Navigating Through the Right Sport Science with Franco Impellizzeri

A Conversation: Freelap Friday Five with Franco Impellizzeri – Published on the SimpliFaster website

Sport Science Soccer

Franco M. Impellizzeri works at the Human Performance Research Centre, Faculty of Health, University of Technology, Sydney. He has authored about 150 publications in peer-reviewed and indexed journals in the area of sport science and orthopedics. He started his career as a coach before becoming head of research at the MAPEI Sport Research Centre (Italy), where he took care of the training and testing of elite and top professional-level athletes. Professor Impellizzeri has also worked in the clinical setting (head of the Lower Limb Clinical Outcome Unit) as a senior research fellow at the Schulthess Clinic (Zurich), developing his research in the area of clinimetrics (patient-reported outcomes).

Freelap USA: You have been outspoken about the limitations of the ACWR (acute: chronic workload ratio) for some time now, and it seems that some want to keep the metric alive because they don’t know an alternative. Is it safe to say that we need multiple data points to make smart decisions? It looks like the convenience of a daily number is removing the thinking process of monitoring.

Franco Impellizzeri: I have tried to advise others about the flaws of this metric for three main reasons: 1) the scientific process used to arrive at this “model” and this new metric is methodologically and conceptually wrong; 2) it is an oversimplification of a complex problem (injury) that cannot be addressed and reduced to a few metrics; and 3) the “practical applications” are unreasonable unless you interpret them in such a liberal way that the recommendations are no longer based on the study’s results but common sense (which means the studies are worthless). I am going to write more formally about these issues soon (and other researchers I know are doing the same), so I don’t want to use the space here to discuss this.

But I believe that the main reason why practitioners jumped on this metric, and more generically on this approach (metric-based), is that we don’t like to live with too many uncertainties and face this “interior conflict.” We have created the illusion we can in some way control “injuries,” which is now also the main reason people are sacked (or recruited) in professional teams. It is an illusion because, scientifically speaking, we still don’t have prognostic factors strongly associated with the risk of injuries, and even more so in terms of etiology and causal relations. There are studies and opinion pieces reminding us that association is not a prediction. But we should also remember that association is not causation.

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Strengthening a Community—Literally

Former strength and conditioning coach Dawn Strout honored by endowment of position – By Alexander A. Pyles

Published in Colby Magazine

Dawn Strout says she tried to be there for everyone at Colby.

It’s why the former USA Hockey strength and conditioning coach threw herself into learning about Nordic skiing. Why, as the coach responsible for ensuring Colby’s NCAA athletes reached peak performance, she also taught strength classes for the entire campus community. Why it meant so much when a non-varsity athlete asked for a personalized strength plan or when a former athlete told Strout how her instruction prepared her for a career as a physical therapist. 

For nine years, Strout was the head strength and conditioning coach in Waterville, lending her considerable knowledge and experience to athletes, students, faculty, staff … well, pretty much everyone.

“It was a community in the sense of there wasn’t one sport that was better or more important than any other. There wasn’t one student, or student athlete, male or female, that was any better than anyone else,” Strout said. “Everyone had the same, and deserved the same, kind of opportunity to become better. In regards to that, my door was always open.”

Perhaps that’s why an anonymous donor decided to name the endowed position in Strout’s honor. Endowed positions carry with them prestige and a dedicated revenue source and often pay tribute to individuals who left legacies—in this case, the Dawn Strout Strength and Conditioning Coach at Colby.

Now an assistant professor of exercise science at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine, Strout said she doesn’t know who’s making the gift. She doesn’t venture a guess. After helping hundreds—thousands?—in her almost-decade at Colby, how could she?

“I was very blessed and fortunate to be able to work in a place like that,” she said.

Count Tracey Cote, in her 22nd year as the Nordic skiing head coach at Colby, among those who feel fortunate to have been blessed by Strout.

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An Incomplete History of Sports and Technology

Authored by Steve Gera & Dave Anderson – SportTechie

“First one to the olive tree wins.”

The first sports competition was not recorded, but our guess is that it was the age-old challenge: “Let’s run from here to there as fast as we can.” We can surmise then that first piece of sports technology equipment was likely a branch or a piece of rope that signaled the starting line to keep people from arguing over who might have had a head start. 

The first athlete is not known because he had no Instagram feed. He was probably a soldier—who else had the time and motive to sculpt his body in preparation for man-to-man competition? But we can assume that our athletic ancestors figured out relatively quickly that eating well, getting enough sleep and studying the competition was a good idea. No Athletigen, Whoop, or XOS required. 

The first coach is also lost to history. He was likely an athlete who helped fellow wrestlers or combatants study opponents and learn the finer techniques of competition. That coach definitely used a sharp eye to recognize patterns and acquire knowledge about ways to train athletes. He definitely did not have an analytics intern. 

Many indications suggest that sports first evolved from combat training or as a way to celebrate war or those who had died in battle. Ancient Greeks and Romans turned combat training into competition, with the first ancient Olympiad being held in Athens in 776 B.C. Sumo was first mentioned in historical Japanese text sometime around 100 A.D. Things were pretty simple back then. You either played or watched, or maybe you coached. 

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Strength and Conditioning Advice When Training Golfers

Authored by William Wyland on the SimpliFaster website

Golf Conditioning

If there was ever a failure to communicate between a sub-discipline and a sport, it would be strength and conditioning and golf. When athletes in top-flight sports reveal their supplementary work, we often see explosions in fad diets, gadgets, training methods, and workouts—such is the desire to emulate and imitate other players. No other sport’s athletes receive criticism and hostility for expressing involvement in supplementary gym work like the golfer does, and it’s usually from other golfers or pundits.

Some Impressive Performance Changes in Professional Golf

I’ve worked predominantly with collision athletes in the past; collision athletes “get” strength and conditioning. Its utility is apparent as soon as you lay hands on an opponent. To them, it seems self-evident.

I’ve had conversations with athletes involved in other sports who are bemused when the subject turns to my work in golf; the idea of the hyper-fragile golfers throwing around iron is apparently a novel one. This trend persists even now, and it is spectacularly misinformed. Due to the physical culture surrounding golf being a traditionally sedate one, it’s seen as an activity for retirees and business executives.

This is not to say strength and conditioning isn’t over-emphasized in other sports; physicality, while important, is obviously not the be-all and end-all. But there is little risk in golf of an S&C takeover—such is the nature of technical primacy. This technical primacy, this “otherness” in golf, means that strength and conditioning orthodoxy is overlooked for more novel “golfish” approaches.

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