• Article

#WHOOPEd Weekly Digest, Vol. 10

By Thea Lee

#WHOOPEd Weekly Digest, Vol. 10

The disconnect between sports science and the reality of elite performance, plus the state of digital health and the benefits of foam rolling.

Monday, July 10

Foam Rolling: Effect On Performance And Potential Mechanisms

Demonstrated Effects:

  1. Reduced pain from delayed onset muscle soreness
  2. Acute increase in range of motion
  3. Reduced muscle tender spots
  4. Trivial to substantial effect on subsequent performance in contrast to static stretching


  • 10 sets of 10 repetitions of back squats at 60% of their 1-rep max
  • Control group did not foam rolling
  • Experimental group did 20 min of foam rolling immediately after exercise, 24 hours after, and 48 hours after.


Foam rolling substantially improved quadriceps muscle tenderness by a moderate to large amount in the days after fatigue. Substantial effects ranged from small to large in sprint time, power, and dynamic strength-endurance.

Wednesday, July 12

5 Takeaways from Stanford Medicine’s report on the present and future of digital health

  1. Wearables will be provided by medical centers: “The promise of wearables is in the ability to detect and therefore treat illness at an earlier stage.”
  2. Big data and research: Kaiser Permanente’s HealthConnect, a program that unifies health records across the health system, has amassed $1 billion in cost reductions since implementation in 2013.
  3. Predictive analytics: Stanford Byers Center for Biodesign is developing predictive devices including a monitoring device that predicts pediatric asthma attacks days before they occur, a test for the genetic causes of heart disease, and a rapid non-invasive test for potential heart-transplant rejection.
  4. Virtual health: Telehealth is viewed as an especially useful tool for medical consults with specialists that many communities may lack, improving access to behavioral health professionals and getting follow-up care following hospitalization. This can remove barriers to access for patients that can’t take time off work or get transportation to medical facilities.
  5. Greater roles of case managers for preventative care: Embedded nurse case managers in physician offices has led to 45% fewer hospital admissions, and cost reductions spanning 16.5-33% for members in the Aetna program.

Thursday, July 13

I went from sedentary academic to 100-mile marathon runner–thanks to the science of self-control

  • In a 2005 study, psychologists Angela Duckworth and Martin Seligman measured 140 eighth-graders’ self-control and intelligence. Then Duckworth and Seligman waited patiently until the end of the school year, when they recorded the students’ end-of-year grade point averages. The results? Self-control was over twice as important as intelligence in predicting children’s academic success.

Three factors to consider when training your self-control:

  • Standards are the reference points you use to determine whether a given action is appropriate or desirable—whether you should order a third drink, for example, or wake up at 5 am every day. Our standards originate from our cultural surroundings, what people teach us, and our personal beliefs.
  • Monitoring is the second part of self-control. If you want to control your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, you have to keep track of them.
  • Strength refers to how much energy you have to control your impulses. Your strength waxes and wanes as the day goes on, usually peaking in the morning and plunging at night. You can also build up strength through practicing self-control.

Strengthening self-control in one area of your life can improve other components of life:

  • A simple experiment by psychologist Tom Denson was conducted in which half of all participants practiced self-control over two weeks by using their non-dominant hand for everyday tasks (for example, cooking and carrying their books). The rest of the participants were in the control group, assigned to perform undemanding tasks.
  • Next the researchers insulted all the participants by giving them negative feedback on a public speech, and waited to see if they would react aggressively.
  • The study found that the people who had practiced self-control with their non-dominant hands were better able to keep their tempers in check.

Friday, July 14

Houston, we still have a problem

The academic culture and its publishing requirements have created an environment where sports scientists remain mostly disconnected from the reality of elite performance.

Examples of the disconnect between current practices and scientific evidence:

  • There is almost no evidence that massage provides any sort of physiological recovery benefit.
  • Fact: every single athlete in the world loves to be massaged after competition/heavy training.
  • Load monitoring has been shown to be key to understanding training and lowers injury risk.
  • Fact: many of the most successful coaches, teams and athletes in the world win major championships and keep athletes healthy without use of a single load monitoring system.
  • The importance of sleep for recovery and performance is clearly established.
  • Fact: teams often train in the morning the day following an away game, which comprises sleep, mainly for social (time with family in the afternoon) and business (sponsors operations) aspects.
  • Training at the same time of the day as matches may help body clock adjustments and subsequence performance.
  • Fact: Most teams train in the morning to accommodate the business demands of the clubs.

Research questions don’t apply to real-life application. Often, instead of a “what is best”-type of answer, practitioners need a “what is the least worst option in our context”-type of answer.

To bridge the gap, researchers and elite performance practitioners should collaborate on case studies. For larger-scale projects, clubs must strengthen their links with universities so that their data can be analyzed appropriately, and full papers can be written by academics with the time, experience and club level understanding. Similarly, experiments that can’t be conducted at the club level can be continued and refined in the laboratory environment.