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Analysis and Comment (61)

Record breaking. Record breaking. EPA/Christophe Karaba

Can a human ever run 100m under nine seconds?

It is never easy to run 100m in less than ten seconds, as the recent Commonwealth Games demonstrated. However, as the world record stands at 9.58 seconds, the attention in recent years has turned to whether…
It’s tough out there. It’s tough out there. EPA/Yoan Valat

Explainer: how to win a Tour de France sprint

The final dash to the line in a Tour de France sprint finish may appear to the bystander to be a mess of bodies trying to cram into the width of a road, but there is a high degree of strategy involved…
Get in line. Riders keeping out of the wind on the road to Sheffield. Get in line. Riders keeping out of the wind on the road to Sheffield. Adam Bowie

The science behind Tour de France’s hide-and-seek tactics

When the Tour de France comes to town, it’s a chance to get your gladrags on. This year’s Grand Depart in Yorkshire saw Leeds decked out with yellow flowers, bikes placed in coffee bar windows, statues…
The heat is on. And referees can get it wrong. The heat is on. And referees can get it wrong. Tolga Bozoglu/EPA

Forget the players, World Cup referees are feeling the heat

There has been much hand-wringing over the problems that World Cup players are facing due to the environmental extremes they are exposed to in Brazil. There has been little sympathy for the men in black…
We’ll do better next time. We’ll do better next time. Tolga Bozoglu/EPA

Don’t blame England World Cup failures on inexperience

England’s footballers have had their worst ever start to a World Cup – and, bar a miracle, face an early exit. So begins the inevitable search to understand the cause of this calamity. The squad’s inexperience…
Now that’s composure. Now that’s composure. Owen Humphreys/PA

World Cup fever? How different climates will affect performance

No matter who’s playing, the first game of a World Cup is always special – full of excitement, anticipation and hope for tournament filled with skills, goals and drama. This time, hosts Brazil take on…
How do they do it? How do they do it? David Davies/PA Archive

Lutz or flutz? The tricky physics of figure skating

Figure skating is always the highlight of the Winter Olympics. With the introduction of a team competition this year, there are five figure skating events. And we’ve already seen much drama with records…
There are better – and easier – ways to cool athletes in extreme heat. There are better – and easier – ways to cool athletes in extreme heat. Nick Bedford

Chill out: FIFA World Cup ‘cooling periods’ should be put on ice

The international soccer community has been bitterly divided over the decision to award the 2022 FIFA World Cup to Qatar: beyond appalling stories of the working conditions of immigrants building stadiums…
Elite sports training is starting earlier and earlier – but is this always a good thing? Elite sports training is starting earlier and earlier – but is this always a good thing? School sport image from www.shutterstock.com

Do we really need elite sports training in schools?

A short conversation with a parent a number of years ago made me realise the extent of the problems we have in youth sport. This parent wanted advice on how to make his child faster and stronger to ensure…
Bradley Wiggins, Tour de Force. Bradley Wiggins, Tour de Force. Josh Hallett

What does it take to be an elite athlete? Depends on the sport

Wherever we look there seems to be amazing feats of physical, mental and skilled endeavour in sport. Cycling is often cited as one of the most elite and the climax of the Tour of Britain yesterday saw…
Scientists approach muscle memory from a variety of perspectives. Scientists approach muscle memory from a variety of perspectives. Helgi Halldórsson/Freddi

Explainer: muscle memory

“Muscle memory” is a frequently used term to describe the learning of motor skills, be they sport, music, or everyday activity. But interestingly, despite the widespread usage of the term, controversy…
Catching all dopers would be an expensive exercise, running into tens of millions of dollars. Catching all dopers would be an expensive exercise, running into tens of millions of dollars. EPA/Dominic Favre

Exposing dopers in sport: is it really worth the cost?

