Friday, March 21, 2014

Female soccer players get tired more, run hard less

Every year billions of people across the globe tune in to watch the UEFA Champions League in which men compete, yet the number who tune-in to watch the female equivalent is miniscule and research carried out at a North East University has discovered it is a whole different ball game.

For the first time both versions of the sport have been compared by the University of Sunderland to discover how the male game differs from that of the female game from a physical and technical point of view.

Research published in the journal Human Movement Science analysed 54 male and 59 female football (soccer) player observations in the UEFA Champions League. It is the first study to focus on high-intensity running in football for both men and women.

They found that during the course of a typical UEFA Champions League match male players covered approximately 3-5 per cent more distance in total than females but covered around 30 per cent more distance at high intensity. The research also showed female players did not cover as much distance in the second half at a high intensity as they did in the first half, while male players did manage to maintain their running performances.

There were no gender differences shown between attackers and central defenders; however male full-backs, central and wide midfielders covered more distance at high intensity compared to female players in the same position.

The research, 'Gender differences in match performance characteristics of soccer players', also showed the difference in technical characteristics with female players losing the ball more frequently and having a lower pass completion rate.

Dr Paul Bradley, led the research and is a Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Sunderland. He said: "We can clearly see that the male and female game at the top level is very different both physically and technically. It was very interesting to see fairly similar total distances but substantial differences at high intensity between gender. The larger drop off in running performance in the second half for females could be due and their lower physical capacity thus, the demands of the game cause fatigue in the second half."

It is now hoped the research can be used to provide gender-specific training for professionals in both male and female footballers to improve physical and technical performance.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

MLB pitchers don't regain performance level after Tommy John surgery

     Major League Baseball players who undergo Tommy John surgery are less likely to regain the performance level they had before surgery, according to a Henry Ford Hospital study.

The study is the first to show a link between the surgery and declining pitching performance at the professional level. It also involved the largest cohort of professional pitchers to date to examine the issue.

Researchers analyzed pitching statistics of 168 MLB pitchers before and after surgery between 1982 and 2010 and found diminishing returns in three major pitching categories: Earned runs average (ERA), walks and hits per inning pitched (WHIP) and innings pitched (IP). The findings:

ERA increased 4.15 to 4.74.
WHIP increased 1.40 to 1.48.
IP declined 59 to 50.

"Tommy John surgery is an effective surgery and most pitchers get back to pitching after surgery. But it's not going to improve their level of performance," says Vasilios (Bill) Moutzouros, M.D., a Henry Ford orthopedic surgeon and the study's senior author.

"There's been a perception that the surgery will make you better. Our findings debunk that perception. Eighty to 90 percent of major league pitchers will get back to pitching at the major league level but they just won't be as effective as they were before injury."

The study is being presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons March 11-15 in New Orleans.

Tommy John surgery, named after the former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher who underwent the pioneering surgery 40 years ago, has been since performed on legions of pitchers at the professional and collegiate levels. In medicine it is known as ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction. During the two-hour outpatient procedure, the ulnar collateral ligament in the medial elbow is replaced with a tendon from the same arm or from the hamstring area.


 IMAGE: This is Vasilios (Bill) Moutzouros, M.D., a Henry Ford Hospital orthopedic surgeon and study's senior author.
Click here for more information.

Until Henry Ford's observational study, other research had shown that a high percentage of players returned to the same level of performance after UCL reconstruction, and the perception among players, coaches and parents was that UCL reconstruction would even lead to a higher level of performance. In the only other study involving just MLB pitchers (68 pitchers), 82 percent of them returned to the mound after surgery and had no significant decline in performance.

Henry Ford researchers sought to examine the effects of UCL reconstruction on pitching performance involving the largest cohort of MLB pitchers and identify risk factors associated with the pitching injury, says Robert Keller, M.D., a third-year Henry Ford orthopedic resident and study co-author whose father Phil was a teammate of Tommy John in the 1970s.

The cohort of 168 pitchers pitched in at least major league game after undergoing UCL reconstruction between 1982 and 2010. Data collected included the year of surgery, pitchers' age, years of MLB experience, height/weight, body mass index, pitching arm injured, pitching role, pitching statistics, and whether the pitcher returned to MLB pitching after surgery. This was then averaged for the three years of pitching before UCL reconstruction and for the three years after returning to play.

