4th Asia Conference in Aspire and others

There has been a lot of activity recently, and the time to get the blog updated is lacking. It is now the weekend and while I finish a book chapter for an upcoming book (it is going to be a great one, stay tuned!), I feel inspired to take a break and write few notes while sitting outside and enjoying the views.

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First of all, let’s talk about work. We hosted the 4th annual congress of the Association of Sports Institutes in Asia (if you want to know more about this organisation you can read all the relevant information here). It was an opportunity to discuss with our Asian colleagues some specific aspects of how athletes transition from youth to junior to senior, how to implement technology to support athletes and how to best prepare them for a long career in sport. It was a great chance to share experiences and knowledge and plan few activities of common interest. I spoke about how research can help sports together with Dr Marcus Lee from the Singapore Institute and it was interesting to see how we are all trying to do similar things facing similar challenges Worldwide. We had great experts also contributing to our discussions and providing their insights on specific areas (see details here). I hope this organisation grows and provides increasing networking and knowledge-sharing opportunities. Also, I hope it will become a catalyst for exchange programmes, joint training camps and competitions and coaching seminars on specific issues.

Right after the conference, we had the Swimming Camp organised by the Qatar Swimming Federation with the Olympic Council of Asia (details here). We supported the camp with some testing activities and it was great to see how much swimming talent there is in Asia which will hopefully translate in more World class performers in years to come. The participants were very impressed with our facilities and the excellent organisation from the Qatar Swimming Federation. This event was run together with the  FINA Swimming World Cup event in Doha.

In the same week, we had our graduate squash player Abdulla Al Tamimi compete in the World Championships here in Doha with some great performances exiting in the 3rd round (and becoming the first Qatari player to every reach this level) after a very close match with the number 3 in the World.

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Abdulla is a great example of what it is possible to achieve if you work hard and I predict further rising in his ranking if he continues to train and develop like he is now. Abdulla is a super-nice young man, well respected in the squash community and a great ambassador for Qatar and it is always a pleasure to work with him.

Qatar is now a sporting destination, every month there are plenty of events to attend and I am looking forward to watch some matches of the imminent Football clubs’ World Cup in December in one of the new stadiums for the 2022 World Championships.

On a personal note, I am still recovering from my recent calf injury and managed to enter a Triathlon in the team event so I could swim and bike. Hopefully I can be back doing triathlons on my own in December.

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Few final notes on the latest happenings in the World of sport. The Nike Oregon Project debacle and the Richard Freeman enquiry. Nothing surprises me anymore, the World of high performance sport is sadly full of examples like the ones exposed in these two cases.  While they may seem different, they have similar aspects which I will try to discuss in a next post when I stop shaking my head and I write a blog article with some opinions.

Time flies

I realised it has been ages since I wrote the last blog post. I have not had much time available to write something meaningful here. But I have been busy writing papers/articles/book chapters as well as reading a lot and working daily with athletes and coaches.

It has been a very exciting season in Aspire with some excellent results in all sport and in the last few days some of our former students are representing Qatar at the Doha 2019 World Championships. We hosted the International Conference of Medicine and Science in Athletics in May (All videos are available here, programme here) and are about to host the 4th annual conference of the Asian Sport Institutes Association (details here). Busy days with sporting seasons in full swing and plenty of extra activities happening.

I managed to continue and complete some research work with many colleagues and some papers have been recently published with some hopefully accepted in the next few months. Here is the list of the publications so far published in 2019:

