Monday, 12 October 2015

New scientific approach to conditioning and rest for hockey players, Canadiens.

Interesting Hockey News article on DNA testing and how it's used by hockey players and coaching staffs nowadays.

I would tend to be suspicious of this at first glance, afraid it will veer into the diet hokum too many people will fall prey to, that they're 'allergic' to potatoes, beef and sunflower oil, and have to eat a late breakfast because of "enzymes", but no, this is actual science, not snake oil.  How it's applied is important, there will be fits and starts, ten years from now we'll look back and shake our heads at some of the stuff we used to do, used to believe.  Think of how much training, stretching, nutrition, all these have advanced in the last few years, and a few things everyone used to do now have been completely abandoned.  Partner stretching, static stretching, isolation of muscle groups during weightlifting.  That whole cycling craze that the Sens and Canucks were heavily into.

The Canadiens, with Pierre Allard a big proponent I suspect, and with their retinue of medical staff, are probably leading the way in this area.  I've in the past wondered about the dramatic change of fortune our team has had, going from being one of the most injury-plagued teams to one that has been suffering from the fewest in the league.  I asked if anyone had a handle on this, floated the theory that the change of board and glass system in Brossard and at the Nouveau Forum to one with more 'give', that absorbed energy on contact, might be a major factor.

And I also asked if the much skimpier injury list we now face is partly due to the wholesale change in the training and conditioning staff a few seasons back.  Pierre Allard seems to be getting results.  He has an interesting background, had a minor pro and European league playing career, and then as a young retiree went back to school to get his kinesiology degree, since that was his field of interest as a player.  He explained he realized early on that if he was to have a career, he had to work harder than the others, and would derive an advantage from being more fit, from outworking others in his off-ice workouts.

Little things like the Canadiens having great results in the third period the last couple of seasons, as well as the avoidance of injuries, indicates to me that there's at least circumstantial evidence that his programs, his approach is paying dividends.  The subject of days off is controversial to some, who think that players who make millions shouldn't be getting coddled.  The only solution to any situation is to work harder, right?

Except there have been hints, in interviews with the coach, on 24CH, that the Canadiens approach to days off isn't improvised.  It appears they're decreed not just because the coach is an old softy who spares the rod.  The Canadiens appear to be taking saliva or blood samples to gauge fatigue levels in their athletes, to gauge when they might be better off giving them a rest day as opposed to another 'spirited' practice.  Extra practices which might be the first inclination for a coach dealing with a loss the previous night.

The NFL trainers are on this same page.  The accepted wisdom now is that tired athletes are much more prone to pulls, hamstring problems, back spasms.  We knew in the past that muscle cramps seemed to result from dehydration, but now it's more specific than that.  Players who reported a hamstring twinge in the past were set upon by massage therapists.  Now it's the vampires with the blood testing kits, apparently.

We see today that after the game in Ottawa and flight to Pittsburgh, Michel Therrien gave the boys a day off today, cancelling a scheduled practice.  In the old days, this would be interpreted as a reward for good play, for a third win in a row to open the season, but now, I tend to suspect the strong influence of Pierre Allard and the docs, with their newfangled science, have a strong say in these decisions, in their quest to keep the players operating at peak efficiency, instead of drained and operating on fumes.

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