Every two years, the world gathers around their television sets to watch the Olympic Games. Elite athletes from around the world come together in a new host city to compete against one another in either Winter or Summer sports. Right now, the 2020 Games in Tokyo are underway, after having postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Each event showcases feats of strength, training, mental fortitude and — yes — science! Below are some resources to help you talk science in the context of sports.
- Elite athletes need to be in peak physical health to be able to perform their sport. They generally have lower resting heart rates, anaerobic thresholds, and oxygen transport (as measured by V02max). Students can read through scholarly papers and review articles to learn more about specific organ systems. For example, start with this article about “Athlete’s Heart and Cardiovascular Care of the Athlete,“, or this article about oxygen consumption and then move to having your students build and examine the Origami Organelle model of the heart or the lungs.
- Engineering in Sports: For many sports, the equipment associated is as important as the athletes. Think about swimming – not only is the strength and conditioning of the athlete important, but also fluid dynamics as the athlete travels through the water, and also the design of the pool. These videos highlight some innovations in swimming science, as well as weight lifting, long jump, and more!
- The biochemistry of body systems: this Research Roundup from ASBMB Today highlights current topics in the biochemistry literature that relate to elite athletic performances. We have all heard of athletes trying to cheat the system using performance enhancing drugs (or PEDs). For example, the case of Lance Armstrong can be used as a cautionary tale about the use of PEDS, but also provide an insight into the ways some athletes try to change the biochemistry of their bodies to make it more efficient. Some of the featured papers in the ASBMB Today article have implications in relationship to new or existing PEDs. This can be paired with a hands-on experiment like MyLabTM Custom Kit 1232, “How Is Substance Abuse Determined?”
- Gymnastics is all about PHYSICS! As the athletes twist and tumble through the air, they’re working agains gravity, air, and their own bodies. This brief article explains the physics behind some common events in gymnastics.
- Since we are in the middle of the COVID-19 Pandemic, athletes, coaches, referees, and volunteers at Tokyo Summer Olympics must take precautions to prevent the spread of disease. This gives you the opportunity to talk about disease prevention and testing, as well as basic epidemiology (that is, tracking the spread of infectious agents through a community).