On the back of an interim report by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) into the Essendon Football Club’s controversial supplements program in 2011-12, the AFL last night charged the club…
For perfect pedalling, it’s important to do the rounds. For perfect pedalling, it’s important to do the rounds. Nicolas Bouvy/EPA

Pedalling technique and the Tour de France – watch and turn

Professional cyclists, such as those riding in this year’s Tour de France, have repeated the same circular pedalling action countless times. But does this mean they’ve developed a more effective pedalling…
They may be well-marketed, but how effective are ‘sports’ drinks like Gatorade in aiding performance and helping recovery? They may be well-marketed, but how effective are ‘sports’ drinks like Gatorade in aiding performance and helping recovery? mgstanton

High performance chocolate milk: why most sports supplements are more spin than substance

Endurance athletes, from weekend warriors to the elite, seek nutritional post-exercise products to enhance training and speed recovery. But for athletes, the challenge of negotiating the massive range…
In light of the Australian Crime Commission report into doping, we need to look at how sport scientists are taught. In light of the Australian Crime Commission report into doping, we need to look at how sport scientists are taught. Drugs in sport image from www.shutterstock.com

Doping shock: pointing the finger at sports scientists

The report recently released by the Australian Crime Commission sent shock waves through the sporting world, implicating sport scientists and other support personnel in unethical doping practices. The…
Serge Pauwels (left) rode conservatively during stage 4 of the Tour Down Under. Serge Pauwels (left) rode conservatively during stage 4 of the Tour Down Under. AAP Image/Benjamin Macmahon

How did amateurs compare with pros at the Tour Down Under?

If you’ve ever watched a professional bike race such as the Tour de France on TV, you might have thought to yourself: “Just how good are the professionals?” And if you do a bit of cycling yourself, you…
Are displays of emotion from sportspeople about convincing us that it’s not just about the money? Are displays of emotion from sportspeople about convincing us that it’s not just about the money? fox2mike/flickr

It’ll end in tears: why athletes cry and what it means

Any major sporting triumph without euphoric emotion or a serious opening of the floodgates would seem strange. Commentators tell us that tears show “passion”. Fans seem to demand them. It wasn’t always…
Could a variable workload have contributed to Ben Hilfenhaus’s side strain? Could a variable workload have contributed to Ben Hilfenhaus’s side strain? AAP Image/Chris Crerar

Cricket Australia’s ‘rotation policy’ could be causing injuries

Cricket Australia has come under fire in recent years for their contentious “rotation policy” – the method by which players are “rested” despite being injury-free and often in good form. Representatives…
If Serena Williams didn’t play tennis, would her sheer athleticism ensure an elite career in another sport? If Serena Williams didn’t play tennis, would her sheer athleticism ensure an elite career in another sport? AAP

Fitness play-off: how tennis stars compare with other athletes

Ever wondered how elite tennis players compare to their contemporaries in other sports? Does Rafael Nadal have the same leg power as world 100m sprint champion Usain Bolt? Would Australian Sam Groth’s…
There are many links between training on clay and hard courts success. There are many links between training on clay and hard courts success. EPA/Yoan Valat

Training on clay: a recipe for success at the Australian Open?

Every year Melbourne plays host to the first major hard court tennis championship of the year – the Australian Open. The blue court surfaces of Melbourne Park are now a familiar part of the Australian…
How good will Bernard Tomic turn out to be? We can look to science for (some of) the answers. How good will Bernard Tomic turn out to be? We can look to science for (some of) the answers. AAP Image/David Crosling

Numbers game: the Australian Open and predicting success

The Australian Open is upon us for another year, and the best tennis players in the world have assembled in Melbourne to compete for the right to call themselves “champion”. Much of the focus will be on…
Heart rate provides real-time measurements of cardiovascular responses to exercise. Heart rate provides real-time measurements of cardiovascular responses to exercise. samwebster

Beat surrender: using heart rate to monitor fitness and training

Whether the intent is to increase athletic performance or enhance fitness in the face of an ever-expanding chronic disease epidemic, a structured exercise program is essential. The ability to monitor intensity…
The shoulder-charge ban will encourage tackles rather than ‘big-hit’ collisions. The shoulder-charge ban will encourage tackles rather than ‘big-hit’ collisions. AAP

