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Sport Performance Newsletter - November Issue

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Athletes, Coaches, and Sports Science and Medicine Professionals,

Welcome to USA Track and Field’s new Sports Science and Medicine Newsletter.  This electronic newsletter will appear monthly, and will be distributed via email and available on the web at under Athlete Development.  Each newsletter will begin with a lead in article, written by various sports science and medicine professionals affiliated with USATF and the USOC.  These professionals will tell you about their role in High Performance with USATF, as well as their thoughts on a particular topic of interest.  The newsletter will also include timely information on science based USATF programs and services, as well as a series of brief summaries and links to recent sports science and medicine research articles, which may be of interest to coaches and athletes. All told, I hope that you will find the newsletter to be a helpful resource.

As the newest member of the High Performance department at the national office, I am excited about my role in helping to administer sports science and medicine programs for USATF.  One of the great advantages we have in our country is the broad base of scientific personnel and knowledge we have, specific to sports performance.  These researchers, physicians, and clinicians are passionate about discovering what factors limit performance and what interventions and resources we can use to help athletes compete at their best.  We have a great sports science and medicine team affiliated with USATF and you will be hearing from many of them in the coming months through this newsletter, at the Podium Education Project, or at High Performance Summits and Workshops.

Under the leadership of the late Harmon Brown, sports science and medicine programs at USATF saw tremendous growth, with a goal to help enhance performance of our top athletes and educate coaches and athletes of best practices from a scientific perspective.  Now, under the care of sports medicine committee chair Bob Adams and sports sciences sub-chair Mel Ramey, and with the leadership of USATF Chief of Sports Performance Benita Fitzgerald-Mosley, USATF has even more strongly embraced the role sports science and medicine programs can have on advancing the performance of our best and brightest athletes.

Moving forward, the operating model of USATF sports science is to continue to expand on our knowledge of what limits performance in each of the event areas, then share and apply that knowledge directly with athletes and coaches.  To accomplish this task, we have four different methods we will utilize.  (1) For the elite athlete, sports science services will continue in the form of biomechanical filming at national championships, subsequent video analysis by leading sports scientists, various physiological testing programs, and filming at High Performance competitive opportunities.  (2) Direct sharing of scientific information and elite athlete analysis will take place at High Performance Summits, and USATF affiliated sports scientists will continue to support USATF’s Coaching Education mission at the Podium Education Project and Level I, II, and III schools.  (3) In a new program titled Sports Performance Workshops, select elite athletes and their coaches will interact in a one-on-one on-track setting with top biomechanists, physiologists, sports psychologists, nutritionists, and medical staff.  This new model takes the science out of the classroom and laboratory and puts it directly on the track, providing the most applied interventions possible to help elite athletes and coaches in pursuit of performance excellence. Workshops will be event specific and will take place multiple times per year.  For more information on Sports Performance workshops, including eligibility criteria and a calendar of dates, visit and click on Athlete Development. (4) Additionally through, we will create a resource of articles, blogs, and videos, containing scientific and medical based content that coaches and athletes of all ages and levels will find useful.

On the medical front, USATF has taken a number of proactive steps to improve both access and quality of care to elite athletes.  Medical reimbursement funding has increased substantially for 2011.  New programs offering blood testing and physiological analysis will be offered.  Support for nutritional and sports psychology counseling will be made available.  Each of these new programs saw their genesis in direct response to the requests of athletes and coaches, and the USOC has embraced these efforts as part of USATF’s High Performance Plan for 2011.  The highly successful St Vincent Sports Performance medical support program will continue for 2011, offering free medical care for qualified elite athletes at their Indianapolis facility.  Information about each of these programs can be found by visiting and clicking on Athlete Support.
All told, I hope you will share in my excitement for the renewed and expanded commitment that USATF has given to sports science and medicine programs.  Keep in mind that at the end of the day, the professionals affiliated with USATF sports science and medicine are contributing their time, talent, and efforts for a single reason:  to help athletes run faster, jump higher, and throw farther.  It is why I joined the national office, and why I am proud to serve the sport.

All the Best,
Robert Chapman, Ph.D. FACSM
Associate Director of Sports Science and Medicine
USA Track and Field

Next month’s USATF Sports Science and Medicine newsletter introduction will be from Dr. Peter Vint, High Performance Director at the US Olympic Committee.

USATF Sports Science and Medicine notes

  • Nominations are now open for sports medicine staff positions for the 2011 World Championships and the 2011 Pan American Games.  To see a list of criteria to serve in these medical positions and to download an application, visit
  • Medical providers who wish to serve on a Pan American Games or Olympic Games staff are required by the USOC to complete a two week residence program and evaluation at an Olympic Training Center.  For more information about this USOC program, visit
  • Athletes are STRONGLY encouraged to renew their USATF membership for 2011 as soon as possible.  Why?  To maintain your coverage under USATF’s Accident Insurance Policy.  This secondary accident insurance policy provides supplemental coverage for certain athlete medical costs in case of an acute injury or accident that occurs during a scheduled club practice, competition, in transit to practice or competition, or at USATF committee activities (like Sports Performance Workshops).  Without an active 2011 membership, claims under this policy for injuries or accidents that occur in 2011 will be denied.  So don’t wait until Indoor or XC Nationals to renew – you can do it now, even before the first of the year.  To renew your USATF membership for 2011 and maintain this valuable coverage, visit  For more information on the USATF Accident Insurance Policy, visit
  • For a calendar of upcoming Sports Performance Workshops, visit and click on Athlete Programs. 

