Category: research

2016 is gone, looking forward to a great 2017

I realised I have not written much on the blog for ages now and this is a good time to analyse the year just finished as well as looking a bit into 2017.

First of all, thanks to the 13,134 users who read the blog. It feels like a small town was curious about my writing and I want to thank everyone for the more than 72,000 page views.
Despite the fact that I am not terribly active on the Blog, “old” articles still seem to be of interest and hopefully in 2017 I will be able to write more.
This has been an incredibly positive year (oh well, a part from my knee injury). At work many things happened which were incredibly rewarding.
In February 2016, we held the first scientific conference dedicated to Training Load monitoring in Aspire. The conference was a big success also echoed by the #trainingload2016 and the twitter trending. All the talks are now available for free online and in the first few months of 2017 a special issue of the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance will be made available online (again for free) with all the papers and reviews from the conference.

Dr. Marco Cardinale (QAT) – Monitoring Athlete Training Loads – The Hows and Whys from Aspire Academy on Vimeo.

Training activities and at Aspire were in full swing and summer camps saw few of our young athletes get medals in Regional and Continental championships as well as qualifications to World Juniors in many sports.

In July our student/athlete Mohamed Ibrahim Moaaz coached by Ivica Jakeljic became World Junior Champion throwing his discus 63.63 meters. An incredible result considering his young age and a testament to the excellent coaching and support received at Aspire Academy since he joined.

In August, we had four former students qualified in Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympics and they all did very well with Mutaz Barshim coming back to Qatar with an historical silver medal.

These were incredible results for a small country like Qatar and something to be really proud of. furthermore, these are very young athletes with great potential for the “home” World Championships in Doha 2019. For the first time in years I was away from the Olympic environment and I have to say I missed it, but it was great to support Qatar and also see how well my former colleagues did with Team GB and Team Italia.
The Olympics always give us incredible stories of athletes, coaches and support staff capable of doing amazing things. However, sadly, they also remind us of the dark side of sport with many doping stories, in particular the McLaren reports (1 and 2) from WADA.
In October I was invited to speak at the 50th anniversary of the Italian School of Sport at the Olympic Committee and it was great to see again so many familiar faces, but also remember former colleagues like the late Marcello Faina and my mentor Carmelo Bosco. I left Italy many years ago to pursue my career in sports science, and it is always special to be able to come back and hopefully inspire the younger generation of Italian Sports Scientists.
Thanks to work within my unit and collaborative efforts with other scientists, this has been a productive year from a scientific standpoint. First we published this work on Citrulline Malate conducted before the London 2012 games. Then this paper on Ischaemic Preconditioning, part of a series of studies conducted with colleagues in UCL before I left for Qatar. Work conducted in the lead up to London 2012 with Boxing and in the lead up to Sochi 2014 with Skeleton was also published. The first of the papers related to the Handball study conducted during a World Championship in Qatar was also published as well as the mini review from the talk I gave at the Training Load conference. In the last few weeks, we also received acceptance for a study conducted understanding practices and attitudes towards recovery in adolescent athletes in Asian and UK cohorts, and this work from Dr Pujari’s PhD in Aberdeen on a novel vibration exercise device. Few papers are still under review or just accepted but not available online yet, so overall it has been a very productive year.
2017 looks already interesting. We have athletes competing in international competitions and trying to qualify for World Youth and Junior events in various sports. Some interesting scientific efforts are continued to understand more how to support better young athletes and I am due to speak to a super interesting conference on young athletes in Montreaux in September 2017. If you want to know more about this event just go on, it is going to be a very interesting conference and I am looking forward to learn from many international colleagues as well as give my views.
So, au revoir 2016 and welcome 2017.