Safety before entertainment – league’s priorities right on shoulder-charge ban

The Australian Rugby League (ARL) Commission’s decision last week to ban the shoulder charge from all competitions from 2013 has divided fans. Some applaud the decision in the name of improving player…
Swimming isn’t the best way to settle that full stomach but it’s unlikely to cause you to drown. Swimming isn’t the best way to settle that full stomach but it’s unlikely to cause you to drown. Jaypeg

Monday’s medical myth: wait 30 minutes after eating before you swim

The old saying that you should wait at least 30 minutes after eating before you swim is based on the idea that after a big meal, blood will be diverted away from your arms and legs, towards your stomach’s…
If you don’t have time for hours of exercise every week, short, intense efforts might work instead. If you don’t have time for hours of exercise every week, short, intense efforts might work instead. Michael Lokner

Fast and furious: intensity is the key to health and fitness

Less than 40% of Australians achieve the minimum amount of physical activity recommended by government and professional organisations. This contributes to the fact 60% of Australians are overweight or…
There is currently no evidence to show helmets help prevent concussion or more serious head injury. There is currently no evidence to show helmets help prevent concussion or more serious head injury. AAP

Helmets won’t cure football’s concussion headache

We’ve heard a lot about concussion this AFL season, with claims that too many knocks to the head can cause mental illness, calls for more research into the possible link between football concussions and…
Emotional intelligence is the order of the day, it seems, for trainee referees. Emotional intelligence is the order of the day, it seems, for trainee referees. Colin Whelan/AAP Image

Developing the mental skills of NRL referees is a no-brainer

It was encouraging to read recently that promising young rugby league referees are being offered the opportunity and time to invest in the development of their mental skills prior to taking on the pressure…
The Australian Steelers celebrate a gold medal after beating Canada in the men’s wheelchair rugby final. The Australian Steelers celebrate a gold medal after beating Canada in the men’s wheelchair rugby final. Kerim Okten/EPA

Beyond the Paralympics: where to for disability sport in Australia?

As the bright lights of the London 2012 Paralympic Games begin to dim, and as the media focus diverts back to everyday life, we’re left with a pertinent question: where to now for disability sport in Australia…
Sometimes having no legs is better than having one. Sometimes having no legs is better than having one. EPA/Jonathan Brady

Pistorius shouldn’t be allowed to compete at the Paralympics

There has been a considerable amount of media coverage surrounding South African amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius who competed at the London Olympics and is now competing at the London Paralympics. The…
Oilveira’s come-from-behind victory raises questions about the advantages provided by prosthetic legs. Oilveira’s come-from-behind victory raises questions about the advantages provided by prosthetic legs. Julian Stratenschulte/EPA

Beaten by a length? Pistorius, Oliveira and Paralympic fairness

In a major upset, Alan Oliveira of Brazil beat Oscar Pistorius to win an extraordinary T43/44 200 metre race today. But did Oliveira have an unfair advantage? The 20-year-old Brazilian finished ahead of…
More than 30 years have passed since the AFL last looked at the specifications and standards for making Australian footballs. More than 30 years have passed since the AFL last looked at the specifications and standards for making Australian footballs. puuikibeach

On the ball: does the AFL need to design a better footy?

In the game of Australian Rules Football (as with other football codes), few pieces of equipment are more important than the football itself. And yet the relative attention paid to the ball by the AFL…
When it comes to design and performance, all wheelchairs are not created equally. When it comes to design and performance, all wheelchairs are not created equally. April Fonti/AAP

Wheelchair technology in the Paralympics … and its spin-offs

Equipment such as wheelchairs or prosthesis is fundamental in allowing some people with disabilities to carry out the tasks of daily living. But in the endeavour to go higher, faster and longer, athletes…
Team Australia will be aiming to reach higher in 2016. Team Australia will be aiming to reach higher in 2016. AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy

Rio-bound: can Australia bounce back for the next Summer Olympics?

With the London Games fading into memory it’s time now for us to focus on Rio 2016. One of the questions on many people’s lips is one of whether Australia will do better on the medal tally in Rio than…
Sprinter Brendan Cole (left) and swimmer Tomasso D'Orsogna enjoy the recovery facilities at the Australian Institute of Sport’s (AIS) Recovery Centre in Canberra. Sprinter Brendan Cole (left) and swimmer Tomasso D'Orsogna enjoy the recovery facilities at the Australian Institute of Sport’s (AIS) Recovery Centre in Canberra. Australian Sports Commission

Australian Olympic athletes – underperforming or underdeveloped?

