Entries by Craig Pickering

Sports Science Monthly – October 2018

There are lots of hot topics covered in the October edition of Sports Science Monthly. We start off by looking at the transfer of different types of strength to sprinting, then see how monitoring can be taken best from theory to practice, before diving into density of high speed training, adductor strengthening, dehydration, transcranial direct current stimulation, and more.

Measuring caffeine consumption is harder than you think

Caffeine is a well-established performance enhancer; this is no secret, with many athletes using it to improve their performance. Non-athletes know this too, which is why almost 80% of the world’s population consume caffeine on a daily basis. As a result, caffeine is ubiquitous, and we are exposed to it in a number of different ways; primarily through hot drinks (such as tea or coffee), but also through foods (like dark chocolate) and medicines (many extra strength cold and flu or pain medicines contain caffeine).

How much does your family impact your chances of winning an Olympic medal?

The Olympics represent the pinnacle of sport, and competing in one is recognized as a major achievement in an athlete’s career and winning an Olympic medal akin to the finding the Holy Grail. Given the importance of such an achievement to countries and governing bodies, there is an increased interest in understanding the factors that increase the chances of such an achievement. A recent study published in Frontiers of Physiology sheds some additional light on this as the authors explore the impact that having an Olympian in the family has on an athletes chance of winning a medal.

The importance of realistic training

In 1993, Ramzi Yousef, an Al-Qaeda terrorist, drove a van laden with explosives into the parking garage of the World Trade Center in New York. Twelve minutes later, the 600kg bomb detonated, opening a 30 meter wide hole in the concrete floor of the garage, and killing six bystanders. The bomb blast caused smoke to raise through the building, resulting in the complete evacuation of everyone inside. In all, 50,000 people left the towers following the bomb blast.

The role of genetics in reducing hamstring injuries

Hamstring injuries in sport are highly pervasive, often representing the most common injury site across a range of sports from rugby to sprinting to American football. One sport in which hamstring injuries have been well examined is that of soccer; during the 2016/2017 English Premier League season, 27% of all injuries suffered were hamstring injuries. This lead to the loss of over 20,000 training days, with the wages of the injured players exceeding £131 million. Alongside this massive financial burden is the issue of future performance decrements; having suffered a prior hamstring injury, players are more likely to suffer a further hamstring injury, an injury at another site, and a reduction in future performance.

The quest for prediction in coaching

Within sport, everyone is now looking at prediction. Coaches, athletes, and support staff are all searching for methods to predict various outcomes, such as injury, talent, performance, or training adaptation. The ability to successfully predict within these areas would obviously be hugely advantageous. Injury prediction could allow you to make interventions to stop that from happening. Talent prediction can allow teams to better focus resources. Predicting adaptations would allow coaches to design better training blocks or alter them based on the predicted response. In other words, prediction is the holy grail of sports science.

How relevant is sports science research for elite athletes?

Elite athletes are different from normal humans. That probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise to those of us involved in sport, especially if we’ve spent time around such athletes and seen their advantages close up. In my time as an athlete, I saw some very impressive feats from some highly talented athletes – huge single leg box jumps, massive lifts in the gym, and, in one case, someone doing 40 pull-ups in under 40 seconds. As the influence of science within sport grows, coaches and support staff are spending more time reading research papers, and using the information contained within to guide their practice. However, there is a potential issue within such practice that doesn’t always get the consideration it perhaps deserves: most of these studies aren’t carried out on elite athletes.