Pau, France
Tuesday 1st November 2016

This month, Orreco, the Irish company that specialise in providing biomarker and data analytics solutions for high performing sports organisations and athletes, hosted their inaugural Sports Science Summit.  

Inviting their network of science and medical experts to come together as a unique "collaboratory", former Irish Rugby Union captain, Keith Wood, chaired the forum, to debate where the technological leaps that are occurring across numerous industries, might start to influence sports science and sports medicine in the short and medium term.  

Congregating in the historic Glenlo Abbey Hotel (see picture), Galway, the discussions raged about how the athletes of the future will be managed, with Craig Sharp's visionary article from 1996, documenting his predictions for the athlete of 2040 AD, being used as a reference point.

My last blog post summarised the presentations delivered in the first session, entitled "Sports Science & Medicine", whilst this post will focus on the presentations that comprised Session 2, "Applied Sports Science".  Presentations from Session 3,"Data Science", will follow in the subsequent post.


Time to Lighten Up About Sleep?  Dr. Charles Pedlar.

Dr. Charles Pedlar, Orreco's Chief Scientific Advisor, is a Visiting Research Associate in the Cardiovascular Performance Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and a Reader of Applied Sports and Exercise Science at St. Mary's University, London.  Dr. Pedlar has worked for over 15 years with Olympic and professional athletes in Europe and the USA, being awarded the BASES Practitioner of the Year in 2014.  Charlie has been a great source of advice and guidance over recent times in relation to the practical interpretations of biomarker profiling in some of the athletes I have worked with.

Charlie presented the background of sleep's contribution to recovery, related to the physiological processes that occur during rest, such as redox homeostasis and energy conservation.  Citing the study by Ramakrishman (2016), where sleep deprivation across several groups of subjects was investigated, Charlie highlighted the fact that the effects of sleep loss are predictable and can affect the presentation of colds (Cohen et al, 2009) and risk of sustaining musculoskeletal injury (Milewski et al, 2014).

Charlie continued by addressing the influence of light on circadian rhythm, both in terms of the risks to spending too much time indoors throughout the day, resulting in light deprivation, and those to blue light exposure prior to rest, resulting in compromised sleep quality (Wright et al, 2013).  

Charlie postulated that future developments would see indoor training venues flooded with natural light (or supplemented by artificial daylight illumination) and the use of cognitive computing allied to sleep monitoring guiding sleep prescription, contributing to performance enhancement in athletes.

The Training Room of the Future - a Comparison of Two NBA Rookies.  Dr. Andrew Barr.

Dr. Andrew Barr is Orreco's High Performance Specialist, having previously served as Head Physiotherapist at Manchester City FC, Director of Performance & Rehabilitation at the New York Knicks and Director of Medicine & Performance at New York City FC.

Andy presented an overview of the training load management in the NBA, where typically load is not individualised, the volume outweighs intensity, physical training occurs away from on-court training, younger players are expected to train more than veterans and the monitoring of load faces several challenges as a result.  In contrast to sports such as Australian Rules Football or European football, the value of an acclimatisation period is not considered for rookies in the NBA.  Furthermore, the nature of the league, overlays exceptional travel and emotional loads, which further exacerbate the lack of control over implementing progressive loading strategies and optimising recovery, which subsequently compromise athlete wellbeing.

Andy's glimpse into the future suggested enhanced athlete monitoring would lead to real-time physiological analysis, enabling the evaluation of nervous system status, sleep and effects of training and playing load.  Meanwhile, developments in the physical evaluation of players would monitor changes in speed, agility, biomechanical efficiency and reaction speed to compliment the physiological test findings.

From Shunned to SHEro: The Trajectory of the Female Athlete.  Dr. Kathryn Ackerman.

Dr. Kathryn Ackerman is a sports medicine physician and Director of the Female Athlete Program at Boston Children's Hospital, as well as Associate Director of the Sports Endocrine Research Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital and Assistant Professor in Orthopaedic Surgery at Harvard University.  Dr. Ackerman's research and clinical work focuses on sports endocrinology, performance and metabolic bone issues.

Kate charted the historic acceptance and rise of female sport, in response to greater physical and physiological understanding of females.  Kate argued that greater awareness needs to be achieved, addressing factors influencing performance in female athletes, which must be the focus of future research, such as timing of the menstrual cycle.

Kate suggested that such research will see the future female athlete working closely with endocrinologists and physicians to optimise the effects of cyclical variability in hormone levels, such as vasodilation, to enhance athletic performance.

Supporting Paralympic Champion David Weir: A Journey into the Unknown.  Dr. Richard Burden.

Dr. Richard Burden, Orreco's Senior Physiologist, is Head of Physiology at the English Institute of Sport and Senior Lecturer of Applied Physiology at St. Mary's University, London.  Dr. Burden has supported several Olympic and Paralympic athletes in both athletics and rowing and is involved with the physiology service at the British Olympic Association's Intensive Rehabilitation Unit.

Richard presented his experiences from working with Paralympic champion, David Weir, in the build up to the 2016 Olympic Games, in Rio de Janeiro.  Richard described the challenges of building a service to support David's coaching team, to guide his physiological development, despite the lack of existing knowledge in the area of wheelchair racing, the variability of physiological demands on the system when racing numerous distances between 100m and the marathon and the lack of funding available in disability sport.

Richard voiced a hope that future management of Paralympic athletes will be enhanced by a greater understanding of the physiological demands of disability sport.  In addition, Richard suggested that technological advances in sensor technology will enhance monitoring of physiological variability during training and competition.

The second session further energised discussions over lunch and the questions that Keith Wood fielded at the conclusion of the morning's presentation focused on resource allocation, research priorities, education and the challenges posed by governing bodies or players' associations to collecting valuable data needed to support player welfare and advance understanding of training response.

Hopefully, the practical elements covered in the second session will have appealed to those of you with a more applied tilt.  Meanwhile the final session of the Summit will cover the aspects of data science that can help inform the applied professions.


Cohen, S., Doyle, W.J., Alper, C.M., Janicki-Deverts, D. And Turner, R.B. (2009).  Sleep Habits and Susceptibility to the Common Cold.  Archives in Internal Medicine, 169 (1); pp. 62-67.

Kruger, M.J. And Smith, C. (2012).  Post-contusion polyphenol treatment alters inflammation and muscle regeneration.  Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 44 (5); pp. 872-880.

Milewski, M.D., Skaggs, D.L., Bishop, G.A., Pace, J.L., Ibrahim, D.A., Wren, T.A. and Barzdukas, A. (2014).  Chronic lack of sleep is associated with increased sports injuries in adolescent athletes.  Journal of Paediatric Orthopaedics, 34 (2), pp. 129-133.

Ramakrishnan, S., Wesensten, N.J., Balkin, T.J. and Reifman, J.A. (2016).  A unified model of sleep performance: validation of its predictions across different sleep/wake schedules.  Sleep, 39 (1); pp. 249-262.

Sharp, C. (1996).  The sub-24-minute 10,000 metres, 2040 AD.  British Journal of Sports Medicine, 30; pp. 181-182.

Wright, K.P., McHill, A.W., Birks, B.R., Griffin, B.R., Rusterholz, T., and Chinoy, E.D. (2013).  Entrainment of the Human Circadian Clock to the Natural Light- Dark Cycle.  Current Biology, 23 (16), pp. 1554-1558.

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