Recent work has espoused the idea that in applied sporting environments, “fast”-working practitioners should work together with “slow”-working researchers. However, due to economical and logistical constraints, such a coupling may not always be practical. Therefore, alternative means of combining research and applied practice are needed. A particular methodology that has been used in recent years is qualitative research. Examples of qualitative methods include online surveys, 1-on-1 interviews, and focus groups. This article discusses the merits of using qualitative methods to combine applied practice and research in sport science. This includes a discussion of recent examples of the use of such methods in published journal articles, a critique of the approaches employed, and future directions and recommendations. The authors encourage both practitioners and researchers to use and engage with qualitative research with the ultimate goal of benefiting athlete health and sporting performance.
“Hand in Glove”: Using Qualitative Methods to Connect Research and Practice
Liam D. Harper and Robert McCunn
Significant Energy Deficit and Suboptimal Sleep During a Junior Academy Tennis Training Camp
James A. Fleming, Liam D. Corr, James Earle, Robert J. Naughton, and Liam D. Harper
Purpose: To assess the training load, energy expenditure, dietary intake, and sleep quality and quantity of junior tennis players during a tennis training camp. Methods: Ten junior academy tennis players (14  y) completed a 6-day camp with daily morning and afternoon training. Players wore accelerometer watches to measure activity energy expenditure and sleep. Global positioning system units were worn to monitor external training load (distance covered, maximum velocity, and PlayerLoad™). Dietary intake was obtained from a food diary and supplementary food photography. Results: Players covered significantly more distance and had higher PlayerLoad™ during morning sessions than afternoon sessions (5370  m vs 4726  m, P < .005, d = 3.2; 725  a.u. vs 588  a.u., P < .005, d = 4.0). Players also ran further (5624  m vs 4933  m, P < .05, d = 1.0) and reached higher maximum velocities (5.17 [0.44] m·s−1 vs 4.94 [0.39] m·s−1, P < .05, d = 0.3) during simulated match play compared with drill sessions. Mean daily energy expenditure was 3959 (630) kcal. Mean energy intake was 2526 (183) kcal, resulting in mean energy deficits of 1433 (683) kcal. Players obtained an average of 6.9 (0.8) hours of sleep and recorded 28 (7) nightly awakenings. Conclusions: Junior academy tennis players failed to achieve energy balance and recorded suboptimal sleep quantity and quality throughout the training camp.
The Physiological, Physical, and Biomechanical Demands of Walking Football: Implications for Exercise Prescription and Future Research in Older Adults
Liam D. Harper, Adam Field, Liam D. Corr, and Robert J. Naughton
The aim of this investigation was to profile the physiological, physical, and biomechanical responses during walking football. A total of 17 male participants (aged 66 ± 6 years) participated. Heart rate; blood lactate; accelerometer variables (biomechanical load [PlayerLoad™], changes of direction); and rating of perceived exertion were measured. Participants mean percentage of maximum heart rate was 76 ± 6% during the sessions, with rating of perceived exertion across all sessions at 13 ± 2. Blood lactate increased by ∼157% from presession (1.24 ± 0.4 mmol/L) to postsession (3.19 ± 1.7 mmol/L; p ≤ .0005). PlayerLoad™ values of 353 ± 67 arbitrary units were observed, as well as ∼100 changes of direction per session. In conclusion, walking football is a moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity. The longitudinal health benefits of walking football remain to be elucidated, particularly on bone health, cardiovascular fitness, and social and mental well-being.
Acute Consumption of Varied Doses of Cocoa Flavanols Does Not Influence Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage
Liam D. Corr, Adam Field, Deborah Pufal, Jenny Killey, Tom Clifford, Liam D. Harper, and Robert J. Naughton
Polyphenol consumption has become a popular method of trying to temper muscle damage. Cocoa flavanols (CF) have attracted attention due to their high polyphenol content and palatability. As such, this study will investigate whether an acute dose of CF can aid recovery following exercise-induced muscle damage. The study was a laboratory-based, randomized, single-blind, nutrient-controlled trial involving 23 participants (13 females and 10 males). Participants were randomized into either control ∼0 mg CF (n = 8, four females); high dose of 830 mg CF (CF830, n = 8, five females); or supra dose of 1,245 mg CF (CF1245, n = 7, four females). The exercise-induced muscle damage protocol consisted of five sets of 10 maximal concentric/eccentric hamstring curls and immediately consumed their assigned drink following completion. To measure muscle recovery, maximal voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC) of the knee flexors at 60° and 30°, a visual analog scale (VAS), and lower-extremity function scale were taken at baseline, immediately, 24-, 48-, and 72-hr postexercise-induced muscle damage. There was a main effect for time for all variables (p < .05). However, no significant differences were observed between groups for all measures (p ≥ .17). At 48 hr, there were large effect sizes between control and CF1245 for MVIC60 (p = .17, d = 0.8); MVIC30 (p = .26, d = 0.8); MVIC30 percentage change (p = .24 d = 0.9); and visual analog scale (p = .25, d = 0.9). As no significant differences were observed following the consumption of CF, there is reason to believe that CF offer no benefit for muscle recovery when ingested acutely.
