Wednesday, July 24, 2024

LSUS Human Performance Lab conducting research comparing college and high school athletes

by David Specht

SHREVEPORT – What measurable differences exist between competent high school and college student-athletes?

An LSUS researcher has embarked on a multi-year study to answer that question, performing a battery of tests on local male and female college and high school athletes in a variety of sports.

Using the LSUS Human Performance Lab, lab coordinator Aaron Adams is collecting data that he believes has scientific benefits for college coaches, high school coaches and the student-athletes themselves.

“The benefit of doing a study like this is that we get a large data set that’s a snapshot of the population in this area, and we can compare it to athletes from all over the world that play at certain collegiate levels (NCAA Division I, Division II, NAIA, junior college, etc.),” said Adams, who is the lab manager and an instructor in the LSUS kinesiology department. “Is there a big difference between athletes that are good in high school versus athletes that play in college?

“Can we predict which athlete will shine? We can also explain who an athlete is from a physiological standpoint.”

Student-athletes from LSUS and Bossier Parish Community College have completed testing, and high school teams started pouring into the lab this summer and fall.

Athletes matriculate through different stations, recording measurements in areas from metabolism to balance.

Results are shared with each student-athlete, and coaches have access to their entire team’s data.

Byrd baseball coach Greg Williams, whose team completed its first round of testing this fall, said while the results mostly validated what he thought, one particular test shed light on a Yellow Jacket pitcher.

The balance test involves players standing on one leg while trying to keep a dot centered on a screen. Players try their best to balance their weight, and the machine measures how off-centered the player is on each leg.

“We have a pitcher that struggles to repeat his mechanics, and we just keep hollering at him to repeat those mechanics,” Williams said. “It turns out his balance is terrible, and that’s why he can’t repeat those mechanics as often as we’d like.

“But (Adams) has already shown us some things we can do to improve balance, and we can’t wait to see the results. As a coach, we’re trying to find any advantage that we can to make our program and athletes better. This testing can allow us to have more success on the field while keeping our players more healthy.”

Balance testing can also reveal if a student-athlete could be more susceptible to knee injuries.

Identifying these students before injuries happen allows for additional stretching and strengthening of knee ligaments to make an injury less likely.

Another test measured reaction time in which players sit in front a light bar, pushing a clicker when the light reaches a predetermined spot.

Adams said soccer goalkeepers were among the best in this test, matching one’s expectation of goalkeepers needing quick reaction times to succeed at their position.

“The data from these tests can possibly validate something that athletes and coaches thought or possibly signal something like a player in a position that doesn’t best utilize his or her strengths,” Adams said. “Our hope is that we’re able to test teams multiple times to see if there’s a difference preseason to postseason or if there’s improvement in areas that players may have targeted from the initial testing.”

Student-athletes undergo a range of tests in the “BodPod” and in a breathing measurement that can detect oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange.

The BodPod measures body fat and metabolism rates that can aid in nutritional planning specific to that student-athlete.

“The information from these tests is huge,” Williams said. “We’ve got players who are trying to gain weight, and with this information, we now know here’s what your diet should look like and this is how much water you need to be drinking given the temperatures in Shreveport.”

Caddo Magnet senior soccer player Richard Bogosian said he’s going to add box jumps to his offseason workout after not performing as well as he’d hope on the jumping test.

The jumping test measures how high players jump from a standing and squatting position, a useful tool in soccer as players challenge for the ball on corner kicks.

“It’s really cool when you walk into the (human performance lab) and see all the different stations,” said Bogosian, a defender. “The testing encouraged me to do more box jumps to improve – it makes you think more about how you train and the impact of what you’re doing and eating.

“The data about the body mass index was really cool as well.”

The final test involves players pedaling a stationary bike to top speed before a weighted flywheel drops, drastically increasing resistance.

Players in “fast-twitch” sports like basketball tend to peak soon after the flywheel drops, using their explosion to get back to top speed but falling off rather quickly.

Endurance athletes, like soccer midfielders and cross country runners, usually can pedal longer after the flywheel drops and have less variation from their peak to their bottom speed.

High school teams in any sport can still register for the free athletics testing.

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