Entries by Craig Pickering

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.

Individualizing pre-competition caffeine use

This month’s theme on HMMR Media is around the personalization and individualization of performance. Typically, this focuses on the physical side, but at the start of this month I wrote about how a focus on differences in stress tolerance—a largely psychological aspect—might guide individualized training a bit more. But there is another area where we can turn our attention; that of ergogenic aids such as caffeine. Towards the end of last year I co-authored a paper with John Kielyon factors that might impact the individual response to caffeine intake in athletes. In this article, I want to expand on that topic, and discuss how athletes and coaches might use this information in a real-world setting.

Individualization made easy

This month’s topic on HMMRMedia is the individualization of training. The one size fits all model is a thing of the past; both scientific research and hard won experience have shown the need to individualize training. But many coaches still struggle to figure out how to start with individualization.

Personalizing the training process – a look at stress

In recent years, the individualized training movement has grown in momentum. Coaches no longer debate the need to individualize training; instead we often focus on the best methods for individualization. Individualizing the training process is something that is very interesting to me. My doctoral thesis is built around how of genetic testing may prove useful in the development of individualized training programs. Another area that I want to look into here is that of stress, the individual response to stress, how this affects our psycho-emotional state, and how that can alter our training responses.

Adding an element of theater to coaching

When we go to the doctor, we’re usually either sick or worried that something might be wrong with us. We make the trip in the hopes that we’ll be reassured or cured. What we don’t realize is tha the trip itself might play the most important role in getting better. Recent research has shown us that it is often the very act of interacting with a medical professional, or the thought that our concerns have been taken seriously, is enough to make us feel better.