October 3, 2022

How Ohio State Is Combining Applied Sport Science and Research

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – What happens when you combine The Ohio State University’s leading human performance researchers with the Department of Athletics’ sports performance team and elite student-athletes and coaches? The result is enhanced and peak training, performance, recovery and well-being for Ohio State student-athletes.

Like any great partnership, the relationship between the Department of Athletics and researchers at the Human Performance Collaborative at Ohio State started with a mutual need. Ohio State’s strength coaches, athletic trainers and other performance team members needed to ensure that their student-athletes had every scientific advantage to maximize performance and recovery, and Ohio State’s researchers needed real-world data from elite athletes.

Introducing: The PIT
The Performance Innovation Team, or PIT, was established through this partnership between sport science and athletics and with the Human Performance Collaborative (HPC), a strategic initiative out of the University’s Office of Research. The HPC was developed to continue OSU’s leadership in human performance research by creating interdisciplinary teams to optimize individual and team performance through a unique brain, body, and behavioral approach.

The PIT enables rapid and agile implementation of human performance research and ensures Ohio State athletes and coaches have every advantage toward peak performance, success in competition, and overall well-being.

“The work of the PIT provides the sports performance department, and ultimately our student-athletes, an incredible opportunity for growth and improvement,” Mickey Marotti, Ohio State Assistant Athletic Director for Football Sports Performance, said. “Our student-athletes are extremely fortunate to have world class leaders in sport science facilitating evidence-based strategies for training, recovery and overall athletic development.”

The PIT is led by Dr. Josh Hagen, Faculty Director for the HPC and Associate Research Professor in the Dept. of Integrated Systems Engineering, Nick Domicone, Director of Sports Science in the Department of Athletics, and Jason Stone, HPC Performance and Sport Scientist. Stone serves as the Director of Sports Research and Innovation and is responsible for the daily oversight and management of the PIT.

Critical to the PIT is the comprehensive and interdisciplinary structure that harnesses and integrates capabilities and resources into a single team. Areas of collaboration include, but are not limited to, biomechanics, sports medicine, athletic training, rehabilitation sciences, data science, nutrition, physiology, psychology, research methods, and strength and conditioning. Team members include:

• Mickey Marotti – Assistant AD for Football Sports Performance
• Tyler Carpenter – Director, Strength and Conditioning
• Kaila Olson – Performance Dietitian
• Adam Stewart – Physical Therapist, Athletic Trainer
• Doug Calland – Associate AD, Sports Performance
• Dr. William Kraemer – Senior Advisor for Sports Performance and Sports Science and adjunct professor in the College of Education and Human Ecology
• Dr. Justin Merrigan – HPC Senior Research Scientist
• Dr. Jimmy Onate – Director, Division of Athletic Training
• Dr. Samantha Krening – Asst. Professor in the Dept. of Integrated Systems Engineering and
• Dr. Ted Lambrinides – Sport Science Advisor

How it Works
Before performances can be improved, the PIT must first quantify the current state of an athlete’s training, sleep, recovery, nutrition, well-being, fatigue, and performance. Commercially available technologies are researched and validated by the PIT to ensure only the best products are used with Ohio State athletes based on need of the sport, accuracy and reliability of the data, and ease of implementation of athlete monitoring. Technologies in use by Ohio State include:

• Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) systems for external load
• Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) systems for external load
• Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) systems for external load
• Heart rate monitoring systems for internal load
• App-based systems for subjective wellness
• Sleep and sleep physiology monitors for recovery tracking
• Force plates for neuromuscular and biomechanical power status
• Linear position transducers for velocity-based training

After selecting and implementing technologies and tools, the PIT manages a data platform where thousands to millions of data points flow in daily. These datasets enable the development of advanced analytics for the monitoring of physical demands and physiological responses of the athletes, actionable data visualizations and reports, as well as machine learning based predictive modeling. This data is used to make real-time adjustments to training and recovery on an as-needed and, more importantly, highly-individualized basis.

Where it Started
The intersection of sports, science and research first arrived at Ohio State in 2014. At that time, the football and wrestling programs collaborated with Wright Patterson Air Force Base and its Air Force Research Laboratory to help drive innovative science between elite athletes at OSU and elite military service members. This resulted in many novel performance science developments and helped prove the efficient, collaborative research process by working with both athletics and military populations.

In 2018, a gift from the Harry T. Mangurian Jr. Foundation Inc. allowed the continued growth of sport science at OSU by supporting a full-time sport science staff position, the development of data analytic tools and platforms, funding research initiatives, and providing advanced recovery modalities such as flotation, cryo, and light therapies. Not coincidently, more teams at Ohio State began benefitting from these technologies and recovery tools, and today all 36 sports are positively impacted by Ohio State Sport Science.

What is Next
Ohio State and the PIT will continue to lead the way in sport science and evolve the training and recovery practices of Ohio State athletes and programs. This will be done by creating student learning experiences for future sport scientists, increasing the breadth and depth of athlete monitoring practices, and establishing programmatic trust in advanced analytics.

Most importantly, the plan is to continue the growth of the comprehensive, interdisciplinary, unique and important PIT.