Science needs to be mainstream; but not THAT mainstream!!!

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research is a good portal for the S&C coach. However, I keep reading articles in it that make me question its scientific rigour. I’ve already written about a recent paper in which a completely invalid methodology was used (although I must thank them for this as it was a great teaching tool). Now, they have published an article entitled “Changes in Height, Body Weight, and Body Composition in American Football Players From 1942 to 2011”.

Firstly, there is the incorrect use of “weight”. Weight, which is the product of our mass and the acceleration due to gravity, is a force. It is not our mass. Our mass is how much there is of us, and is measured in kilograms (among other units); weight, being a force, is commonly measured in Newtons. Now this may seem pedantic, and it would be if this was the non-scientific community that published this article. However, this IS the scientific community, and we have to maintain the use of the correct terms and be (somewhat) objective.

“But weight is what people know!” I hear you say (probably with a few profanities aimed at me). Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for presenting science in a language understandable by all. However, don’t start using terms incorrectly. If we all use any term we like, then people won’t know what they are reading. A lay-person reading that paper, then going on to read a paper that uses “weight” correctly, will be confused;

“how can these two things be called the same but be completely different?!?!? These scientists just make stuff up. I’m going to go back and read Men’s Health!”

The second thing about this paper I am not sure on is that I have no idea of the reason why this research was done in the first place. Why do we care about the trend in body stature in a specific sport? Are we aiming to plan for the future athlete based on some model fitted to the data? For a start, that would be invalid unless it accurately predicts a ceiling/floor to the variables. Secondly, isn’t the goal of an S&C coach to make the athlete bigger, faster and stronger (I know this is a very broad generalisation, but I’m hoping you get my point) relative to their competitors…not those competing in 50 years time, or 50 years in the past?!?

That second issue, although probably badly worded, is a sincere confusion of mine. So if anyone can help me out (there’s got to be a reason and I’m just not seeing it) please do share, as I don’t feel comfortable when I don’t understand something; and I don’t understand this.

Anzell AR, Potteiger JA, Kraemer WJ, & Otieno S (2013). Changes in height, body weight, and body composition in American football players from 1942 to 2011. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association, 27 (2), 277-84 PMID: 23222088

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