Science for the People: Sports Science

sftpThis week we’re exploring the ways that science and technology are changing sports, on and off the playing field. We’ll speak to journalist Mark McClusky about his book Faster, Higher, Stronger: How Sports Science Is Creating a New Generation of Superathletes – and What We Can Learn from Them. We’ll also get the scientific perspective on sports supplements with Dr. Bryan Chung, founder of Evidence Based Fitness.

*Josh provides research & social media help to Science for the People and is, therefore, completely biased.

What he said…

This has been making the rounds, but Dale Hansen GETS IT. That’s something I almost never say about sports journalists, including when they are opining about the sport on which they are supposed to be an expert.


The fact that Michael Sam’s sexuality has been this newsworthy – that we haven’t had an active, openly non-heterosexual NFL player until 2014 – is quite damning of NFL culture and American culture in general.

*Hat tip to Jen Hayden at The Daily Kos.

Home field intimidation

According to a paper from Marshall Jones of Penn State in Psychology of Sport and Exercise (you can read it for only $31.50), home field advantage is far more prevalent in subjectively judged, independent sports, like diving and gymnastics, than in objectively judged sports, like sprinting and the biathlon.

Subjectively evaluated sports such as diving, gymnastics, or figure skating usually show sizable and significant home advantages. Otherwise, occasional findings have been reported but they are not consistent within a sport, are generally weak, and often statistically unreliable. – Marshall Jones

This dovetails nicely with the home field advantage phenomena reported by L Jon Wertheim and Tobias Moskowitz in Scorecasting for team sports like baseball, basketball, and association football (aka, soccer) on points of subjective judgments (eg, strike zone, certain fouls, and extra time, respectively).

Taking together, this suggests that home field advantage is a result of the crowd intimidating the officials, not the crowd boosting the morale of the home team.

Those poor bastards

 

Here are my thoughts on the Seahawks-Packers Hail Mary refereeing controversy (as if you really cared):

  • Live & at full speed, my first thought was “simultaneous possession”.
  • Former NFL cornerback Eric Davis makes a solid argument for “simultaneous possession” even after slow motion replay. The vagaries of “control” versus “catch” seem key here.
  • Has anyone in NFL history ever called offensive pass interference on a Hail Mary?
  • Home field advantage is mostly due to unconscious bias on part of referees responding to the angry mob screaming at them (ie, the crowd). No way that call was getting overturned in Seattle.
  • Referees are people, error prone humans, trying very hard to a very, very hard job well. The replacements are trying to do this with everyone hating them and expecting them to fail.
  •  Replacement referees aren’t incompetent. They are inexperienced at this level of play.
  • That inexperience could have important implications for player safety.
  • Replacements struggle to manage games because players/coaches don’t respect them, know them, or believe there are long-term consequences to their relationships.
  • The replacement referees aren’t responsible for the situation. The NFL and the regular referees are, but mostly the NFL.
  • It’s just football, folks.

 

Fixing football

This is a repost of an article that originally appeared at The Paltry Sapien on 10 August 2012.

American football. Not proper football. We already fixed that once. We call it rugby.

Speaking of which, we were at a dinner party when the subject of my rugby career was brought up (not by me). A discussion about surviving a full contact sport without padding (don’t hit with your head and hit with forces below the physiological limits of the human body) transitioned into a discussion of how to reduce debilitating injuries in American football.

In the presence of a rugger, people like to suggest getting rid of the helmets and pads. It is the pads that allow American football to be so violent1. You could reduce the violence and, therefore, the injuries by getting rid of pads; but that’s not going to happen. American football is a violent sport. The fans like the violence. The players like the violence.

And, helmets and pads are necessary for the single most important element of modern American football: the forward pass.

Continue reading “Fixing football”