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Sports Science Monthly – July 2020

Every month we take a deep dive into the latest research in sports science. In the July edition we start off by taking a look at some lessons coaches can learn from medicine in dealing with COVID-19. In addition, we break down the latest research on hamstring strength asymmetry, resilience, willpower, nitrate supplementation and more. Read more

June 2020 in review: performance health

Elite sport exists on a knife-edge. Push too little and you won’t get better. Push too hard and you’ll get injured. Athletes are searching for that sweet spot of performance health where they can stay healthy and increase performance. Just like performance itself, performance health is multi-faceted. Craig Pickering put together a 9-part series in June diving into detail on different aspects like load, injury, nutrition, psychosocial factors and more.

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Putting performance health into perspective

At the start of this article series, I wrote that my athletics career was a series of moderate successes punctuated by significant injuries, and that, over time, my performance became increasingly hampered by the long term effects of these injuries. As someone who has lived through the frustration of this process—and indeed, was forced to retire from professional sport because of it—I want to be able to help others avoid what afflicted me. Read more

Optimal energy intake for performance health

As the performance health series continues, let’s stop to catch our breath, and briefly review where we’ve gotten to. So far, we’ve seen that the risk of injury and illness is complex and multifactorial, with a number of different models helping us to better understand how we might get injured. We’ve discussed the influence of “load”, a broad term which can include physiological, psychological, and lifestyle-related factors. We looked closely at illness and immune function and how psychological and lifestyle-related factors such as poor sleep and anxiety can increase the risk of both illness and injury. Similarly, inadequate nutrition, especially inadequate energy intake, is also a significant risk factor. This article will continue with this last point and take a deeper look at nutrition and energy intake. Read more

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. Read more

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. Read more

Preparing the body to change direction

The purpose of this article is to give any readers an insight into how I think about and prepare people for change of direction tasks. These change of direction tasks are simply that, not agility tasks. We want athletes to be able to change direction powerfully, quickly and efficiently in competition. In preparation, I like to look at these qualities in reverse: efficiency, speed and power. Change of direction all starts with promoting efficiency by understanding the attractors of the movement. Read more

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. Read more

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. Read 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. Read more