Every month we take a deep dive into the latest research in sports science. In the April Sports Science Monthly we start off by looking at a new framework for evaluating research. Then we focus on new findings about specific topics like gluten free diets for athletes, the role of testosterone in female performance, sports nutrition, the speed gene, and more.
Entries by Craig Pickering
Mountaineering can provide some great case studies in risk and mental preparation. The types of situations encountered by mountaineers are at the extreme and can really highlight the decision making process because each decision brings with it more consequences. As I wrote about earlier this year, you might think this environment would lead to more accurate weighing of risks, but often it presents a cautionary tale of what can happen when you’re too motivated to meet a goal. We can learn from where climbers have failed, but we can also learn from where they have succeeded and some new research looks at mental toughness among mountaineers.
The March edition of Sports Science Monthly focuses on the latest research on squats. Hopefully we can give some answers to the age-old debate about whether deep squats and shallow squats are the best. We also look at training frequency and session volume, several recent doping studies and much more.
One of the “Holy Grails” in sport is the ability to predict, with accuracy, whether someone has the potential to become an elite athlete or not. I’ve covered this in previous articles and papers in terms of genetics, discussing whether we can test for it or not and how we might think of talent in terms of the ability to respond to training. However, at present, predicting future performance remains very difficult. But we keep trying and a recent paper in Biology of Sport took a novel approach to trying to predict sprint performance. The researchers recruited 104 Croatian sprinters and collected a wide variety of data points relating to anthropometric, genetic, and psychological traits to create a rich data set for analysis.
Bill Shankly, perhaps Liverpool’s most famous manager, once famously said “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” This comment was made partly tongue in cheek, and, although we often take sport seriously, we’re very lucky that athletes tend to be very healthy, and we probably never have to make life or death decisions. The medical profession isn’t so lucky and coaches can often learn from how doctors approach decision making under that kind of pressure.
The February edition of Sports Science Monthly takes an in-depth look at research on eight areas of sports and training. Our first article looks at back pain in athletes and whether solutions for standard patients are also advisable for athletes. We also explore a diverse number of topics like lucid dreaming, pain killers, specialization, hamstring health, and much more.
Caffeine is one of the most performance enhancing drugs available to athletes, with research demonstrating that it has ergogenic effects on a range of exercise types, including aerobic endurance, strength, and repeated anaerobic activities. Athletes are of course aware of this, and research tends to suggest that around three-quarters of athletes utilise caffeine either immediately before or during competitions. But new research indicates that the effects are not as general as you may think, and could have no effect or even harm performances for some athletes.
There is an arms race in today’s sporting environment. Teams, athletes, coaches and support staff aren’t just fighting for the best facilities and talent, they’re also seeing who can collect the most numbers. This is the era of big data, and the past decade has seen an unrivaled amount of information available in sports from a wide variety of methods, including the use of GPS systems, electronic timing gates, force platforms, blood testing, and general wellness questionnaires. The richness and vastness of information available, however, can also be seen as a curse; both teams and individuals can feel like they have to collect more and more data, in the hope that they can gain an edge over their competitors, and better enhance athletic performance. As with many things, we need to shift the focus on data from quantity to quality.
In the January Sports Science Monthly we kick off the year by looking at some new and old topics. We start by looking at how simply communicating information can impact physiology, wearable resistance, and calf strength. We also touch on recurring topics like sleep, quantifying the effects of caffeine, and much more.
Standing at 8,848m (29,029 feet), Mount Everest is the world’s tallest mountain, making it a target for daredevils and adventurers to attempt to summit. Despite not being an especially challenging technical climb – you can essentially “just” walk up large sections of it – summiting Everest is dangerous for many reasons, including high winds, fatiguing conditions, and the high altitude, which can induce altitude sickness leading to pulmonary and cerebral edema. Historically, it has been estimated that one person dies for every 4 who summit. As a result, around 300 people have died on the mountain, and, given the logistical issues associated with recovering a body under such dangerous conditions, many of these people remain on Everest.