Entries by Craig Pickering

Understanding and measuring load in sport

In the previous article, I wrote about a variety of different models that better help us explain and understand why injuries occur. As a quick refresher, we typically have a predisposed athlete, who finds themselves in a local environment that increases their susceptibility, and they then have an inciting event which causes the injury itself. Central to many of these models is the concept of stress or load placed on the athlete. This installment of the Performance Health series looks to help coaches understand external and internal load, and what that means to coaches.

Understanding injury causation through injury models

In the introduction to the performance health series we highlighted injuries as a major factor influencing performance. Injuries limit availability, accumulate over time, impact goal achievement, and are the a leading cause of youth athlete drop outs. As a result, we want to avoid injuries as much as we can, whilst also understanding that, in order to improve, athletes have to undertake training loads and modalities that expose them to an increased risk of injury. This is the balancing act that all coaches face, and in order to do our best we need to start off with an understanding of why athletes get injured in the first place. For that, we can lean on injury models.

The case for performance health

More and more research shows that an athlete’s availability to train and compete is a leading factor in elite performance. In looking back at my own career, this was certainly the case. Throughout the month I will be presenting a 9-part series on performance health. In other words, what factors can increase an athlete’s availability to do what is needed for performance.

Sports Science Monthly – May 2020

Every month we take a deep dive into the latest research in sports science. Players are key partners in building a team culture, and their contributions depend a lot on their informal roles. The first article we look at in this month’s edition breaks down key traits of cultural architects, which can assist coaches in developing their own team culture. Then we look at  ecological dynamics, acute:chronic workload ratio, training time, and more.

Going backwards to move forwards

It’s a common saying in life that sometimes we have to take a few steps backwards in order to move forward. However, Aaron Uthoff, a researcher based in New Zealand, has been taking this literally with his recent research on backwards running, the findings of which we might all be able to utilize in our practice as a means of enhancing performance.

Studying the effects of bilateral vs. unilateral training

Rightly, or, as some people would argue, wrongly, resistance training is a major component within the training programs of most sports. We know from research that improvements in strength tend to lead to improvements in physical performance—such as sprint speed or jump height—and, in many cases, injury resilience. But how specific does that resistance need to be?

How we can prevent a post-lockdown leg injury surge

We’re in unprecedented times, with the COVID-19-driven lockdown of many countries and cities affecting athletes ability to train. The long-term effects of this lockdown, and how it might influence performance in 2021, are impossible to predict. However an older study, published in 2011 and widely shared on social media in the last couple of weeks, might give us some potentially crucial insights.

Sports Science Monthly – April 2020

Every month we take a deep dive into the latest research in sports science. Coaches often turn to other fields to learn from and a recent trend is looking at the military. To start off this month’s edition we break down some of the key topics the US military is looking at in terms of enhancing performance. Then we look at athlete leadership, parental priorities for athletes, bias in injury prevention strategies, LTAD, and more.

Understanding and preventing leg cramps

If you’re someone who regularly exercises, you’ve likely experienced the feeling of a cramp, or, more specifically, exercise associated muscle cramp (EAMC). During my career, I regularly suffered from leg cramps at highly inopportune moments, including on the start line of the 2011 National Championships 100-meter final, which prevented me from being able to compete. Cramps are common, with well over half, and in many cases over two-thirds, of athletes across a variety of sports reporting having experienced it. Given the wide occurrence of cramping, you might think that it would be well understood. You would be wrong.

The role of adversity in development

We find ourselves in very strange times, with the COVID-19 causing shut down of all but essential services. As a result local and international competitions have been cancelled or postponed, including the Olympics, Paralympics, and World Under-20 Championships. Even finding a place to train is nearly impossible.