February 7, 2018
August 10, 2016
You may wonder how Olympic athletes like the U.S. Women’s National Field Hockey Team, who make their home in Lancaster County and train at Spooky Nook Sports, extract every last bit of performance to achieve greatness.
From Last Place to Olympic Contenders
After finishing last in the London 2012 Summer Games, the U.S. women turned things around at the 2016 games, winning their first four matches, including a victory over Argentina—the 2012 Olympic Silver Medalists.
Explaining the Turnaround
Shortly after deciding to move their training facilities from Chula Vista, CA to Lancaster, the team hired Coach Craig Parnham and sports performance guru Dave Hamilton. Immediately, they set to work changing the culture and utilizing the field of sports science to direct their training program.
Data-Driven, Personalized Training
Dave and the medical team use biometrics to individualize training plans and identify deficiencies that may affect performance or predispose the athletes to injury. They look at data on everything from work rate (via GPS tracking) and sleep quality to iron stores (iron is a key part of the red blood cell which affects how oxygen is carried through the body) and vitamin levels.
Body Composition Analysis
Lancaster General Health partnered with the women’s team to provide the biometrics services, making an investment in a highly accurate way of determining body composition. The body comp analysis is special software used with DXA (dual x-ray absorptiometry) scans, the same machine used to determine bone density.
Using body composition analysis, precise measurements of fat mass, lean mass, and bone mass can be made down to the gram for each limb and the trunk. Changes in lean (muscle) mass are monitored to determine which muscle groups are lagging behind. The medical staff studies trends in overall fat mass to determine which athletes are at risk of energy deficits that could lead to physiologic abnormalities. All of the biometric data is synthesized and used to direct athlete-specific training and nutrition plans.
Seeing Is Believing
Seeing continuous improvement over the past three years, the U.S. Women’s National Field Hockey Team players are now believers in sports science. After their last round of biometrics, my phone was inundated with calls from the players eager to see if they’d reached their goals—not surprising from this highly competitive and talented group of young women.
As you root for USA to bring home gold, you’ll now have new appreciation for the type of work that goes into building an Olympic athlete, along with knowledge that this technology is available for high school athletes and weekend warriors right here at home.
Dr. Moreno is a medical consultant for USA Field Hockey.