     USATF Podium Education Project offers Cutting Edge Sport Science information with this year’s Speakers - Coaches will gather in Virginia Beach, Virginia for a one day symposium on Wednesday, December 1 to hear the latest techniques and strategies for combating LIMITING FACTORS IN PERFORMANCE, the title of this year’s symposium. World renowned sport scientist, Inigo Mujika will be the main headliner. Inigo has traveled the world speaking on the research and findings for TAPERING AND PEAKING FOR OPTIMAL PERFORMANCE. Inigo holds PHD’s in Biology of Muscular Exercise plus Physical Activity and Sport Science. His research and main interest is in the field of applied sport science which includes training methods and recovery from exercise, tapering, detraining, and overtraining. He is currently the Director of Physiology and Training at USP Araba Sport Clinic,  Physiology Consultant of the Spanish Swimming Federation, Associate Editor for the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, and Associate Professor at the University of the Basque Country. He received research fellowships in Australia, France, and South Africa, published nearly 80 articles in peer reviewed journals, and has given over 130 lectures at international conferences and meetings. His information and cutting edge research should serve coaches as they prepare athletes for the next two years of international competition with the 2011 World Championships and the 2012 Olympics. Other speakers who will offer important incite on Limiting Factors to Performance with be the USOC team of sport scientists headed up by Dr. Peter Vint, Director of High Performance at the USOC. The one day symposium will be conduct at the Cavalier Hotel, Virginia Beach, Virginia. Members of the Coaches Registry had a free coupon available to access registration at:

  • High Performance Division names USOC Coaches of the Year 
    Two highly successful coaches has been awarded 2010 USOC Coach of the Year awards by USATF and will represent the NGB to the USOC as it selects their Coaches of the Year from all NGBs. Alberto Salazar, Nike elite coach and Director of the Nike Oregon Project has been named as USATF’s nominee for the USOC “Doc” Councilman Science Award. The “Doc” Councilman Award is for a coach that utilizes scientific techniques/equipment as an integral part of his coaching methods or created innovative ways to use sport science.
    Alberto Salazar, as the originator of the Nike Oregon Project, went about building an environment in Portland , Oregon that would give his athletes the advantages of living in a high altitude environment while living at sea level. He involves the latest cutting edge science into his coaching by utilizing a complete team of sport scientists who integrate their knowledge into the individual training regimen of his athletes. Due to the success of Alberto’s athletes and the interest created with these new training environments  for distance runners, the US distance running community have more readily embraced the component of altitude training in yearly training regimens. Alberto’s contribution to the success of American distance runners has reached well beyond the city limits of Portland, Oregon.
    USATF has nominated Brooks Johnson for the USOC National Coach of the Year. This award is one of a long list of awards and accomplishments for Coach Johnson who has over 50 years as a successful coach in the World arena of Track and Field. The USOC National Coach is a coach of an Elite Level Club, Collegiate, Pan-Am World Championship or Olympic Games coach or the coach of an elite athlete who competes at the highest level of your sport. The award is based on the accomplishments of the coach in the year 2010.
    Brooks Johnson, who has coached an athlete in every Olympic since 1960, had an outstanding year in 2010, as he guided his star hurdler, David Oliver, back from injury in 2009 to set an American Record which had stood for twenty years, to the overall winner of the IAAF Diamond League. David was the USA National Champion in the 110 Hurdles, and the winner of the IAAF Continental Cup. It was an outstanding year of undefeated hurdling which was closely supervised by a seasoned, veteran coach who understands  the intimate traits and  talents of Olympic Champions. Brooks currently coaches an elite group of athletes at the Disney world sports center in Orlando, Florida.

