Sports Science

The basics of how a muscle generates power are this: Filaments of myosin tugging on filaments of actin shorten, or contract, the muscle. Since the 1950s physiologists have had a formula – the length-tension curve – that accurately describes the force a muscle exerts at all points from fully outstretched, when every weight lifter knows there is little strength, to the middle points that display the greatest force, to the completely shortened muscle when, again, strength is minimized.

The assumption for 50 years has been that the power comes primarily from what's happening straight up and down the length of the muscle.


Max Scherzer, a 6-foot, 3-inch tall pitcher leads Major League Baseball in wins. He hasn't lost a game for the Detroit Tigers this season.

He is example of Constructal-law Theory, said Duke University engineer Adrian Bejan. Constructal-law Theory predicts that elite pitchers will continue to be taller and thus throw faster and seems also to apply to athletes who compete in golf, hockey and boxing.

Studying athletes  gives insight into the biological evolution of human design in nature because sports are meticulous about keeping statistics. The biological evolution of human design in nature is what Bejan terms the Constructal-law Theory, which is really a hypothesis but using Theory as a proper name is all the rage.


Some elite track and field athletes peak young, under the age of 20, while others peak later - but only a small fraction of star junior athletes had similar success as senior athletes.

An Indiana University analysis compared the performance of elite track and field athletes and conclude that physical maturation is behind the disparity, with athletes who mature early reaping the benefits early, seeing their best times, jumps and throws at a younger age than Olympians, many of whom mature later. 


Hockey moves fast. As efforts to track the puck visually showed, it can be dizzying to keep track of things in a small field of view like a television.

Analyzing games and plays means manual work, for that reason. But Disney Research, located in Pittsburgh and Zurich, have developed an automated technique for analyzing the patterns of play of field hockey teams, providing a new tool for coaches and commentators who must make sense of mountains of video and other game data. 


If you can scorch a baseball over the mound, you can thank extinct ancestors.

That's not to say that, despite what an evolutionary psychologist might contend, our ability to throw fast and accurately evolved so our ancestors could play ball better and therefore get more dates.

Instead, this ability first evolved nearly 2 million years ago -  humans are unique in our throwing ability -  to aid in hunting. 

The big question in many aspects of medicine is whether there is more of something or if it is simply better diagnosis than in the past.

In youth baseball programs, throwing injuries seem to have gone up despite pitching limits that weren't evident in the past. Professional baseball once used a four-man rotation and there was no consideration at all about pitching for kids.

But a multicenter, national research study says serious pitching injuries requiring surgery have skyrocketed, with one estimate reporting serious throwing injuries are occurring 16 times more often today than just 30 years ago.


Researchers using magnetic imaging to assess memory  have shown that soccer players who frequently head the ball have brain abnormalities resembling those found in patients with concussion (mild traumatic brain injury).  


It's not easy traveling to play 81 games a year across multiple time zones and the major league baseball schedule, 162 games, is the most grueling in professional sports.

Two papers outline how sleep and fatigue are key issues in performance, which makes sense. Fatigue may impair strike-zone judgment during the 162 game Major League Baseball season and a player's sleepiness can predict his longevity in the league, the authors conclude.

One study found that MLB players' strike-zone judgment was worse in September than in April in 24 of 30 teams. When averaged across all teams, strike-zone judgment was significantly worse in September compared with April. The statistical model demonstrated strong predictive value through the season.


Hikers in New Hampshire's White Mountain National Forest often hit the trail less prepared than they should be, according to a survey that gaged readiness by how many of 10 essential items the hikers brought along. Which means hikers everywhere probably lack the same things, though experience obviously changes that.

Young and inexperienced hikers were most likely to lack multiple items recommended by the State of New Hampshire's HikeSafe program, according to a paper Wilderness&Environmental Medicine. Each year, scores of imperiled hikers require search and rescue missions in the state, but little quantitative research exists on how and why they end up in trouble.


If you are not an experienced baseball player, a ball coming at you 40 ar 40 miles per hour is fast. You are almost certain to swing too late and then, when you realize that is fast, you will swing too early. You are almost as certain to miss.

So how can players hit a 95 M.P.H. fastball?  Given that it can be inside or outside of the strike zone, high or low, and also is rarely straight, it can be difficult even for them.

Researchers say they have pinpointed how the brain tracks such fast-moving objects and that can help understand how humans predict the trajectory of moving objects when it can take one-tenth of a second for the brain to process what the eye sees.