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Monthly Archives: February 2017

How caddies help elite golfers stay in the zone

The study by sport psychology researchers at the University of Lincoln, Leeds Beckett University, and St Mary’s University in the UK, and University of Canberra in Australia, found that as well as carrying the player’s bag, caddies can help their players perform at their peak — achieving so-called ‘flow states’ — by offering vital psychological support and encouragement throughout the round.

The findings, published in the Elsevier journal ‘Psychology of Sport and Exercise’, could lead to new ways of studying and understanding flow states within golf and sport more generally.

Flow, often referred to as being ‘in the zone’, is the mental state athletes reach when they are fully immersed in their discipline and feel in control of what they are doing, even in the most personally challenging situations. Importantly, athletes in flow often perform at the peak of their abilities, meaning that golfers who win major tournaments are more likely to have been in this ‘zone’.

The study indicated that caddies influenced golfers’ flow states by helping their player select targets, maintain concentration and avoid distractions, and preserve confidence after setbacks such as missed putts. They also provided positive feedback after shots, reinforced the player’s decision making, and were able to help the golfers relax under pressure which is especially important in major championships.

By helping golfers get into this coveted state of flow, and then stay in this ‘zone’ even longer, the caddie’s contribution could help their player perform at their peak when it matters most.

Lead researcher Dr Christian Swann, from the School of Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Lincoln, said: “The key finding was how much of an important role caddies can play when golfers experience flow. Previous research identified factors which are believed to help athletes get into the zone, and this study moved a step beyond that by exploring the specific ways in which golfers’ flow states are influenced by such factors, including the caddie.

“As players often describe these experiences when they win tournaments, understanding how and why flow happens is very important for coaches and sport psychologists. These findings could also be important for optimising the golfer-caddie partnership to be most effective on the course.

“For example, one golfer in the study described a particularly clear example of flow while he was in contention to win The Open. He remembered holing a long putt in the middle of the round which gave him the lead. Afterwards he said to his caddie, ‘Make sure you don’t stop talking to me from now on. Don’t leave me, and don’t talk about golf.’

“Interestingly, the caddie’s role in this case was to keep the player’s mind away from analytical thoughts of winning which are known to disrupt flow. Instead, by focusing on topics other than golf, they were able to take each shot at a time and perform more on autopilot — prolonging the experience of being in the zone under pressure.”

The study was conducted with 10 European Tour golfers including The Open players, and European Tour, Challenge Tour and Senior Tour winners.

New sports technology provides a GPS alternative

Instead SABEL Labs has developed SABEL Sense, an alternative to GPS for tracking running speeds and distances and which is set to be a game changer in the sports performance and wearable technology industries.

SABEL Sense is timely, as sporting organisations in particular consider their options. The AFL recently announced it had switched its GPS provider.

SABEL Labs project manager and research fellow Dr Jono Neville developed a model which presents accelerometers as a viable alternative to GPS in the quest for improved athlete assessment techniques.

His research, titled ‘A model for comparing over-ground running speed and accelerometer derived step rate in elite level athletes’, is detailed in Sensors Journal, which is currently published online and will be in print next month.

Dr Neville said while Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are an important tool for workload management, the devices have limitations when it comes to changes in speed and direction and when they are used indoors, due to their reliance on external satellites.

He said he compared inertial sensor data with GPS data, collected simultaneously from Brisbane Lions AFL players during 2009, to create a model which was highly accurate for running speeds.

“There is a driving need for emerging technology like this in the sports performance industry,” the microelectronic engineer said.

“When it comes to frequent and rapid changes in speed and distance, GPS just doesn’t cut it, although it’s still the most widely used technology.

“We have found a data processing technique which allows us to extract data from an athlete and create an individualised model. “

Dr Neville said his technology will be key in monitoring training and game workloads.

“This will assist in preventing things such as over-training, which is a major concern for elite athletes, to reduce risk of injury.”

Dr Neville said individualised models are created automatically using SABEL Sense technology which can then be used to track speeds and distances.

Mixed martial arts bloodier but less dangerous than boxing

Researchers at the U of A’s Glen Sather Sports Medicine Clinic reviewed a decade’s worth of data from medical examinations following mixed martial arts and boxing matches and found that MMA fighters face a slightly higher risk of minor injuries. Boxers, however, are more likely to experience serious harm from concussions and other head trauma, loss of consciousness, eye injuries, smashed noses and broken bones.

