…if we don’t ever put effort into developing models and pushing the technology to greater lengths then I think we miss out on something that could eventually be a great tool. I know Carl that you also know that no one uses this GPS stuff with the belief that they are finding an absolute determinant of body load. Just simply a consistent measurement to develop a model based on the relationships that are observed with this data.

The data bubble is not going to burst with GPS, but after reading the above response by Nicholas estimation of work, stress, recovery, and risk is going to evolve because of what people were doing in the past. Patrick Ward, from his review, did a great job summarizing all of the presentations from the SSSSMW (Seattle Sounders Sport Science Mentorship Weekend) , something I wish I could have read with the BSMPG. From his review GPS seems to be the hot topic, something I consider to be part of the Tulipomania, a current speculative bubble that will burst in many professionals faces soon. Now that we have the ever so popular Radar plot with coffee journals to represent data (more on that later) we need to stop jumping the shark.[1]

The trend I see is investing too much time into the following:

Nano-specific details that are washed out by real world realities

Including outside the box pop materials that sound cool but have no functional merit

I am guilty of this, as TSCM was again right on with even sport scientists thinking too much about Malcolm Gladwell thinks instead of dealing with the clear biology of the problem. Currently the US is starting to adopt GPS systems and this is a great thing. Rugby is not enough to balance out the world’s most popular game (football), and some of the practices that have yet to be investigated. When American Football starts using GPS more I will be interested in how team coaches change. Will they change if they start seeing injury rates be correlated with their decisions if being monitored? We think it’s the athlete being monitored but it’s likely to be the program if you think about it. Here are some key areas that are emerging.

Models are not algorithms, and algorithms are sometimes estimations. When we are trying to make an impact we need to see the value or weight in decisions. While the butterfly effect is cool, doing vision training isn’t going to turn the Miami Heat into champions, and adding breathing training once a week isn’t going to produce monsters. Big problems are usually areas that are difficult to change with athletes, especially lifestyle. When one avoids the tough man to man discussions and looks the other way, you immediately paint yourself into a corner. If one is not workout out what the heck are you monitoring? When to rest him even more? That’s not coaching it’s adult babysitting and that culture of the coddling is making it worse for even lower level athletes.

Why are athletes still getting hurt with all of the GPS, HRV, FMS, and other three word/letter tools of the trade? Moneyball will make a revolution when team coaches plan more pedagogical practices. Otherwise we will see more Castles made of sand fall in the sea, eventually with athletes and the great medical and performance decisions made. I have injury lists of every pro sport daily, and where are the results? Without player compliance, organizational structure, and culture changes, you can interpret Omegawave readings and read all of the Pop culture books from Barnes and Noble you wish. While track and field may allow more control, pushing your body to the limits and agents/meeting schedules isn’t easy with shoe contracts. We all have struggles here.

GPS data is a good start, but compared to what? TRIMPS and RPE are cheaper and how much different is GPS allowing us to make decisions? I always start off with a white board comparison table based on the coaches own words and research and allow them to to see what they think is the true difference is. Comparison gives value to the data. How much better is RPE than GPS? Not much statically, and while I love objective information, one must be very careful not to create technology numbness to athletes that they don’t’ know how to understand their bodies. HRV compliments subjective data. Both human and technology data sets are necessary. Change is great only if it evolves the process.

What injuries are we trying to protect? Adaptions that create predispositions to injury exist with athletes, so saying that kyphosis in swimming is natural is true, but I would want it! The same think with pelvic adaptions from the sport, natural but not optimal. Tinkering is often a problem, so many just hope for the best. We need interventions that last, can be validated, and are better than not doing anything and hope managing it will be sufficient.

Contrary to some opinions, doing corrective exercises with the foot isn’t going to change much with athletes. Screening the foot and creating foot profiles of risk based on the collected data is growing. The GPS data will show how patterns of both movement and foot and body structure will create change in risk. You can’t get that with gross screenings, and technology such as pressure mapping is going to explode when one team is able to make an impact with foot function and GPS loading.

GPS data needs to make sure nutrition, athlete development, and medical interventions can be made immediately after the data is shared by predicting needs such as calories, training load based on long term seasonal planning, and what medical risks are growing. Nobody is doing that at a real level as I have seen some of the best teams in the world get hampered by very real world challenges that negate brilliant decision making. If one doesn’t have it written down in advance it’s just cool stories for blogs and conferences.

Of course we can get further into detail with various team sports, but unless I see a summary of the results and decisions made, I think it’s premature to start saying we are doing something of impact.

[1] Radar or spider graphs are great for basic screening of values 1-5 medically such as the PCA but I made a mistake to use them to represent comparisons. I am also seeing an influx in the use of spider charts with performance and medical programs that will include poor statistical practices that ruin the point of data collection….sharing! You can use and should use radar plots carefully, but only if they are translucent and organized by sector, not just a bunch of scores together. You can read more here about best practices.

Carl Valle

Carl Valle

Track & Field Coach
Carl is an expert coach who has produced champions in swimming, track and numerous other sports. He is one of the foremost experts in the fields of nutrition and restoration.
Carl Valle

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