Practitioner, Coach, and Athlete Perceptions of Evidence-Based Practice in Professional Sport in Australia
Edgar Schwarz, Liam D. Harper, Rob Duffield, Robert McCunn, Andrew Govus, Sabrina Skorski, and Hugh H.K. Fullagar
Purpose: To examine practitioners’, coaches’, and athletes’ perceptions of evidence-based practice (EBP) in professional sport in Australia. Methods: One hundred thirty-eight participants (practitioners n = 67, coaches n = 39, and athletes n = 32) in various professional sports in Australia each completed a group-specific online questionnaire. Questions focused on perceptions of research, the contribution of participants’ own experience in implementing knowledge to practice, sources, and barriers for accessing and implementing EBP, preferred methods of feedback, and the required qualities of practitioners. Results: All practitioners reported using EBP, while most coaches and athletes believed that EBP contributes to individual performance and preparation (>85%). Practitioners’ preferred EBP information sources were “peer-reviewed journals” and “other practitioners within their sport,” while athlete sources were “practitioners within their sport” and “other athletes within their sport.” As primary barriers to accessing and implementing research, practitioners highlighted “time constraints,” “poor research translation,” and “nonapplicable research.” Practitioners ranked “informal conversation” as their most valued method of providing feedback; however, coaches prefer feedback from “scheduled meetings,” “online reports,” or “shared database.” Both athletes and coaches value “excellent knowledge of the sport,” “experience,” and “communication skills” in practitioners disseminating EBP. Conclusion: Practitioners, coaches, and athletes believe in the importance of EBP to their profession, although practitioners reported several barriers to accessing and implementing research as part of EBP. Athletes place a high value on experienced practitioners who have excellent knowledge of the sport and communication skills. Collectively, these findings can be used to further stakeholder understanding regarding EBP and the role of research to positively influence athlete health.
The Use of Recovery Strategies in Professional Soccer: A Worldwide Survey
Adam Field, Liam D. Harper, Bryna C.R. Chrismas, Peter M. Fowler, Alan McCall, Darren J. Paul, Karim Chamari, and Lee Taylor
Purpose: To survey soccer practitioners’ recovery strategy: (1) use, (2) perceived effectiveness, and (3) factors influencing their implementation in professional soccer. Methods: A cross-sectional convenience sample of professional soccer club/confederation practitioners completed a web-based survey (April to July 2020). Pearson chi-square and Fisher exact tests with Cramer V (φ − c) assessed relationships and their strength, respectively, between the perceived effectiveness and frequency of strategy use. Results: A total of 80 soccer practitioners (13 countries) completed the survey. The 3 most important recovery objectives were “alleviating muscle damage/fatigue,” “minimizing injury risk,” and “performance optimization.” The most frequently used strategies were active recovery, structured recovery day, extra rest day, massage, cold-water therapy, and carbohydrate provision (predominantly on match day and match day + 1). Relationships were identified between perceived effectiveness and frequency of strategy use for sleep medication (P < .001, φ − c = 0.48), carbohydrate provision (P = .007, φ − c = 0.60), protein provision (P = .007, φ − c = 0.63), an extra rest day (P < .001, φ − c = 0.56), and a structured recovery day (P = .049, φ − c = 0.50). Conclusions: The study demonstrates that professional soccer practitioners have a range of objectives geared toward enhancing player recovery. A disconnect is apparent between the perceived effectiveness of many recovery strategies and their frequency of use in an applied setting. Novel data indicate that strategies are most frequently employed around match day. Challenges to strategy adoption are mainly competing disciplinary interests and resource limitations. Researchers and practitioners should liaise to ensure that the complexities involved with operating in an applied environment are elucidated and apposite study designs are adopted, in turn, facilitating the use of practically effective and compatible recovery modalities.