Working in elite level sports, it is important for me to holistically understand all aspects of health and performance. As such, I felt that it is no one's responsibility but my own to improve my current knowledge relating to sport science, sport medicine and innovation.
Enter the SPIN Summit.
For those of you unaware, the SPort INnovation Summit is a Canadian symposium for professional development and networking in the areas of applied sport science, sport medicine and innovation. Spear headed by Own the Podium, the theme of this year's summit was "optimizing the IST" - Integrated Support Team - in an attempt to challenge the IST toward continuous improvement in supporting the Canadian Coach driven – performance based model in high performance sport.
Perhaps the main impetus for the theme of this year's summit was the question, "are we doing enough of what we need to do to arm the coaches to achieve podium performances?" as asked by Dr. John Kolb (Own the Podium Director of Sport Science, Medicine and Innovation). Because although meticulous planning, an uncompromising attitude and brilliant execution may be three key components to gold medal performances, in a coach driven, performance based model, the reality is that the coach cannot do it all. And often in an integrated system, many of the parties involved (service provider) may truly have their own plan or agenda.
Thus, the suggestion of a shift toward a "strategies" approach was made. A strategies approach that, for example, includes such components as enhanced monitoring, recovery, and training adaptations.
There was a lot to be learned from this summit but because some of the information disseminated is proprietary, below you will find some key take-aways from this three-day event.
The Summit was kickstarted by a presentation on Sports Medicine and the IST by Mike Wilkinson. It was made clear that the role of the medical team was to get athletes to train as the coach want's them to train. What this means is that come competition, we as medical professionals should be bored. As a huge advocate of consistency of care, it was a bittersweet pleasure to hear the comment that "there is still a battle to find practitioners to provide day to day care". A constant presence is the key to preventing injuries as this enables the ability to catch the little things. Yes, time and funding are limiting factors but with the effort and dedication that coaches and athletes put into training, it is only fair that they deserve a matched level of support from the IST.
But with that must come a "culture of focused professionalism". That the members of the IST must be less of a distraction. Nobody wants a "Getty IST" member on their team, spending more time taking pictures than doing work.
Trent Stellingwerff followed with a powerful lecture on the Multidisciplinary Approach to Nutritional Physiology. The main question he asked, and one that we should ask ourselves is, "what are the building blocks/substrates required to optimize the stimulus to achieve the desired response. In addition to a case study, he provided us with several examples of evidence-based key factors that may indeed be difference makers.
For example, through a brief review of research, he stated that 20-25 g/kg of whey protein is the optimal dosage for both absorption and sustained muscle protein synthesis. He also stated that approximately 90 g/day is generally recommended (naturally this is individual dependent), ideally broken up throughout the day in increments that again maximizes absorption and protein synthesis - read, 3 x 20 is better than 9 x 10.
He also reviewed the benefits of beta-alanine supplementation in the creation of the buffering agent, Carnosine. Much of the current research on this comes from Roger Harris, also the pioneer researcher on creatine, and that approximately 5 g/day is necessary to provide a 50% increase. I will caution that although there may be a direct correlation between muscle carnosine and performance, the greatest effect is seen only for muscle buffering events that last 60-240 seconds (i.e. middle distance runners and 200m swimmers) and as prescribed by a knowledgeable professional.
Finally, he discussed the impact of nitrates on performance and the recent research pertaining to beetroot juice. Again, I would suggest a cautious prescription although the recommendation of 500mL/day over 3-5 days prior to competition was made. Please note that supplementation of beetroot juice may cause GI symptoms so prior to using in competition, Dr. Stellingwerff naturally recommended to first practice this strategy in training.
One of my favorite lectures came from Dr. Charles Samuels on Sleep and Performance; an integrated approach. We all know that sleep is important but we often fail to assess sleep quality and quantity in our athletes. Prior to lecture, an important disclaimer was first made. That athletes who fall asleep within 30 minutes, have only brief awakenings while sleeping, and feel refreshed within an hour of waking on most days are likely normal sleepers.
The importance of screening sleep in your athletes was stressed and that sleep forms the basis for recovery. Dr. Samuels highly suggested we read his paper, "Jet lag and travel fatigue: a comprehensive management plan for sport medicine physicians and high-performance support teams" but also reminded us that in a study of 220 athletes, approximately 31% slept less than 7 hours/night, 23% take longer than 30 min to fall asleep and 25% report dissatisfaction with their sleep quality. It is no question that we can all do a better job screening for sleep so for those of you who are interested in learning more, especially as it pertains to young athletes, I highly suggest you take a look at this document.
