If you’re anything like me, the only thing you love more than sports is the addition of a healthy dose of data analysis. When I’m not following baseball-cum-dork blogs like this one, I read up on the latest innovations that come from basic science, but impact sports performance. Sometimes in unexpected ways.
A recent article from Wired covers the increase in scientists consulting directly in Olympic endeavors, particularly in Australia. The advances of biology, medicine, and materials science are, obviously, hugely impacting. Athletes are stronger, recover sooner, and have longer careers, while golf balls fly further, and tennis rackets impart more power and control than ever before. For Olympic athletes, too, advancements in technology (swimsuits famously banned in 2009, fiberglass pole vaults) literally change the game. Countries are investing huge amounts of resources in analyzing the gait pattern of sprinters and hurdlers via biological motion capture software (like those used to mimic pitching motions in baseball video games), which are also widely used in studies of perception.
As a spatial cognitive researcher, the applicability of research from my own field is particularly interesting. Spatial analyses of basketball shooting patterns, baseball hitting dispersion and pitch location, and football play design are increasingly being used by owners and general managers to build the best teams, stadiums, and to change athlete behavior. I think the intersection of sport, science, and data analysis provides an huge opportunity to promote critical consumption of data, and demonstrate the range of science applications that impact the general public.