Sports Science and Medicine – new studies of note

  • Heat acclimation improves exercise performance in both hot and cool temperatures
    Researchers at the University of Oregon and the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine found that 10 days of heat acclimation improved exercise performance in both hot (100°F) and cool (55°F) environments in trained cyclists.  Heat acclimation consisted of two 45-minute cycling bouts at a moderate intensity in a hot environment (104°F) for ten consecutive days.  After acclimation the cyclists exhibited increased VO2max, improved time trial performance, and increased lactate threshold in both hot and cool environments.   Heat acclimation, in a manner similar to the “live high – train low” concept, (where performance improvements are seen at both altitude and sea-level), could be a useful component in the training regimens of high-level athletes.
  • Mental tenacity of elite athletes
    Mary Wittenberg, president and chief executive of the New York Road Runners, recently stated that “mental tenacity — and the ability to manage and even thrive on and push through pain — is a key segregator between the mortals and immortals in running.”  Researchers say that intense efforts are not any easier for elite athletes, but elite athletes do seem to take advantage of certain performance “tricks.”  For example, becoming familiar with a course or venue can allow an athlete to go faster – even though they feel that they are giving the same maximal effort as when they were unfamiliar with the course.  Elite athletes also tend to “associate,” or focus intensely on the exercise being performed, whereas lesser-accomplished athletes “dissociate,” or think of other things to distract from the exercise itself.
  • Many elite female endurance athletes exhibit features of the female athlete triad; regular screening recommended
    A recent study examined the relationships between bone mineral density (BMD), menstrual status, disordered eating, and training volume in 44 female elite endurance runners.  Over one-third of the runners had low BMD, nearly two-thirds were not menstruating normally, and 16% exhibited the combination of low BMD, menstrual dysfunction, and disordered eating (i.e., the female athlete triad).  Additionally, higher training volumes were significantly associated with lower bone mineral density.  Future implications for these athletes may be severely decreased bone loss by menopause and higher incidence of morbidity.  The authors suggest that all high-level female endurance athletes (not just those with menstrual dysfunction) undergo bone mineral density scanning and screening for disordered eating, as well as receive education emphasizing the importance of optimum energy availability.
  • Rehydration-specific drinks fare better than the average sports drink in combating performance decrements from dehydration 
    Rehydration drinks containing simple sugars, maltodextrin (a more complex, easily digestible sugar), electrolytes (sodium and potassium), essential amino acids, and other nutrients have the potential to lessen the performance decrements that are seen with dehydration.  A recent study showed that healthy males had less of a decline in subsequent maximal exercise performance when they drank Rehydrate Electrolyte Replacement Drink after a dehydrating workout than when they drank Gatorade (i.e., simple sugars and electrolytes) or Crystal Light (i.e., water).
  • Fewer carbs and more protein?  The effect of a low carbohydrate beverage with added protein on endurance performance
    A study out of the University of Texas found that a beverage containing a mixture of different carbohydrates and a moderate amount of protein was as or more effective as a traditional carbohydrate beverage during exhaustive exercise.  The mixed carb-protein drink had 50% less total carbohydrate and 30% fewer calories than the carb-only beverage, but for trained cyclists exercising at or below their ventilatory thresholds, the time to exhaustion was greater with the mixed drink.  For cyclists exercising above the ventilatory threshold (i.e., at very high workloads) the time to exhaustion was the same between drinks.  The study shows that a mixed carb-protein drink with fewer total calories than a traditional sports drink can actually improve exercise time to exhaustion, especially when exercising at lower intensities…which should make those athletes concerned about total caloric intake cheer!
  • The two-hour marathon:  who and when?
    Based on research from physiology, biomechanics, genetics, and elite endurance performance history, a “viewpoint” article in the Journal of Applied Physiology suggests that the individual who could potentially break the two-hour marathon barrier will have exceptional running economy, small body size, exposure to high altitude, and be physically active from an early age.  The individual will likely also have a relatively high VO2max and lactate threshold and may be from an East African country.  However, when or even if this barrier will be broken?  Still unknown…
  • Is bicycling bad for your bones?
    A number of recent studies have indicated that competitive cyclists have low bone mass densities.  One study showed that 32 male competitive riders had significantly less bone density in the spine than age-matched non-competitive subjects.  Another study, which followed cyclists over the course of a racing season, found that the cyclists’ already low bone densities in their hips decreased even further.  Three-months post racing season, the riders had regained some of the bone loss.  Comparisons of runners, cyclists, and weight-lifters consistently show that cyclists have lower bone mineral densities than runners or lifters.  Weight-bearing exercise like running stresses and strengthens the bones, thus it makes sense that cyclists may have lower bone densities than runners; however, it is still unclear why cyclists would have lower bone densities than the average population.  The answer may be related to an overall energy imbalance (i.e. burning more calories than what is being taken in) throughout the day and calcium loss through high sweat rates.  Athletes who train hard and often on the bike (including athletes who may be cycling intensely as rehabilitation) should be sure to weight-lift, as well as consume calcium-enriched drinks while riding.
  • Do women sweat differently than men?
    Researchers looked at the sweating responses of trained men and women athletes, as well as untrained age- and gender-matched control subjects.  Testing consisted of riding a stationary bicycle in a room set to a temperature of 86°F, starting at an easy workload and gradually increasing the intensity over the course of an hour.  The researchers measured how much sweat the cyclists produced on their skin and how many sweat glands were activated (overall sweat rate depends on how many sweat glands are activated and how much sweat each produces).  The fit men sweat significantly more than the fit women, but the same number of sweat glands were activated in fit men and women; the fit women’s sweat glands just produced less sweat.  The unfit women sweat the least; their core temperatures rose significantly before they began to sweat.  Early onset of sweating allows one to dissipate heat through evaporation and helps to not reach critically high body temperatures.  Clearly, there is both a fitness and gender component to perspiration during intense exercise.


Have a question related to Sport Performance? Contact USATF’s Dr. Robert Chapman:

photo of Robert Chapman Robert Chapman, Ph.D. FACSM
Associate Director for Sports Science & Medicine

Phone: 317-713-4669


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