In 2010 one player during the world cup was seen at the physio room getting his eyes checked. The rumor he had a concussion but they were not checking for brain injury but for fatigue with the use of pupillometry. Two years later the start-up in Finland thought that using a rapid test of the eyes would replace the HRV tests of a minute because it took a few seconds to get data. Coaches who are talented have the ability to communicate and see someone who is tired from facial recognition and movement, but the eyes tell a lot of information. In June of 2009 I felt that the mobile options of HRV would cause a disruption to the Omegawave, now I think we need to create some balance with RPE and Objective measures.
How does one track the daily practice of athletes? Attendance is a start, subjective indicators get annoying, and HRV only shares the physiology part of the equation. Now that TMG is gaining interest, is it time to get back to analog options? When I have gone to clinics and asked great coaches with very minimal sport science backgrounds I ask how do they know who needs a break, who is just a little tired, and who is just lazy. Most seem to just know by experience but never share really good descriptions of symptoms. Experience is great but what about the athletes we are working right now? Here are three mini stories I liked that seemed to resonate with me.
One sprinter from Canada was training at USF and did a full warm-up and went home. I have never seen an athlete look so good warming up but just miss the workout. I felt he was lazy or on a purist program but he was aware that an injury would mean a huge therapy bill and just warmed down and went home. It takes a lot of courage to not give in to get the work down planned, but experienced athletes and great coaches know when something is not right because the risks of injury to elite sprinters or any hard working athlete should be thought of. If you hesitate, don’t sprint.
A schedule conflict ruined a warm weather training camp for a team that was in Florida. For 3-4 days the rain just came down HARD. It was like a curse. The skies were clear from 8pm to 6am but seem to thunder and lightning. The weather cleared and the athletes wanted to get going because the week was ending.The coach watched the warm up and everyone felt rested and wanted to go hard. He conditioned everyone with tempo and sprinted the next day. He realized that the flight from Europe, the broken elevator, and other factors had to be evaluated. He adjusted and got three good sprint sessions in a 10 day period instead of trying to get 4 or 5.
Joint restrictions don’t show up on blood pressure readings, HRV on the smart phone, or GPS software. Weaving in and out of a warm-up and reminding athletes to give feedback to their soreness and tightness is vital. A gradual warm-up is the best screen for readiness. I love using ithlete and it’s an early warning system for me to plan in the morning, but the mechanical aspects during a 45 minute plus warm-up must be taken into consideration. Nobody is on the injury list for ruptured mitochondria, poor vagal tone, or adrenal fatigue. Fatigue sets up injury but mechanics and joint function with fresh or rested athletes are cardinal signs. Every meet I look for the athlete focusing on one trouble spot and see if in the race he or she blows up. It’s often a crapshoot but time to time you see the pull or the limp off the track. Some coaches I know bet on the spot in the 100m where someone will blow up.
I think the key is looking for what ways that engage the athletes. No matter how great something is on paper or how interesting the research posted on twitter the guru shares, the reality is that athletes will be athletes. What you can get them to do or take advantage of what they like dictates the monitoring system.