Sports Science

An Australian study found certain elite athletes were more at risk of taking drugs than others. Credit: Lee Morley, CC BY-NC-ND

There’s a widespread public perception that substance use is rife among Australian athletes. Whenever I tell people I research substance use among athletes, the most common response is: “They’re all on it.”

Amateur athletes are competitive and they are always looking for an advantage even if it isn't their careers, so it is no surprise that supplement stores are filled with promises of gains.

Nitrate supplements, claiming to  improve the efficiency at which muscles use oxygen, have been popular for years, but do they work? 

A new study says they may increase performance--they decrease the viscosity of blood, aiding in blood flow, while at the same time ensuring that tissue oxygen requirements are not compromised. 
Like sports, want to play into old age without the injury risk? Walking football - or basketball, or lots of other things - might be the answer.

Football - soccer in the United States - is running and kicking. If you change the running to walking, the skill is the same but the injury risk is reduced. Although coaches have long forced players to walk, the same way guitar teachers force players to play a fast piece slowly, as a popular movement Walking Football began in 2011, as a way  to help keep older players involved in football for longer. Players can walk, they can even walk fast, just not run. 

The health benefits of walking are well-established and Walking Football just makes it more fun. 

There's science going on here, no test tubes or lab coats necessary. USA Today Sports / Reuters

By Chad Orzel, Associate Professor of Physics at Union College.

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman gets called a lot of things. He calls himself the greatest cornerback in the NFL (and Seattle fans tend to agree). Sportswriters and some other players call him a loudmouth and a showboater. Fans of other teams call him a lot of things that shouldn’t see print (even on the Internet). One thing you’re not likely to hear anyone on ESPN call Sherman, though, is “scientist.”

The Patriots ran away with the AFC Championship. What did deflated footballs have to do with it? USA Today Sports / Reuters

By Chad Orzel, Union College

Beet juice is a fad in sports optimization because it is
rich in nitrates, but does it work? 

It has some value, though it does not enhance muscle blood flow or vascular dilation during exercise, as commonly claimed. It does "de-stiffen" blood vessels under resting conditions, potentially easing the workload of the heart. 

Nightwatchman Nathan Lyon bowled by Mohammed Sharmi last week. AAP/ David Mariuz

By Tim Trudgian, Australian National University

Imagine you are captain of the national cricket team. With 20 minutes left in day one of a test match, your top-order batsman is dismissed. Do you employ a nightwatchman? That is, do you send in a tail-end batsman to see out the bowling until the end of the day’s play and protect your top-order?

Well, a little bit of math can show you that you shouldn't.

Are umpires biased? There has been sociological woo produced trying to prove they are racist in baseball but a paper has found that if a cricket team has home umpires, some bias does get introduced, at least in Test cricket, the longest form of the sport .

Epigenetics has gotten new life 200 years after it was first postulated - it is temporary biochemical changes in the genome, caused by various forms of environmental impact that can be permanent and even passed down to future generations, basically an update on Jean Baptiste Lamarck's inheritance of acquired characteristics. 

One type of epigenetic change is methylation, where a methyl group is added to or removed from a base in the DNA molecule without affecting the original DNA sequence. Epigenetic researchers liken it to computers: If genes are considered the hardware of cells, then epigenetics can be seen as their software. 

A small study

Retired baseball stars Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro each have Hall of Fame-worthy numbers, more than 500 home runs.