It’s no secret – Australia underperformed at the 2012 London Olympics. But was the criticism directed at our Olympians unfair on the athletes, coaches, and support staff who worked so hard, and gave up…
Understanding the mechanics of breast movement feeds into better design for sports bras. Understanding the mechanics of breast movement feeds into better design for sports bras. mikebaird

Bouncing breasts: the science of the sports bra

If you’re female and exercise, a certain amount of breast movement is inevitable. But bosom movement extends beyond bouncing up and down – it also involves moving side to side, which impacts on breast…
Pasta and other carbohydrate-rich foods can boost muscle glycogen stores. Pasta and other carbohydrate-rich foods can boost muscle glycogen stores. chrismar

Carbo loading for sport is simple … when you know how

During the London Olympics, and beyond, many endurance athletes will attempt to increase their muscle glycogen stores by carbohydrate loading. This is because, despite its importance, glycogen is a fuel…
Scientists are looking for ever-more-sophisticated ways to find and optimise athletes. Scientists are looking for ever-more-sophisticated ways to find and optimise athletes. Steven Johnson

Athletic ability and genetics: can science spot a sure-fire winner?

For more than 50 years, sport scientists have used a variety of physical tests to try and identify those exceptional athletes who walk among us. Despite most countries having some sort of athlete talent…
There’s more to conquering hills than dropping a few kilos. There’s more to conquering hills than dropping a few kilos. AAP image

Tour de France: the science of hill climbing

As the Tour de France enters its final week, riders have already negotiated some of the toughest climbs in Europe, and have some major climbs still to go. So what makes some of those riders successful…
Ceilings on physical ability are there – sometimes – to be broken. Ceilings on physical ability are there – sometimes – to be broken. EPA/Hannibal

Is there a limit to athletic performance?

We once thought no-one could run a mile in less than four minutes – and yet the current world record stands at three minutes, 43 seconds. So will records keep tumbling as people get fitter and technology…
It’s obvious: better referee performance is better for players and better for spectators. Right? It’s obvious: better referee performance is better for players and better for spectators. Right? AAP Image/Joe Castro

Sports referees should take performance-enhancing drugs

Late last week football (soccer) website football365.com reported that FIFA, the international governing body for the world game, is considering forcing referees to pass fitness tests prior to games. This…
Shane Perkins is just one of the Australians going for gold at the world championships. Shane Perkins is just one of the Australians going for gold at the world championships. AAP Image/David Crosling

Track Cycling World Championships – the making of modern sprinters

Today in Melbourne the 2012 UCI Track Cycling World Championships get underway. Results from the five-day competition will determine which riders represent the various national track cycling teams at the…
You might feel great after going for a jog, but is the “high” purely psychological? You might feel great after going for a jog, but is the “high” purely psychological? Tobyotter

Happiness is a long run: why jogging gets you high

A new study is tapping into a phenomenon most of us have heard about and some of us might claim to have experienced at some point – “runner’s high”. In doing so, this study touches on something fundamentally…
Where Collingwood lead, others seemingly follow. Where Collingwood lead, others seemingly follow. AAP Image/Julian Smith

Team altitude training and the AFL – it’s time to clear the air

Tomorrow evening in Sydney, the ball will be bounced, marking the start of the first match in the 2012 AFL season. For the 18 clubs taking the field this year, it marks the culmination of months of gruelling…
Heavy hands might not always make light work in finals. Heavy hands might not always make light work in finals. Vivek Prakash/ Reuters Pool

Do big servers have the edge at the Australian Open?

With the Australian Open into its final few days, we’re starting to see the best tennis players in the world come to the fore. And to be the best in the world, you need a well-rounded game, including a…
Last year’s Australian Open women’s runner-up Li Na in action at the Sydney International this week. Last year’s Australian Open women’s runner-up Li Na in action at the Sydney International this week.

