overcame isolation. She confronted the end. All the while, the daughter of Argentine and Italian immigrants fought to honor her parents’ sacrifices. Now she’s fighting to make her own son proud.

Like her or not, this is Diana Taurasi.

The Change the Game research study explores youth sport access, engagement and equity in the wake of the pandemic. The largest study of its kind in Canada offers ideas for a better youth sport system.

Twitter, MLSE Foundation from

Some players say Los Angeles Angels failing in treatment at minor league level, as GM vows to address it

ESPN MLB, Joon Lee from

While consolidating the minor leagues during the 2020 season, Major League Baseball claimed that reducing and realigning its developmental leagues would increase player salaries at all levels, increase condition standards at ballparks and clubhouses, and create lower operating costs for teams.

Some minor league players in the Los Angeles Angels organization say that is not happening for them.

Kieran Lovegrove, an active pitcher for the Double-A Rocket City Trash Pandas, said he is living with six other teammates in a three-bedroom apartment, sleeping on a twin mattress, with one person sleeping in the kitchen and two others in the living room. Others like Shane Kelso — who spent part of the 2021 season with the low-A Inland Empire 66ers, another Angels affiliate, before retiring due to the living conditions for players — said four teammates bunked in a camper van in a trailer park while others lived out of cars.

Many parents still believe boys are better, more competitive at sports than girls

University of Michigan, Michigan News from

Female Olympian handballers fined for playing in shorts instead of bikini bottoms. A female Paralympian told by a championship official that her shorts were “too short and inappropriate.” Olympic women gymnasts, tired of feeling sexualized, opted for full-length unitards instead of bikini-cut leotards.

“Women athletes’ attire is constantly scrutinized,” said Philip Veliz of the University of Michigan School of Nursing. “No one has ever said that a baseball or football player’s pants are too tight.”

Research from Veliz and colleagues found that gender stereotypes and double standards, where female athletes are treated differently or aren’t taken as seriously as male counterparts, persist even among parents.

The researchers polled more than 3,000 boys and girls aged 7 to 17 and their parents/guardians across the country, and were surprised that roughly one third of parents (32%) believed that boys are better at sports than girls. And parents of youth who have never played sports are more likely to believe that girls are not as competitive as boys and that sports are more important to boys than girls.

Stage Fright

Hidden Brain podcast from

The pressure. The expectations. The anxiety. If there’s one thing that connects the athletes gathering for the Olympic games with the rest of us, it’s the stress that can come from performing in front of others. In this week’s episode, we talk with cognitive scientist Sian Beilock about why so many of us crumble under pressure –– and what we can do about it. [audio, 55:08]

Baboons wearing Fitbits reveal community secrets

Cosmos Magazine (Australia), Amalyah Hart from

You may know the Fitbits as handy little doo-dads strapped onto wrists that help people chart their fitness, but now a Fitbit-style device (an accelerometer) is being used to unveil the secrets of group cohesion in baboons.

Researchers from the Max Planck institute of Animal Behaviour, Germany, sought to understand the costs and benefits of moving in groups. To do this, they attached accelerometers to a troop of baboons moving through the wild, as detailed in a new study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Group living is a common feature among all sorts of animals, including many of our primate cousins. The benefits of group living include protection from predators and the teaching of skills, but there can be associated physical costs, too.

WSU researcher secures $2.3 million in NIH funding for metabolic research

Wayne State University, School of Medicine News from

… The human body has an internal circadian clock oscillation on the scale of 24 hours that orchestrates behavior and physiology, Dr. Zhang explained. The biological circadian rhythm can be dysregulated by abnormal lifestyle, such as day-night shift work schedules and over-nutrition. Irregular circadian rhythm is closely associated with metabolic disease, such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, hyperlipidemia and diabetes. The Zhang lab identified that circadian rhythm controls energy metabolism through modifying RNAs that encode major metabolic factors. That laid the foundation for this latest research project supported by the NIH.

“Irregular circadian rhythm is one of major causes of human metabolic disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer,” Dr. Zhang said. “Due to the modern lifestyle, the problem of irregular circadian rhythm is not only related to shift workers, but also to the public at large in developed counties. Shift workers — for example nurses — have higher risk of metabolic syndrome and breast cancer.”

