Take the bat, leave the candy: The food environment of youth baseball

‘Take me out to the ballgame’ doesn’t exactly conjure up images of apple slices and kale chips. The more likely culprits include French fries, soda and the occasional box of Crackerjacks.Unfortunately for children who play youth baseball, eating unhealthy food during practices and games may be contributing to weight problems, according to researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. The study, published in the current online edition of Childhood Obesity, found that high-calorie snacks and sugar-sweetened drinks dominate the youth baseball scene.“Though youth sports are an excellent way to promote physical activity, social interaction and positive health behaviors, the food environments are often characterized by less healthy food options with high calorie contents and lower nutrient density,” said Joseph Skelton, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at Wake Forest Baptist and senior author of the study.In this observational study, the research team conducted an environmental scan of foods consumed by players and family members during 12 games at a youth baseball field in northwest North Carolina. The players were boys 8 to 11 years old on six teams.The researchers found that most snacks were high-calorie food items, including French fries, candy and cookies and most beverages were sugar-sweetened. Nearly 90 percent of food and beverage items purchased were from the concession stand.“Team sports like baseball are still very important for children’s activity and development,” said Megan Irby, M.S, co-author and research program manager of Brenner FIT, a multidisciplinary pediatric obesity program at Wake Forest Baptist.“But as seen in this study, games and practices can be upwards of two to three nights a week, and many children participate on multiple sports teams each year. Parents should plan ahead for these busy times and even advocate in their local sports leagues for policies that address snacks and drinks.”This research was the first step in exploring the question of whether children and families attending youth sporting events may be increasing their risk for being overweight or obese as a result of chronic unhealthy food behaviors associated with sports participation, Skelton said. Contrary to the intent of youth sports, these findings indicate that children may be leaving the ball field having consumed more calories than they expended.“Despite the benefits of participating in sports, the increased exposure to unhealthy foods and disruption of meal times may increase children’s risk for poor nutritional habits that can contribute to weight management issues,” Skelton said.A limitation of the study was the ability to accurately document all foods consumed at the ballpark without being intrusive.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Basketball: The physics of the 3-point shot

He may not see very many basketball players in his classroom, but Creighton University physics professor Gintaras Duda, Ph.D., says they are instinctual physicists because of what it takes to make the perfect shot on the court, particularly the 3-pointer.What makes the perfect 3-pointer? Well, there is the angle the player takes on the 3-point line and the arc of the ball, which is the path the basketball flies from the time it leaves the shooter’s hand until it arrives at the basket.According to Duda and the research he has read, the lowest arc is 33 degrees for even a hope of making a 3-point shot, but with an arc of 45 degrees, a speed of just under 20 miles per hour and two revolutions per second of spin, at 20.9 feet from the basket, the player has the makings of the perfect 3-point shot.While some people say gravity is the only thing affecting the ball once it is in the air, Duda is not so sure.In the book The Physics of Basketball, the author, John Fantanella, explains the Magnus effect, the backspin which gives the ball a little bit of lift allowing for the slowest possible speed and a less violent rebound if it hits the backboard or rim and may even allow the ball to go in the net.”I’ve heard about it in baseball, you know the curve ball that pitchers throw to curve one way or the other over the plate, but I really didn’t realize how important it is in basketball,” said Duda. “On certain shots, like the free throw and the 3-pointer, you want a slower speed on the ball for that soft shot that has a better chance of landing in the basket than a faster ball with no spin.”In other words, avoiding the brick, that shot with the distinctive sound that lets you know the ball is not going in at all.It takes practice for the player to find that perfect shot. After all, consistency equals reliability, but by finding that perfect shot, the player has found the right speed, the right angle of approach, and the perfect arc of the ball.Creighton All-American Doug McDermott has that consistency. McDermott, who ranks among the top college scorers of all time, shot 45 percent from behind the arc. Teammate Ethan Wragge is the team’s leading 3-point shooter, hitting 47.3 from 3-point.Duda, the 2013 U.S. Professor of the Year, said he will be watching March Madness with renewed interest and understanding this weekend, and he’s hoping the Bluejays get an A in physics for netting 3-point shots.Watch here as Duda breaks down the perfect 3-pointer.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Creighton University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Researchers hit virtual heads to make safer games

Sep. 12, 2013 — Two nearly identical softballs, both approved for league play, can have dramatically different effects when smacked into a player’s head.Those are the findings from a study conducted by Professor Lloyd Smith in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and project engineer Derek Nevins that they will present at the Asia Pacific Congress on Sports Technology later this month in Hong Kong. Their work was published in the journal, Procedia Engineering.Smith’s group developed a unique model of a softball that they electronically throw at a virtual head to better understand and prevent injuries.About a quarter of the injuries that happen on the softball field come from players getting hit with a ball, either thrown or batted at them. Most vulnerable are the pitcher, base runner, and third baseman. When they do occur, the injuries are almost always serious, oftentimes including a bone fracture, says Smith.In many sports, balls are standardized for consistency and performance. But, researchers haven’t understood specifically how the balls’ different properties and materials affect player safety. They haven’t been able to measure just how much or how it hurts when a ball hits a head.While there have been human models for years, the ball is the hard part, says Smith. Models of softball collisions are especially challenging because of a low Coefficient of Restitution, or how the energy is transferred between the ball and what it hits, he says. Depending on its elasticity and its stiffness, the ball deforms and dissipates energy differently.The researchers married the ball model they developed with Thums, or the Total Human Model for Safety. Thums sits on a computer screen — a perfect, computerized skeletal model of a head developed by Toyota for crash testing. …

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Passing the ball may also pass disease

July 2, 2013 — UC Irvine researchers have demonstrated that basketballs and volleyballs can spread potentially dangerous germs among players. Their findings may bring a new awareness to athletes, coaches, trainers and parents regarding safe sanitation practices for athletes.The undergraduate independent study project was supervised by Joshua A. Cotter, a postdoctoral fellow in orthopedic surgery, and led by Brandon Haghverdian, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and starts medical school at UC Irvine in the fall. The research was presented by graduating biological sciences student Nimesh Patel at the American College of Sports Medicine national conference in May, 2013.Staphylococcus aureus, a germ known for causing staph infections in athletes, was selected for the study. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, commonly referred to as MRSA, is a kind of staph that is particularly worrisome because of its resistance to many antibiotics. Athletes with MRSA infections often must endure emergency room visits, costly outpatient follow-ups, and time away from games and practice. The NCAA has initiated a campaign to help identify and prevent diseases which can be spread among athletes.During the study, the researchers analyzed the germ threat on volleyballs and basketballs, the players’ hands and the gym floor. For each phase of the study, two of the three surfaces were sterilized, and the third was left in its native state. Germicidal Ultraviolet “C” (UVC) light was used to sterilize the ball and the floor tiles, whereas hands were sanitized by washing with antibacterial soap.Staph. aureus cultures were then sampled from all three surfaces. …

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