Hansen, C., Lopez, F. S., Whiteley, R., Wilhelm, A., Popovic, N., Ahmed, H. A., & Cardinale, M. (2019). A video-based analysis to classify shoulder injuries during the Handball World Championships 2015. SPORTVERLETZUNG-SPORTSCHADEN, 33 (1), 30-35. doi:10.1055/a-0787-6329
which concludes the analysis of the Handball World Championships 2015 in Qatar.
Pujari, A. N., Neilson, R. D., & Cardinale, M. (2019). Effects of different vibration frequencies, amplitudes and contraction levels on lower limb muscles during graded isometric contractions superimposed on whole body vibration stimulation. J Rehabil Assist Technol Eng, 6, 2055668319827466-?. doi:10.1177/2055668319827466
From Amit Pujari’s PhD thesis completed in the Engineering Department of the University of Aberdeen.
Boccia, G., Brustio, P. R., Moise, P., Franceschi, A., La Torre, A., Schena, F., . . . Cardinale, M. (2019). Elite national athletes reach their peak performance later than non-elite in sprints and throwing events. JOURNAL OF SCIENCE AND MEDICINE IN SPORT, 22 (3), 342-347. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2018.08.011
With my Italian colleagues continuing to analyse and understand more about evolution of performance in Athletics form youth to senior
Varamenti, E., Cherif, A., Nikolovski, Z., Tabben, M., Jamurtas, A. Z., & Cardinale, M. (2019). Exploring possible relationships between 25(OH)D deficiency and variables related to inflammation, endothelial function, and enzymatic antioxidants in adolescent athletes: a prospective study. BIOLOGY OF SPORT, 36 (2), 113-118. doi:10.5114/biolsport.2019.81112
Pullinger, S., Varamenti, E., Nikolovski, Z., Elgingo, M., & Cardinale, M. (2019). Seasonal Changes in Performance Related Characteristics and Biochemical Marker Variability of Adolescent Table Tennis Players. Asian Journal of Sports Medicine. doi:10.5812/asjsm.67278
With my colleagues in Qatar to improve our understanding and how to guide training in adolescent athletes.
I have also written an article for the Aspetar journal which is pretty much the summary of my talk at the Athletics conference hosted in Qatar few months ago (the talk is here).
Learning continues…from dashboards’ development to analysis of training data to ways to report meaningful information, there is so much to try and so much to learn still.
On a personal front, my training continues (albeit with some ‘old man injuries’) to defeat the progressive ageing and be able to fit in lycra at Triathlon events. For this, I am using HRV measurements using Marco Altini’s app, Garmin Fenix 5, Assioma Pedals (proud Italian Technology!) on my Canyon Aeroad bike, connecting everything to Strava and Training Peaks, and doing some Zwift sessions. Which makes me think that maybe I should write more about age-group training/injury issues 🙂
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New Paper on progressing youth to senior in Athletics

We have finally managed to get this paper accepted and published on the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. This was part of a larger study conducted with colleagues in Italy to “map” historical data of Italian Athletics and determine progressions in different athletics events to differentiate between successful and non successful adult performers by analysing the longitudinal developments of such results.
The first part of this work was published last year on PlosOne. In this recent work we focused on sprints and throws events analysing male and female progressions with more than 5000 athletes present in the Italian official results database available in FIDAL.

A total of 5929 athletes (female: n = 2977, 50.2%) were included in the study. The age of entering competition and personal best performance was identified in the official competition records. Personal best performances were ranked in percentiles and top-level athletes were considered those in the highest 4% of the performance distribution.

 

Overall, when controlling for the age of entering competition, top-level athletes reached their personal best later (i.e., around 23–25 years old) for all events compared to the rest of the athletes. Moreover, regression analysis showed that entering competitions later was linked to better performances during adulthood. Also, only 17%–26% [90% CI] of the top-level adult athletes were considered as such when they were 14–17 years old.

 

These findings and previous ones in other events also form other research groups (like this one from our Norwegian colleagues) suggest that early sport success is not a strong predictor of top-level performance at senior level. Also, gender differences may be evident in the rate of performance development in different events.

Such analyses are important to develop reference databases to assess young athletes progression and be able to avoid de-selection of late maturers.

I will speak about this approach in a talk in Aspetar in January 2019. Before then, I will write more about this on the blog as I think it is important to have a more systematic look at youth performances around the World in Athletics in order to identify trends and provide more chances to assess athletes’ progressions.