Monthly Archives: December 2016

Two-fold higher risk of concussions for NFL players during colder game-days

The higher rates occurred during games played in 10 degrees Celsius or colder when compared with games played in temperatures of 21 degrees Celsius or warmer.

Researchers also found an increased rate of shoulder injuries when games were played on natural grass compared to synthetic turf — about 1.36 times higher.

The study, published today in the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine, examined risk factors associated with the five most common NFL injuries during two regular seasons between 2012 and 2014.

“There has been a lot of discussion recently about the significant risk of injury in the NFL and general player safety, particularly regarding concussions,” said Dr. David Lawrence, lead author of the study and a clinical fellow at St. Michael’s Hospital. “The first step in improving player safety and lowering that risk is to identify the factors affecting injury rates. Once we can answer those questions, we can begin to modify player exposure.”

Previous research by Dr. Lawrence found that the overall risk of injury in the NFL is about three times higher than professional rugby and 25 times higher than the NHL. Similarly, the concussion risk for NFL players is three times higher than rugby and five times higher than the NHL, according to his research.

“Early evidence suggests that musculoskeletal and repeated concussive injuries associated with football can cause long-term complications such as osteoarthritis and neurophysiological conditions,” said Dr. Lawrence. “It’s important that we better understand these factors and prevent as many injuries as possible.”

The most frequent injuries were knee-related, followed by ankle, hamstring, shoulder and concussions. External influences examined in the study included playing surface, climate factors, travel times and game outcomes.

“There is limited research looking at the external risk factors for injuries in the NFL,” said Dr. Lawrence. “Given this is one of the first studies to look at these variables, we can only speculate at this time on the underlying causes for the associations we observed with specific injuries on game-days.”

For example, Dr. Lawrence suggested players could mistake symptoms of a concussion during warmer temperatures for heat-related illness. Equipment and materials in the playing environment have lower elasticity at colder temperatures and may increase the impact force. There could also be higher reporting of injuries during colder games because players interact more closely with athletic staff in lower temperatures.

“Our findings contribute to the growing body of evidence surrounding this topic, but further research is needed” said Dr. Lawrence. “Applying this information may help inform future injury prevention strategies in the NFL, or other professional sports, and highlight the effects of these seemingly small external factors.”

What happens when sports rules go awry?

The research was carried out by Professor Graham Kendall, at The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC) and Dr Liam Lenten, at La Trobe University in Australia. They are operational research and economics scientists — experts in the use of advanced analytical techniques to improve decision making — and their findings have just been published online in theEuropean Journal of Operational Research.

The study was carried out in response to a recent analysis of sporting rules which called for more research to consider the rules of sports and tournaments and whether changes have led to unintended consequences.

Professor Kendall and Dr Lenten looked at specific examples of where the rules have led to unforeseen and/or unwanted consequences.

Professor Kendall said: “We compiled cases of ill-conceived rules which caused perverse unintended consequences. We discuss the implications for sports administrators and for policy makers in general. The hope is that it will help them review what has not previously worked and encourage them to engage with the scientific community when considering making rule changes.”

The interdisciplinary paper which cuts across economics, sport and operational research, looked at sports where the rules remain static and those where the rules change almost every year. The paper lists the sports in alphabetical order, to make the research more accessible.

The sports that are discussed include; athletics, baseball, cricket, cycling, football, hockey, tennis and rugby.

Professor Kendall said: “Many of the rule changes highlighted in this paper are aimed at making the sporting event more exciting. These are the rules that often lead to an unexpected occurrence which was not foreseen, even if it has the desired effect for the vast majority of the time.

“We hope that one consequence of this paper is that the scientific community and the sports industry can work more closely together in order to study the effects of potential rule changes before they are implemented, or implemented in such a way that they can be studied before wider adoption.

“As a call to action, perhaps the governing bodies of the major sports could invite academic representatives onto their committees, who would be tasked with identifying possible loopholes in proposed rule changes, perhaps in consultation with the wider scientific community. Alternatively, proposed rule changes could be posted in a public forum and interested academics could comment, perhaps after running simulations?”

European soccer increasingly popular in the USA

The sports economists from Tübingen analyzed the interest of US citizens in European soccer competitions and Major League Soccer (MLS), the highest level soccer league in the USA and Canada, for the very first time. They focused on factors, which affect the demand for soccer tele-casts. Based on their estimations, the researchers were able, amongst others, to derive a preference ranking of the most popular international soccer competitions for the American TV audience.

Ever since the USA was nominated as the host country for FIFA’s Soccer World Cup in 1994, the interest in soccer has grown in the country. “This is well-known,” say the experts, “and is partly reflected in the numbers of people tuning in to soccer games on TV. Reported audience figures of English Premier League games, for example, have now exceeded those of regular season games of the National Hockey League (NHL), the top North American ice hockey league. However, they continue to lag far behind the leading sports in North America, i.e. American football, basketball and baseball.

The Tübingen study now surveys figures on different aspects of the American soccer market in detail for the first time. A US-wide representative sample of more than 6,500 people was used to gather the extensive data. A screen-out question at the beginning of the surveys enabled the experts to focus on individuals, who indicated at least a basic interest in soccer. “These were almost 50 percent in both survey rounds — a share far higher than had been expected for the US market, which is dominated by the three major sports,” the researchers stated.

The survey participants were asked, amongst others, about their favorite soccer competitions. Among the seven competitions, the greatest interest was indicated for the English Premier League, followed by the UEFA Champions League, the American MLS and the Spanish La Liga. According to this ranking, the German Bundesliga is in position five ahead of the Italian Serie A and the French Ligue 1. The highest share of people interested in European soccer clubs were found in the states of California and New York. Roughly 3.5 percent of the soccer interested individuals mentioned Bayern Munich as their favorite club. This means that Bayern Munich is one of the top 10 most popular European and North American soccer teams in the USA; the list is headed by England’s Manchester United, followed by Spain’s FC Barcelona.

The focus of the study was put on exploring factors, which affect the demand for international soc-cer telecasts. It emerged that soccer fans from an MLS city as well as the younger generation had on average a greater interest in international soccer games. Moreover, it was found that the Spanish-speaking population occupies a disproportionately important position among soccer fans. “This might explain why games played by Bayer Leverkusen with the Mexican star Javier Herández Balcázar (aka Chicharito) were very popular in the 2015/2016 season,” say the sports economists. The study also confirms for the first time empirically that “competitive balance” in soccer competitions plays a significant role in the USA. Leagues offering close championship races are perceived as being exciting and attract more spectators than competitions dominated by just few clubs.

The study benefited from a João Havelange Research Scholarship with which FIFA supports inde-pendent research projects on soccer. The study’s findings have been published as a book.