Early March 2016, I went to the German Sports University (Deutsche Sporthochshule Köln) to get an impression how a base-check on 4 young athletes is performed. I was assigned to Johanna, a 14 years old who has been cycling for the approx 5 years. She is combining sports and school, not a smart combination, because Johanna is part of a talents program of the German country framework, which involves a lot of organizing, that’s why she is here on a week (school) day.
On our arrival we were given the program of the day. I got some explanation about the different component and where they were being held. The importance of this explanation becomes more evident as the day goes by. Because these are young athletes, it is vital that they understand why they take part in the base-check and the importance of the outcome.
Blood sampling, weight
Sport medical check
|11:30||12:15||Biomechanics: vertical jumps|
Psychology (not observed for privacy reasons)
|14:30||15:30||Eyesight test (not observed)|
We start with taking blood samples, measurements and weight. Then blood pressure is taken and the heart-rate.
Sport medical research
The doctor starts with a questionnaire. Johanna gets a lot of questions about childhood ailments, allergies, medication, diabetes etc, followed by an examination of lungs and throat. The doctor puts pressure on limbs and checks if there is any swelling in the body.
An endurance test is done on a bike and heart-rate is taken. Studs are placed on the front and back and a band around the arm, (measuring equipment). Johanna starts with a 3 minute warm-up, followed by increased physical strain. Johanna has to indicate how heavy the strain is on a of 1-7, 1 being light and 7 very heavy. The strain is measured and also blood pressure. With this test the doctor measures if the heart-rate is good, counts the beats and rhythm. There is no limit to the stages. Towards the end of the test, the breathing of Johanna becomes heavier and her face turns red while her heart-rate goes up to 190. For the recovery the equipment intensity is step by step. The whole test is evaluated with the doctor and questions asked before going onto the next stage.
On the huge University campus, we arrive in a small room hidden somewhere in one of the University buildings. The dietitian starts with the dairies Johanna kept for 2 weeks, to monitor what she eats & drinks. The dietitian also explains what healthy food is. Johanna is slightly too heavy for her length, too many donuts don’t help here!nJohanna gets advice to improve her eating pattern. This will be a challenge and she needs to inform school about food intake outside school breaks. The young athlete gets many questions so she becomes aware and starts thinking for herself about eating patterns and alternatives. The dietitian discusses the intake and use of calories and how to balance it. She also shows a food chart.
By simply choosing other meats on a sandwich, Johanna can influence the calorie intake. For greater immunity and more vitamines, Johanna has to eat more fruit & vegetables (turnip-cabbage) Drinking enough is extremely important. By doing so, it flushes out the toxins (sports people have more) more quickly. The advice is to drink half a litre of water 3 times daily, this will make a big difference.
The orthopedist, together with an assistant, starts with a questionnaire on complaints. He looks at the legs and support of the feet. Without equipment he checks the flexibility and straightness of the body. He analysis the back, shoulders, hips and feet, and turns the neck. He also looks at the flexibility and maximal rotation of the limbs. Johanna has to put force on turning her pulses, the bones and hands get checked. The flexibility of the legs are checked by rotating the hips and to analyse the pressure points on the knees. All the results are written in the report.
Then we go to the most spectacular (for me) part of the base-check. Small grey, half balls are placed on the body. These balls reflect how, with high-speed camera’s, Johanna’s jumps can be filmed from different angles. This is limited to all moving parts from the feet up to the belly button. Johanna has to make 3 different jumps, with a barcode the data is entered into the system.
Because of privacy, the personal data is screened and protected. For instance, her name is not connected to her data. At the research institute, there is a separate list that connect the data to the person again. Should the system be hacked, they only have the data but don’t know who it belongs to.
What follows next is a psychology test. For privacy reasons, I am not allowed to be present. Meanwhile, the program is delayed by an hour. The participants have to find the different locations themselves. There is no assistance between the tests.
As one of the last test a power test is done. It is mid-afternoon and we notice that the athletes are getting tired. The strength test is again started with a short questionnaire about sporting activities Johanna is doing on a weekly basis. She has to test her maximum strength on some equipment by pulling or pushing weight. The equipment is connected to computers to measure life performance. The idea is that Johanna holds on to her maximum strength at once. Not only is the equipment measuring the height but also the angles (degrees) . As a cyclist she has developed some good muscles in the legs. She is advised to train the muscles in the back of her legs more. Her back, arms, shoulders and chest are also tested. The upper half of the body is not as strong as the lower half. The posture is very important during the training.
In the room, 2 athletes are tested at the same time. This is very efficient. It is funny how the coaches motivate the athletes with their voice to get the maximum out of the tests. This certainly has an influence on the outcome. It can be seen on the graphs when a coach raises their voice, the performance increases. Do you have a less motivated coach, the results are probably less too.
I am not present at the eye test, I am told it is a normal eye test. The last part is the endurance test. Especially for these athletes a racing bike is in place. The doctor explains what is going to happen and what they measure. He takes the time to adjust the bike. Blood is taken from the ear regularly to measure the blood count at a later stage.
14 thousand parameters in one day
At the end of the day I get to talk to Eva Engelmeijer. She tels me there are 14.000 parameters included in the rapport. Because the data is not centralized, this takes time to collect them all and does not seem efficient. Weight and length for instance are measured more then once. But because of privacy and sensitivity of data, and the fact that the tests are done in 2 different locations, each with its own system, it is impossible to make this process more efficient at the moment.
Besides, parents need to agree for the report to go to the coach. It is estimated only a small part of the report is used to improve the training. The mean reason for this is the limited education of the coaches (they lack the knowledge to interpret the data) and the persistance to hold onto their own analysis and work athics ( I have been training for 20 years, why should I change?) I felt privileged to attend the base-check and would like to thank Johanna for this. Through her openness, I was able to see the test from close by. I wish her best of luck at the Radsportabteilung des VfR Buttgen 1912 e.V