Karen MacNeill provided us with suggestions on Crisis Management in the Face of Traumatic Events in Sport based on her experience with the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The quote, "You cannot adjust the wind, but you can adjust your sails" was a reminder of the importance of planning and adhering to the plan in the event of crises in your sport and with that said, it was strongly suggested that each "team" develop a crisis intervention plan.
Major Stephen Boyne of Defence Research and Development Canada provided us with a talk on Multidisciplinary Military Training; Analogies to Sport. This was an intriguing talk since elite sport differs very little to military when it comes to training and competition...other than shooting people of course. He suggested that "after operations, training is the most important activity a military undertakes". To me, the relevance to sport is loud and clear and much like the command-driven approach in the military, training in sport should be coach-driven as well.
One key message that I hope was loud and clear was the importance of the "affective" component of training activity. That is, the mental toughness and resilience. So aside from the physical and cognitive, it is important that training programs must also simultaneously incorporate opportunities to improve adaptation in the presence of adversity.
Breakout workshops were also scheduled into the summit and it was nice to see a large delegation of like-minded professionals in the Innovations in Strength & Conditioning workshop headed by Matt Jordan. This assessment-based workshop was unique as Matt utilized the expertise of Tyler Goodale, Chris Chapman and Matt Price to provide us with their expertise on the topics of assessment in each of warm-up, risk management and strength and power. While it is beyond the scope of this post to go into great detail, I want to bring attention to the fact that in this current age of social media, there are a plethora of hard working, stealth-like coaches in our country that receive a lot less recognition than they deserve. And I am glad to have met and spoken to several of them!
Brenda Comfort led the second workshop I attended on Project Management. With my current role and interest in optimizing performance readiness, I felt that it was important for me to improve my understanding on the practical application of project management in high performance. The key take home message from this workshop was as simple as it sounds: Plan - Execute - Monitor - Control.
Completing day one were two plenary sessions pertaining to Innovations for Gold. Jason Vescovi provided us with the practical application of GPS for Team Sports and Sam Blades provided us with a summary of Applications of the Multi Measurement System through Canada's most recent canoe/kayak success in London. Although these innovations may be beyond my own personal scope in my current setting, it was no doubt interesting to see how such innovations can take training and performance to the next level.
David Smith from the University of Calgary started off the second day providing us with some insight into Haemoglobin Mass as a Factor in Endurance Performance. Stating boldly that Hb [ ] has no impact relative to VO2 max, he instead suggested that Hb mass does - along with blood volume, via plasma volume - and that it is trainable up to 32 % improvement. He also suggested that Hb mass possesses stability, it may play a role in what excites many who are involved in sport today, talent identification. And that there may be a window of opportunity for trainability between 16-21 years of age. For those of you who are specifically interested in this realm, he suggested the work of Schmidt and Prommer, naturally in addition to his own work.
Another one of my favorite lectures came from Maxime Trempe. His talk on Accelerating Motor Learning & Increasing Long-Term Performance in Elite Sport went into some detail on skill acquisition. Starting off by stating that he attempts to design training programs to maximize optimal learning is significant because sport has certainly evolved in terms of execution of motor skill. He provided us with a comparison of Olympic performances by Jean-Luc Brassard and Alexandre Bilodeau to express this clearly. For those of you familiar with this field, and specifically with coaching, you may resonate well with the following definitions he provided: Performance - punctual execution of a certain skill; vs Learning - long lasting changes in capacity to perform a certain skill. Clarifying further that, "what you do today may not be a predictor of what you learned tomorrow". He suggested that it is time that we start quantifying motor learning in light of the fact that we already quantify both physiology and biomechanics. He also disclosed that for learning to occur, athletes need to be successful on approximately 65% of trials in a given training session. Because "learning occurs between practices" and not within, he suggested the importance of post training process in the brain for the consolidation of motor learning. And for this reason, he is currently studying the influence sleep may have on this process.
Although the summit ended with perspectives on key components for success - read podium performances - from both an athlete and coach perspective, lunch was bookended by the second session of workshops. The more I involve myself with higher level athletes, the more I realize the importance of performance readiness. As such, the two workshops I attended improved my understanding on fatigue monitoring and recovery, namely Hooper-MacKinnon Testing; a valuable tool in mastering the art of recovery and Sleep and Human Performance Questionnaire. Led by Judy Goss and Charles Samuels respectively, these workshops not only provided me with greater insight into the value of questionnaires, but also a better understanding of their specificity/sensitivity and the role that they may play. Because, regardless of what measures you may use, it is still important to realize that questionnaires must not only be reliable and valid, they must also be practical as well.
While this summary cannot do justice to the amount of information shared during the summit, if you are interested in more specific details or journal articles pertaining to any of the above topics, please do not hesitate to contact me. Especially relating to the sleep lecture and workshop, I do have a lot of information to share.