New season new activities

So, here we are again, after the summer break the new sporting season is about to start in Doha. The development of activities at Aspire academy is now moving faster than ever. We are starting an exciting project with the Qatar Athletics Federation to work closely together to develop talents as well as establish a sustainable structure to integrate coaching, science and medicine. Since September all QAF athletes and coaches will be training at Aspire and we will be working together to realize this vision and be ready for Doha 2019 and beyond. This project really excites me as I can see this being a true legacy project for the state of Qatar and I am proud to be part of it. We are also contributing to the international community with a conference, which has now become an annual event. In fact, after the success of last year’s conference we have organized another event on coaching young athletes with some excellent speakers and are looking forward to welcome all our coaches, and many coaches from around the World to attend as well. The details of the conference are available here. It is a very exciting time for the academy as two of our former students are participating in the World Championships in Beijing and one of them can hopefully bring home a medal (fingers crossed Mutaz and coach Stan!).

Our service delivery to Aspire athletes and coaches keeps improving and we are introducing more detailed monitoring and reporting activities to be able to influence practice and document the coaching approaches being used in our sports. The centralized database has now been implemented and more minimally invasive and wearable technologies  are being developed and deployed to understand more about coaching young athletes. Our applied research activities are continuing and we plan to submit more papers to describe our work as well as challenge current practice on young athletes. I promise to use to blog to keep everyone up to date as well as working with Aspire to communicate through our social media/website channels a bit more about the activities we conduct.

On the science front, we have also decided to make sure we have an annual scientific conference after the success of the Talent ID one we organized last year. This year our focus is on training monitoring and we have some amazing speakers confirmed as well as a great-exciting programme. The conference is completely free and all details are available here.

This is a great opportunity to learn and network as well as a excellent chance to come to visit us, see our wonderful facilities and possibly talk about collaborations and/or bringing your athletes in Doha for training camps.

So, as you can probably gather from my writing, I am looking forward to this sporting season and I hope to meet/see many of you in Doha at one of our events and/or at one of the many international competitions hosted by the state of Qatar.

New article published on strength training for the elderly

In 2013 I was kindly invited by my colleague Dr. Urs Granacher in Potsdam to give a talk to his institution about science in sport. During my stay we discussed about many aspects of sports science and spent a lot of time talking about bilateral deficit and the fact that there was not much research on assessing it in various populations and also on the effectiveness of various training interventions on this interesting neuromuscular phenomenon. In particular, I was concerned with the amount of training prescriptions characterised by exercises involving two limbs, while most movements are performed with one limb. Also, we discussed how this was relevant for the elderly, as the risk of falls is large for older people and falls occur normally when most of the weight is supported by one leg.
Discussions moved to actions, and the project has been now published on Plos One. The abstract is below and if you want to read the article you can click on the image.


    The term “bilateral deficit” (BLD) has been used to describe a reduction in performance during bilateral contractions when compared to the sum of identical unilateral contractions. In old age, maximal isometric force production (MIF) decreases and BLD increases indicating the need for training interventions to mitigate this impact in seniors. In a cross-sectional approach, we examined age-related differences in MIF and BLD in young (age: 20–30 years) and old adults (age: >65 years). In addition, a randomized-controlled trial was conducted to investigate training-specific effects of resistance vs. balance training on MIF and BLD of the leg extensors in old adults. Subjects were randomly assigned to resistance training (n = 19), balance training (n = 14), or a control group (n = 20). Bilateral heavy-resistance training for the lower extremities was performed for 13 weeks (3 × / week) at 80% of the one repetition maximum. Balance training was conducted using predominately unilateral exercises on wobble boards, soft mats, and uneven surfaces for the same duration. Pre- and post-tests included uni- and bilateral measurements of maximal isometric leg extension force. At baseline, young subjects outperformed older adults in uni- and bilateral MIF (all p < .001; d = 2.61–3.37) and in measures of BLD (p < .001; d = 2.04). We also found significant increases in uni- and bilateral MIF after resistance training (all p < .001, d = 1.8-5.7) and balance training (all p < .05, d = 1.3-3.2). In addition, BLD decreased following resistance (p < .001, d = 3.4) and balance training (p < .001, d = 2.6). It can be concluded that both training regimens resulted in increased MIF and decreased BLD of the leg extensors (HRT-group more than BAL-group), almost reaching the levels of young adults.