17 July 2011

The Science of Baseball: July 17, 2011

After weeks of various activities (e.g. moving, wandering in Texas) we are back in order with another edition of the Science of Baseball.  This week we will consider the effect of beetroot juice on performance, the effect of nicotine on performance, and then finally whether or not a modified game of baseball can help blind people with their balance.  So...quite a mix today.

Acute dietary nitrate supplementation improves cycling time trial performance.
K Lansley et al
Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise 2011 43:1125-1131

A recent study by Andrew Jones' Exeter group found when cycling subjects are given beetroot juice with or without nitrates that it significantly affected finishing times.  On 2.5 and 10 mile distances, total time decreased by three percent when half a liter of beetroot juice still containing nitrates was consumed just prior to the beginning of the time trial.  Nitrates are known to affect blood flow in two ways: (1) nitrate can widen blood vessels which allows for a greater volume of blood to flow and (2) it is known to permit muscles to work more efficiently with respect to oxygen consumption.  Baseball to many extents is nothing like cycling, but I think we may be able to draw two different applications to baseball.  Beetroot juice may be useful to deal with season-long stamina issues and it might also be useful to starting pitchers.  That said, this information still requires quite a bit of testing, so do not expect beetroot juice to rapidly alter overall performance ability.

Keep this in mind though...there is now more evidence pointing to beetroot juice not only being an effective performance enhancing supplement than hGH, but also the end effect is greater than anything produced for hGH.  Think about that really hard.  Beetroot Juice.

Prompt but inefficient: nicotine differentially modulates discrete components of attention.
S. Vangkilde et al.
Psychopharmacology In Press

This study decided to put more focus on how nicotine affects information processing.  There have been several conflicting studies over to what extent nicotine improves or inhibits recognition and motor skills.  This study utilized 24 non-smokers who were dosed with nicotine by chewing nicotine gum.  They were then put through a regime of recognition and selection cognitive tests.  What they found was that reaction time did decrease when individuals were dosed with nicotine.  However, their ability to properly focus and select what was most important was inhibited.

What does this all mean?  Nicotine is probably not very helpful.

Can baseball improve balance in blind subjects?
Marini et al.
Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 51:227-232

Blind baseball is an interesting sport.  Both sighted and non-sighted people play this game with sighted players donning blind folds.  There are only two bases (first and third) and reaching base before a player gets to the ball (which beeps) then you score a run.  You can learn more here about the sport.  In this study, researchers looked at the ability of blind baseball to be a therapy tool for blind individuals.  They took a group of non-baseball players and split them into two groups: one that would play baseball and one that would continue doing what they normally did.  The study found that participants in blind baseball actually improved their balancing ability.  What I wonder is whether blind baseball would help sighted baseball players.  Sight is probably more useful in baseball than the sound as you can see things before you hear them, but there is likely to be a benefit to perceiving sound.  It might not be a balance issue for sighted individuals.  I don't know.  Things to think about.

1 comment:

Sean said...

This is just a shot in the dark, but I've heard people say that outfielders with good "baseball instincts" can get a read on the trajectory of the ball based on the sound made by the contact of the bat. So, maybe you could improve a player's fielding by giving them a blindfolded drill. Just a thought.