Australian Open: returning a 200km/h serve is easy when you know how (but not really)

Australia’s summer of tennis is a great opportunity to see the world’s best players up close, hitting hard and serving big. Many elite players hit first serves at over 200km/h with great precision and…
Wallabies player Drew Mitchell is taken from the field after an injury during Rugby World Cup match between Australia and Russia. Wallabies player Drew Mitchell is taken from the field after an injury during Rugby World Cup match between Australia and Russia. AAP Image/Dave Hunt

Rugby World Cup injuries: That’s gotta hurt

RUGBY WORLD CUP – The Cup has already taken its toll on many players – finalists New Zealand have lost star player, Dan Carter and Australia goes into its battle for third place against Wales four men…
Players don’t realise it, but the finals bring out the best in them. Players don’t realise it, but the finals bring out the best in them. AAP Image/Joe Castro

AFL Grand Final makes players harder, better, faster, stronger … but how?

Anyone with a passing interest in Australian football will know the AFL Grand Final is unlike any other game of the season. There’s more hype, more expectation, more emotional investment from players and…
New Zealand defeated Tonga in the opening game of the 2011 Rugby World Cup. New Zealand defeated Tonga in the opening game of the 2011 Rugby World Cup. AFP Photo/Franck Fife

Art or science? Decision-making in rugby

RUGBY WORLD CUP – In the latest of The Conversation’s series on the Rugby World Cup, former Wallabies player, James Holbeck and Professor of Sport Science at Victoria University, Damian Farrow, discuss…
Some AFL teams spend the off season at high altitude. Some AFL teams spend the off season at high altitude. kangaroos.com.au

A higher calling, but does altitude training work?

You might have heard about athletes and other sportspeople absconding to high-altitude locations for training. Indeed altitude training has become the training-method-du-jour for sporting codes around…
The time trial is critical to Evans' chances in the 2011 Tour de France. The time trial is critical to Evans' chances in the 2011 Tour de France. AFP/Pascal Pavani

Cadel Evans and other machines: the science of the Tour de France time trial

Following the 18th stage of the 2011 Tour de France last night, the top six riders are within less than four minutes of one another: Cadel Evans, Andy Schleck, Frank Schleck, Ivan Basso, Damian Cunego…
Climbing mountains is all about fighting gravity. Climbing mountains is all about fighting gravity. Nicolas Bouvy/EPA

The science of elite cycling: Tour de France (stages 12 to 21)

This is the second in a two-part series about the science of Le Tour de France. Part one is here. After 1,916 kilometres of the 2011 Tour de France we’re starting to see some of the favourites make their…
With more than 3,000 kilometres to cover, technique is only part of the equation. With more than 3,000 kilometres to cover, technique is only part of the equation. Nicolas Bouvy/EPA

The science of elite cycling: Tour de France (stages 1 to 11)

This weekend, approximately 200 of the world’s best cyclists will begin competing in one of the most challenging sporting events in the world: Le Tour de France. Le Tour is widely regarded as the most…
Olympic athletes – among others – will benefit from the new technology. Olympic athletes – among others – will benefit from the new technology. Tracey Nearmy/AAP Image

Smart sensors save swimmers seconds

For Olympic swimmers, the blink of an eye can be the difference between first and forgotten. Everyone wants an edge, which is why elite athletes train relentlessly and why coaches push them hard. Alongside…
It’s important to change your running style to adapt to running without shoes. It’s important to change your running style to adapt to running without shoes.

Sole survivors: the secret to barefoot running

There’s a growing interest in barefoot running, especially in relation to running long distances. Research articles, opinion pieces, and websites have argued both for and against the efficacy of running…
The AFL set-shot is as much about consistency as it is about the right technique. The AFL set-shot is as much about consistency as it is about the right technique. AAP/Martin Philbey

Centimetre-perfect: a quest for flawless goalkicking in the AFL

When the AFL has a weekend of inaccurate goal-kicking, media attention invariably turns to why set-shot goal-kicking hasn’t improved while other areas of footy have. As a footy fan, I have an interest…

Research Briefs (3)