“Yes, you’re more likely to get injured if you’re participating in mixed martial arts, but the injury severity is less overall than boxing,” explained lead author Shelby Karpman, a sports medicine physician at the Glen Sather clinic. “Most of the blood you see in mixed martial arts is from bloody noses or facial cuts; it doesn’t tend to be as severe but looks a lot worse than it actually is.”

Research from ringside

The research offers a first-of-its-kind glimpse into the dangers of the two combative sports in Canada, and is the direct result of Karpman’s quarter-century of experience as a ringside physician conducting post-fight exams, which are mandatory in both sports.

In this study, Karpman and U of A Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine colleagues Leah Phillips, Ziling Qin and Doug Gross, and Patrick Reid of the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission, reviewed post-fight records from 1,181 MMA fighters and 550 boxers who fought matches in Edmonton between 2003 and 2013.

They found that 59.4 per cent of MMA fighters suffered some form of injury in their bouts–significantly higher than the injury rate of 49.8 per cent for boxers. Most of these injuries were bruises and contusions. But boxers were more likely to experience loss of consciousness during the bout (7.1 per cent compared with 4.2 per cent for MMA fighters) or serious eye injuries.

Boxers were also significantly more likely to receive medical suspensions due to injuries suffered during bouts.

Karpman said there is risk in any contact sport but that MMA, more than any other, faces a stigma from the medical community from physicians who see the sport as ultra-bloody and violent. As a result, fighters have become “an undertreated athletic population,” and these research results should help them understand the risks of climbing into the ring, he said.

“These guys do not get the respect they deserve for what they’re doing–or the medical treatment–because the medical community doesn’t want to deal with such a bloody sport with head injuries and concussions,” Karpman said.

Most fighters understand the risks they face before they get into the ring, but the research results do line up with the real-life experience of 14-year MMA veteran Victor Valimaki.

“There are definitely risks. I’ve been pretty messed up,” said Valimaki, who says he’s suffered just about every injury imaginable: broken bones–both feet and arms, an ankle, collar bone–a busted orbital bone, and numerous knee and shoulder joint issues.

“Most injuries happen during training. Injuries during an actual fight are superficial–typically black eyes, cuts and the odd broken hand,” he said.

Banning combative sports not the answer

Karpman says it’s puzzling that in a sport like hockey, catastrophic blows to the head can land former NHL players like Scott Stevens and Chris Pronger in the hall of fame, whereas MMA and boxing are vilified with frequent calls to ban the sport with little understanding of the true risks.

“I always say if you’re going to ban a sport, you need statistics. Just watching mixed martial arts twice on TV does not cut it. And even if you ban a sport, you’re not going to stop it. You’re just going to take it underground where they’re not going to receive medical care.”

Adapting soccer training to age

The Plos One scientific journal, published by the Public Library of Science and which deals mainly with basic research into any subject relating to science and medicine, has recently published the paper ‘Number of Players and Relative Pitch Area per Player: Comparing Their Influence on Heart Rate and Physical Demands in Under-12 and Under-13 soccer Players’. In this work, researchers at the UPV/EHU’s Faculty of Education and Sports have analysed how various soccer training exercises affect physical and physiological aspects in the under 12s (U12) and under 13s (U13).

This training method using so-called small-sided games (or long ones, depending on the dimensions and number of players) is very widespread in different sports. Small-sided games or ‘game-based training’ are sports competitions or game-based training generally played by a smaller number of players and on smaller pitches (compared with 11-a-side soccer) in which all the internal logic components of the game are kept in a way that is adaptable and motivating for the players. These activities are applied extensively in the sphere of soccer training and are fundamental in the programmes to develop young players.

This research involved the combining of a different number of players per team (7, 9 or 11 players) who played on pitches with three different relative areas per player (100, 200 and 300 m2). In these situations variables such as total distance covered, demands on the player, maximum speed, heart rate in various ranges of intensity, etc. were analysed; in other words, covering internal or physical variables as well as external or physical ones.

The results that emerged support the theory that a change in the format affects both categories of players in a similar way: “the greater the dimensions and the number of players per team, the greater the physical and physiological demands are, the latter being particularly high in the U13s with respect to the U12s,” explained the researchers. So it seems that the U13s can develop their physical potential to a maximum.

Yet these demands, rated from the relative point of view, in other words, with respect to individual maximum speeds, show that the U12s endure a greater work load, bearing in mind that their maximum levels are lower with respect to the U13s. Nevertheless, it seems that in the U12 age group it would not be advisable to include large formats (>300 m2) or formats with many players per team (11).

The conclusions of the study could help trainers or people involved in this soccer training phase to progressively plan the competition models in which the demands of the exercise are adapted to the physiological and physical development of the participants.