Tag: Sports Technology

Another trip around the sun.

Holidays and rest give you time to reflect on many things. This afternoon, while tidying up my computer, I realised it is almost one year since I wrote something on my blog. It’s been quite a year. No wonder time has not been on my side and I have neglected a bit the blog. Every year I realise how much I could write about, but for some reasons, in the last few years, I only made minimal efforts. As a tradition, I will do the last post of the year, to reflect on 2022.

What a year! Started still in the midst of another wave of the pandemic and finished with an incredible Football World Cup in Qatar. Lots of things have happened professionally and personally, as usual some wins, some losses, some good things some not so good. But such is life and we can only play with the cards we get given.

From a professional standpoint it has been quite a challenging year but also a very successful one. Being the leader of a large department in a changing organisation leading into the World Cup is never an easy task, but I am priviledged to have the opportunity and very proud of what my team achieved this year. From a research standpoint, our institution published again >100 scientific papers in peer reviewed journal. This is incredible considering the relatively small size of the research team and the staff turnover in the last two years. The quality of work and the effort was such that the IOC confirmed Aspetar again for another 4 years as one of the only 11 Research Centers in the World until 2026 (if you want to know more about this, read here). Personally, I published two papers on peer reviewed journals this year.

The following one was part of the Doha 2019 study conducted during the World Championships

Association between thermal responses, medical events, performance, heat acclimation and health status in male and female elite athletes during the 2019 Doha World Athletics Championships.

Racinais S, Havenith G, Aylwin P, Ihsan M, Taylor L, Adami PE, Adamuz MC, Alhammoud M, Alonso JM, Bouscaren N, Buitrago S, Cardinale M, van Dyk N, Esh CJ, Gomez-Ezeiza J, Garrandes F, Holtzhausen L, Labidi M, Lange G, Lloyd A, Moussay S, Mtibaa K, Townsend N, Wilson MG, Bermon S.Br J Sports Med. 2022 Apr;56(8):439-445. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2021-104569. Epub 2022 Feb 14.PMID: 35165084 

This one was with my Italian colleagues continuing the work on understanding talent pathways in swimming

Don’t Throw the Baby Out With the Bathwater: Talent in Swimming Sprinting Events Might Be Hidden at Early Age.

Brustio PR, Cardinale M, Lupo C, Boccia G.Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2022 Jul 26:1-8. doi: 10.1123/ijspp.2021-0530. Online ahead of print.PMID: 35894878

If you want to know more about the papers published by Aspetar, we do (I think) a great job in summarising and making such papers accessible on our website and our youtube channel.

I also co-edited with my colleague and friend Professor Warren Gregson a special issue of the Aspetar Sports Medicine Journal on Sports Science in Football and also wrote an article on technology in Football. I am glad we did it, this is the last project for Warren in Qatar and he will move back to the UK in 2023. Looking forward to more collaborations with him and his new colleagues in the future.

You can access all the content for free here.

Scientific Support services in Aspetar have also developed, and we managed to create a new facility and service for the World Cup and beyond. If you want to know more about Aspetar’s scientific support you can read more here. If you want to know more about our new recovery center you can see a short clip here. We continue supporting athletes in their quest for excellence and/or to make sure they recovery from injuries and get back to performance.

I was priviledged to be invited to speak to a few conferences again in Qatar and internationally as well as organising a Football Symposium. The highlight for me was to return to Budapest 20 years after defending my PhD thesis to give a talk on Sports Science and Research in High Performance Sport. I got the chance to see again my mentor Prof. Tihanyi and friends I had not seen for years. Also, it was an opportunity for me to see the university campus and how it is evolving after so many years. Finally, I had the chance to visit Neka, the Hungarian National Handball Academy on Lake Balaton as part of the conference. What an incredible place, I was glad to see that Handball is finally developing the concept of handball academies creating opportunities for young players to study and develop as sports people.

The last few months of the year were fully dedicated to the World Cup. I had the priviledge to be a member of the Aspetar Task Force leading the planning and delivery of Aspetar’s medical services at the FIFA World Cup. It was hard work, but we managed to provide a comprehensive support as well as a couple of interesting research projects which I hope you will read more about in the next few months. The World Cup in Qatar was an amazing event. From a professional stadpoint, after having been involved for many years providing scientific support to a participating team (e.g. World/Continental championships/Olympic Games), this was the second opportunitity to work on the other side of the fence working to develop and deliver services to colleagues and teams of different nations/teams. Challenges bring opportunities, and knowing what teams and collagues need when travelling to competitions abroad gave me the right platform to help organise and deliver the best possible services. This was made easier by the wonderful colleagues I had the possibility to work with (you know who you are ;-)) and gave me also another chance to learn about different aspects (I love microsoft sharepoint sites integrations now, with microsoft apps/powerbi/calendars etc. :-)).

I had the possibility to see a few matches as a spectator in between work shifts and towards the end of the tournament and I loved every minute of it! The event was incredibly well organised and the atmosphere in the stadiums was amazing and super safe.

Unfortunately, the foreign press run a campaign against Qatar that was an utter disgrace. So many lies and non-factual statements that it would require pages and pages of blogs to discuss this. I will keep the blog clean from any political conversation, what I can say is that the amount of incorrect information was staggering and unfair to a country who has been developing a lot in the last 10 years since I arrived. My plea to the readers is to fact-check the statements about Qatar (you can do it in many places but you can start here, here, here). Argentina lifted the trophy after the most exciting final ever.