For comparison, researchers collected similar data of 178 MLB pitchers in a control group with no prior UCL reconstruction and age-matched them with a corresponding UCL reconstruction pitcher. Performance was determined using three years of statistics before their "index year" (their roster year of either 2004 or 2005) and three years after their "index year."

Drs. Moutzouros and Keller used paired analysis, generalized estimating equation model and other commonly used research tests to evaluate the data. Other highlights:

- UCL pitchers were "statistically better" than the control group in ERA, WHIP, IP and win percentage in the three years and two years before surgery.
- In the year before surgery, UCL pitchers' performance declined significantly.
- After surgery, the control group was either superior in nearly every performance measure or no difference observed.
- A predictor of surgery is MLB experience. Sixty percent of pitchers required UCL reconstruction within their first five years in the MLB.
- While the cause of UCL injury is not fully known, orthopedic specialists theorize it's due to overuse and stress on the elbow, pitching velocity and joint motion, Dr. Keller says, adding that surgery isn't a panacea.

"We even have parents who come into our clinic asking if their children can have the surgery even before they injure anything because they think potentially it can make them better. What this study shows is it doesn't. Matter of fact, players get statistically worse after having this surgery."

Study finds no greater soccer injury risk on artificial playing surfaces

New research presented today at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) found no greater injury risk for athletes playing on artificial playing surfaces.

The use of artificial playing surfaces at sport venues has increased significantly in recent years, primarily due to the advantages of artificial turf over natural grass: longer playing hours, lower maintenance costs and greater resilience to harsh weather conditions. Despite these advantages, many elite professional soccer teams are reluctant to install artificial turf because of a perception that injuries occur more often on these types of surfaces.

In the study, "Safety of Third Generation Artificial Turf in Male Elite Professional Soccer Players," Italian researchers reviewed injuries involving players in the top Italian football (soccer) league during the 2011-2012 season.

A total of 2,580 hours of play were recorded (1,270 hours on artificial turf and 1,310 on grass). For every 1,000 hours of play there were 23 injuries recorded on artificial surfaces and 20 on grass, with muscle strains being the most common injury (13 on artificial turf, 14 on grass). The authors of the study do not consider the injury rates between the two surfaces to be statistically significant, as only three injuries per 1,000 hours of play were attributable to artificial surfaces.

The study authors concluded that there are no major differences between the nature and causes of injuries sustained on artificial turf and those that occur on natural grass surfaces.

Major League Baseball players win more games following Tommy John surgery

Since 1986, 83 percent of patients returned to professional play

Ulnar collateral ligament (UCLR) reconstruction, otherwise known as "Tommy John Surgery," is a procedure frequently performed on Major League Baseball (MLB) pitchers with a damaged or torn ulnar collateral ligament, a common elbow injury, typically from overuse.

In the new study, "Rate of Return to Pitching and Performance after Tommy John Surgery in Major League Baseball Pitchers," * presented today at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), researchers looked at the rate of return to MLB pitching following UCLR, the level of performance in pitchers returning to MLB, and the difference in overall performance between pitchers who underwent UCLR and demographic-matched controls who did not. Researchers evaluated UCLR pitchers between 1986 and 2012 using a number of performance-based statistics and compared them with matched controls: age, body mass index (BMI), position, handedness and MLB experience.

In the year prior to surgery, the UCLR pitchers were outperformed by controls in terms of the number of innings pitched, games played and winning percentage. However, after undergoing UCLR, pitchers allowed significantly fewer walks and hits per inning pitched (WHIP), won a higher percentage of games, and recorded lower earned run averages (ERA) than prior to their surgeries. The UCLR pitchers also recorded higher winning percentages and lower WHIP and ERA in their post-surgical career than the control group. Overall, 83 percent of UCLR patients were able to return to MLB, and their careers on average lasted an additional 3.9 years.

The authors of the study concluded that there is a high rate of pitchers returning to MLB following UCLR, with a significant improvement in pitching performance.