Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2016

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 74 of 99 PRESEASON 2016 75 part of the game, Swarbrick and Co., have in recent years been reaching out to at least bring in resources that can create some damage control. One of the ways Notre Dame is trying to educate itself on the needs of its players is with the Global Posi- tioning System (GPS) tracking during practices. The satellite-based posi- tioning system (owned by the U.S. Department of Defense) tracks the athletes' position on the field and measures their level of intensity on his body. A small GPS unit can be comfort- ably worn on the upper back by play- ers. Pre-testing also is done in the summer to monitor functional defi- ciencies, from quadriceps strength to shoulder weakness or other orthotics. More than a decade ago, a leading sports scientist, Dr. Craig Duncan, concluded that soft-tissue injuries in world-class soccer can be better pre- vented if players wear the GPS dur- ing matches. "That software is going to help us a lot in identifying potential issues that a player could have, and we'll do some augmented weight training to bring those players along," Kelly said this spring. This proactive approach can pro- vide data, or at least that is the hope, to serve as both a preventative mea- sure and also help the program learn about ways to improve its approach moving forward. Following a practice or a workout session, Notre Dame will immedi- ately have data on each individual player in its hands. It involves all the support staff — strength and condi- tioning staff, training, medical and nutritionists. Recently, Swarbrick also brought in Duncan French to be the director of performance sciences and Derin McMains to be the director of men- tal conditioning, to assist the Fight- ing Irish student-athletes. French has worked with Great Britain's vastly improved Olympic programs and earned a Ph.D in exercise physiology. "There's no way to have an injury prevention, not in this game of foot- ball," Kelly said this August. "But I think being clearly invested in find- ing ways to keep your players on the field, other than hoping and praying, is where you have to be. … We've made a huge investment into the sports science." And into Kelly and his staff. ✦ Football Contact Work: The Present & Future With advances in physical training, football players are bigger, stronger and faster than ever, and there are more games than the days of the nine- and 10-game college seasons, or the 12- and 14-game NFL slates. Head trauma and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (C.T.E) are in the forefront of all football discussions. Consequently, this spring the Ivy League took the dramatic step of eliminating contact practices during the week of games. Meanwhile, the NFL has installed a rule that limits teams to 14 full-contact practices during the 18-week regular season. Per The New York Times, some franchises never even reach that limit. Notre Dame vice president/director of athletics Jack Swarbrick believes similar steps could occur at the Football Bowl Subdivision level. "We've all reduced hitting dramatically," Swarbrick said. "It's how you approach it. You do 'thump work' instead of full tackling in practices. The number of days we actually go full contact from the begin- ning of camp to the end of the season, people would be very surprised how little that is. "While we don't have some conference or NCAA rule with regard to it, we've already taken steps to be very careful about the amount of contact we have. "We're going to learn a lot from the Ivy Leagues and with the NFL rules. Coaches have a real concern about the increase in injuries on game days if you don't do some hitting. Are you going to be able to transfer tackling techniques and other things into the game environment if you haven't really practiced it as much?" Swarbrick said a healthy balance must be achieved — with the emphasis on "healthy" — and FBS schools are in communication with each other on their respective protocols. "The focus is safety, and I feel pretty good about the balance that we have struck, but you're con- stantly getting new information," Swarbrick said. "We talk to other programs all the time about what they do … as we did with Ohio State this winter. We're always getting information from other programs." — Lou Somogyi With a focus on safety, Swarbrick noted that the Irish and other Football Bowl Subdivision programs have "reduced hitting dramatically" by limiting the number of full-contact practices. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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