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January 3, 2014

Science to Sports: Five Ways Science Has Improved Athletics

Science to Sports: Five Ways Science Has Improved Athletics

Using new technology, fine-tuned techniques, and applied scientific knowledge, athletes have reached heights and depths never before seen in human history.

Sports have come a long way from the days of throwing a javelin and hoping for the best. Using new technology, fine-tuned techniques, and applied scientific knowledge, athletes have reached heights and depths never before seen in human history.

Here are five ways science has improved everything from basketball to croquet.

1. Better Training Equipment

After the success of the moon landing, NASA devoted decades to developing new machines that would allow astronauts to simulate spaceflight. The Shuttle 2000-1, for example, was an exercise shuttle that forced strong, rapid muscle contractions to produce powerful bursts of speed; the G-Trainer was an anti-gravity treadmill that strengthened legs and thighs. These machines would eventually be commissioned by various fitness companies and adapted into training equipment for body conditioning and cardiovascular workouts.

2. Better Physics

Physics is the study of matter and how it moves throughout the universe. While some people may think it only applies to black holes and faraway galaxies, the truth is that physics applies to a variety of athletic endeavors as well. A volleyball player can use velocity, momentum, and gravity to maximize her serves. A hockey goalie can increase his frictional resistance to stay in control on the ice. As physicists gain a greater understanding of the universe, so too do athletes learn more about the invisible forces governing their slum dunks and touchdowns.

3. Better Gear

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If you've ever participated in an activity that required protective eyewear, you can thank scientists in the '70s for developing scratch-resistant lenses that now come standard in helmets, visors, and other athletic headgear. The trick is in the diamond-like carbon (DLC). Originally designed to protect satellites in space, it now safeguards all your gray matter without compromising your vision as you play ice hockey or luge down a snowy hill.

4. Better Medical Care

When an athlete gets hurt, you shouldn't turn him over to a regular doctor. You should have him seen by a sports medicine professional. According to Rita Cortez, who finished the Master's in health science program at RMU, "Sports medicine can recognize, diagnose, and treat common athletic ailments much better than a non-specialized practitioner." You can learn more about sports medicine at www.RMUoHP.com.

5. Better Math

Batting averages are no longer a guessing game. Using software models developed by statistician Nate Silver, it's now possible to predict the valuations, performances, and average points scored by all Major League baseball players. The Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm (PECOTA) is the most popular system, but other formulas have been written using Pythagorean expectation and Markov chain analysis. Those math equations everyone scorned in school are now making headlines for their accuracy and real-world advantages.

These are just a few ways science has changed the face of modern sports. There are many more, but like the physicists calculating place kicks, you'll just have to figure it out yourself!

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By Anica OaksSubscribe to 33rd Square

Author Bio - A recent college graduate from University of San Francisco, Anica loves dogs, the ocean, and anything outdoor-related. She was raised in a big family, so she's used to putting things to a vote. Also, cartwheels are her specialty. You can connect with Anica here.

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