Hundreds of Ways to Get S#!+ Done—and We Still Don’t

WIRED, Backchannel, Clive Thompson from

… Instead of putting tasks on a list, you do “time blocking,” putting every task in your calendar as a chunk of work. That way you can immediately see when you’re biting off more than you can chew. Cal Newport, a computer scientist at Georgetown University and guru of what he calls “deep work,” is probably the staunchest advocate of time blocking. “I think it is pretty undeniable that time blocking, done well, is going to blow the list method out of the water,” Newport tells me. He says it makes you twice as productive as those suckers who rely on lists. Time blocking forces us to wrestle directly with the angel of death. It’s natural that we then screw around less.

Several researchers who study tasks told me they generally agreed that time blocking avoids the problems of to-do apps and lists. One to-do app, Reclaim, actually has an AI that estimates how long each task will take and finds a slot in your calendar. (The secret point is to show you there isn’t much room in there.) “We’ll not only tell you when tasks are overdue, we’ll tell you that tasks are going to be overdue,” says Patrick Lightbody, Reclaim’s cofounder.

How Olympic Tracking Systems Capture Athletic Performances

Scientific American, Eleanor Cummins from

This year’s Olympic Games may be closed to most spectators because of COVID-19, but the eyes of the world are still on the athletes thanks to dozens of cameras recording every leap, dive and flip. Among all that broadcasting equipment, track-and-field competitors might notice five extra cameras—the first step in a detailed 3-D tracking system that supplies spectators with near-instantaneous insights into each step of a race or handoff of a baton.

And tracking is just the beginning. The technology on display in Tokyo suggests that the future of elite athletic training lies not merely in gathering data about the human body, but in using that data to create digital replicas of it. These avatars could one day run through hypothetical scenarios to help athletes decide which choices will produce the best outcomes.

Tokyo Olympics are the ultimate Covid-19 experiment

POLITICO, Ryan Heath from

Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto told reporters Tuesday: “We cannot predict what the epidemic will look like in the future.” He didn’t rule out a last-minute cancellation “should there be any surge of positive cases.”

Fewer than one-third of Japan’s citizens are vaccinated, and no one else has even thought to bring together tens of thousands of people from over 200 countries during the pandemic. There’s simply no way to know whether new variants might arise and spread.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said on July 15 that there was “zero risk” of athletes passing on the virus to local residents. His first vice president, American Anita DeFrantz disagreed, telling POLITICO in an interview: “We all have to be worried. We know that this is a highly dangerous virus that’s going around, and of course the variants are even worse.”

It’s true that fat is a crucial component to a healthy diet but not all fats are created equal.

Instagram, levels from

The fats/oils in the first slide come from foods that are actually fatty, thus requiring less intense techniques to extract them. This leaves an overall healthier fat compared to what is found in oils extracted from less fatty sources requiring greater processing that damages the fatty acids. Damaged omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in the foods on the list of fats/oils to avoid, can increase inflammation and even promote insulin resistance.

Tokyo Olympics: what are the limits of human performance? Podcast

The Conversation, Daniel Merino and Gemma Ware from

… We asked Anthony Blazevich, professor of biomechanics at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia. While he admits there are physical limits to how fast a cyclist or a sprinter can go, he says we’re not there yet: “I think we’re decades away from the very greatest athletes that we will ever see on Earth.” He explains why, as well as how a person’s genes influence their athletic performance. [audio, 46:00]

Expertise Classification of Soccer Goalkeepers in Highly Dynamic Decision Tasks: A Deep Learning Approach for Temporal and Spatial Feature Recognition of Fixation Image Patch Sequences

Frontiers in Sports & Active Living journal from

The focus of expertise research moves constantly forward and includes cognitive factors, such as visual information perception and processing. In highly dynamic tasks, such as decision making in sports, these factors become more important to build a foundation for diagnostic systems and adaptive learning environments. Although most recent research focuses on behavioral features, the underlying cognitive mechanisms have been poorly understood, mainly due to a lack of adequate methods for the analysis of complex eye tracking data that goes beyond aggregated fixations and saccades. There are no consistent statements about specific perceptual features that explain expertise. However, these mechanisms are an important part of expertise, especially in decision making in sports games, as highly trained perceptual cognitive abilities can provide athletes with some advantage. We developed a deep learning approach that independently finds latent perceptual features in fixation image patches. It then derives expertise based solely on these fixation patches, which encompass the gaze behavior of athletes in an elaborately implemented virtual reality setup. We present a CNN-BiLSTM based model for expertise assessment in goalkeeper-specific decision tasks on initiating passes in build-up situations. The empirical validation demonstrated that our model has the ability to find valuable latent features that detect the expertise level of 33 athletes (novice, advanced, and expert) with 73.11% accuracy. This model is a first step in the direction of generalizable expertise recognition based on eye movements. [full text]

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