And yes, I predicted in some way Argentina’s success in a Facebook message after they beat Italy in Wembley in June 🙂

Sports Science produced some great new papers and new ideas. This will require another blog article. In the last few months I have developed an interest on muscle injuries (also because i have got a few…), and I am involved in a few research projects to understand them better, improve the diagnosis and try to find therapeutic approaches to accelerate recovery and return to play. So whatch this space in the future for some ramblings about it. I am already looking forward to an exciting 2023 in terms of learning and research opportunities.

Sadly, like every year, we lost few friends and family. I don’t want to list them all here, but I would like to pay tribute to a friend and colleague. Dr Louis Passfield passed away recently unexpectedly. Louis was one of the nicest individuals I had the chance to meet and work with not only on research projects but also in preparation for the Beijing Olympics when he was the lead scientist for British Cycling. He was always full of ideas and great insights and a pleasure to spend time with every time we had a chance at a conference or a meet. He left us a great scientific and human legacy. We shared a lot of common interest, one of them being cycling. Rest in peace my friend. It was an honour to get to know you.

Data and Dashboards Part 2

Following up on my previous post on sports technology I have been using and data visualisation/analysis platforms, I want to share more information about various data visualisation options I have come across recently.

Anybody involved in sport at any level is now recording some data in training and/or competition thanks to the smartwatches most people wear, mobile phones and related apps and wearable technologies such as rings and bracelets capable of recording various aspects of performance.

In recent months, the Oura ring received a lot of attention due to its implementation in the NBA bubble. The ring is capable of measuring activity, sleep and heart rate variability by means of pulse oximetry. You can read the PhD thesis of Dr Hannu Kinnunen here. I met Hannu years ago when working on a project with Polar on the RS800 and he always had some creative ideas about wearable technology and algorithm development, so I am very happy to see his product getting so much attention. I don’t wear rings, but it is definitively on my list to try it.

The other wearable receiving a lot of attention is the whoop strap. Similar technology in a bracelet format. Validation studies are starting to be published, and it seems that Whoop is reasonable in measuring sleep as compared to polysomnography. It seems to be quite accurate also in assessing heart rate and respiratory rate.

Thanks to improvements in data processing of mobile phones and quality of sensors placed in them, there has been also an increase in the development of apps capable of assessing ‘readiness’ to train by measuring heart rate variability parameters. As a long term user of the HRV4 training app, I can say that this simple tool developed by Dr Marco Altini is fantastic. Pretty accurate as indicated by validation studies and now well used in the field (see an example here and one here) it provides good quality data in a simple manner also with the possibility to monitor different athletes with the coach app. Marco has really done a great job with this app, and the data generated are useful to drive programmes also with athletes coached remotely. His latest work (the Heart Rate Variability Logger app) to estimate the aerobic threshold non-invasively has been recently featured in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. I have not downloaded this app yet, but will do soon as I plan to run more and want to use the data to drive my program, hoping that the calf muscles behave.

I have tracked morning Heart Rate data for a number of years now, and can say that for me it is a way to track training and non training stress very well. Alterations in morning Heart Rate and HRV indices are affected by many factors, however form my own personal experience, I know that when HR is high and RMSSD is low, there is something brewing and I need to put the foot off the pedal. In 2017, Xiao Li and her colleagues at the Snyder Lab at Stanford University published a paper showing that tracking heart rate among other physiological signals in daily life can give warning of sickness onset. It’s a great paper, based on a careful examination of data from over 250,000 daily measurements among 43 people. Fascinating paper which shows how, thanks to technology, we are moving towards the ability to be able to truly personalise health and training interventions also form remote by having relevant data to use. There are now a number of studies recruiting individuals worldwide to share their wearable data to understand more about flu and COVID-19 symptoms. One of them is here https://quantifiedflu.org and it is using data from a number of wearable technology. If you are interested, have a look at the page and take part!

On a personal level I am very interested in using my scientific training to answer personal questions, and I really like this framework recently proposed by Gary Wolf and Martijn De Groot which was based on a previous attempt by Li et al. more than 10 years ago (see picture below).

A Stage-Based Model of Personal Informatics Systems by Ian Li, Anind Dey, and Jodi Forlizzi

As indicated in my previous post, one of the challenges to the use of multiple technology platforms is the ability to put all the data in the same place and be able to visualise them to make inferences. I have shared some examples before, but what is truly missing is the ability to simply visualise everything you measure without using time consuming processes involving downloading of data in .csv format and/or complex API connections, hours of R-coding and expertise in various domains. Thankfully, there are some free solutions appearing which are promising and can provide simple ways to integrate data.

The first one I want to talk about is the Habit Dashboard. This personal health analytics platform integrates data from multiple apps and allows the user to access a comprehensive view. Both the graphic and tabular formats are good and data streams sync very easily.

There are also alternatives like building your own dashboard with Google (see how to import Strava data in Google forms here), Grafana (link here) and Power BI (link here).

Last but not least, an excellent tool developed by John Peters in collaboration with Prof. Stephen Seiler to be able to analyse endurance training sessions and competitions. EnDuRA (Endurance Durability and Repeatability Analyser) can be found at http://endura.fit and you can import Garmin data (FIT and TCX format activity files either as .FIT.TCX.FIT.GZ). And if you want to read more about the concept of ‘Durability’, this recent review is a must read for anybody working with endurance athletes.