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Denis Boucher's Blog: The development of on-ice testing

Magnus Paajarvi carries the puck during his first ever NHL game against the Calgary Flames. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Magnus Paajarvi carries the puck during his first ever NHL game against the Calgary Flames. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Imagine a laboratory built into a chest band that would allow us scientists to capture a huge amount of data while hockey players are skating. To go even further, consider the possibility of using mathematical models that enable us to correlate physiological and biomechanical data in such a way that a whole new world is revealed before our very eyes. A dream come true…

Variables such as power output, aerobic capacity, speed, acceleration, deceleration, fatigue profile, heart rate, heat storage, energy depletion, biomechanical efficiency, breathing frequency and body motion are integrated and reveal the player’s capacities under a powerful new microscope. Strengths and weaknesses no longer hold any secrets. Now, armed with this new technology, instead of using variation in training duration and intensity hoping for an improvement in your athlete’s aerobic and physical capacity, you have access to information that allows you to train specific aerobic and muscular qualities with surgical accuracy. As a result, you will see a much higher rate of improvement, in less time and with less effort.

In addition, this technology can be used to monitor an athlete’s recovery from an injury. Let’s say, for example, a hockey player hurts a leg. You can determine the effectiveness of rehab by comparing both legs while the player is skating. Indeed, you can now measure the smallest difference in efficiency and see the impact on the athlete’s physiology and overall fatigue in real time.

Science is so awesome!

Working in collaboration with the Zephyr Technology company, my team and I have been extending the possibilities of their lab by using strap technology. So what I described above is not science fiction, it’s actually the result of a great collaboration between a bunch of weird scientists. On Oct. 26th, players with the Victoriaville Tigres of the Quebec League will be the first to be tested on the ice with our new physiological profiling method.

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We’re now in an era where data rules. The more you know about your physical capacities the more you will be able to improve your skills and abilities. Furthermore, no matter what sport you practice, a fraction of a second often means the difference between winning and losing. What adds this fraction of a second is all that matters and not knowing leaves you behind.

Today, athletes don’t need to train hard; they need to train strategically. Training hard relates to nothing specific or strategic, it’s just an old way of thinking that leads to something that many times is not “it.” I often test athletes who train hard, but, sadly, they never reach their maximum performance level because there’s no valid data or strategy behind their training.

Science is awesome. Take advantage of it!

Dr. Denis Boucher holds a Ph.D. degree in experimental medicine. He manages an exercise physiology laboratory in Quebec and a human performance consulting company in the United States. He has conducted the pre-season on-ice fitness evaluation program for the Philadelphia Flyers. His clinical expertise is in the fields of exercise physiology, nutrition and sport performance. He currently hosts and produces a weekly radio show on XM172 entitled ‘The Little Scientific World of Doc Boucher’ (in French). He will blog for THN.com throughout the season.

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