Thoughts from the 2018 NFL Combine

Recently, I had the chance to attend the 2018 NFL Combine.  As part of the Combine, the Professional Football Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association (PFSCCA) sponsored a sports science exhibition.  Dexalytics and our partner, Hologic, Inc. participated in the exhibition. The PFSCCA exhibition brings the head strength coaches of the NFL and their assistants together with the top equipment companies and service providers in the sports performance industry. 

In talking with PFSCCA members one of the things that I observed was that a number of NFL teams are adding specialists with backgrounds in nutrition and/or sports science.  These new additions to professional football staffs have spurred an interest in the scientific testing and management of athletes and their data.  One of the obvious scientific areas of interest is in body composition.  In the past, a number of teams used skinfold calipers and/or air displacement (i.e., BodPod) to measure body composition. Currently, a number of teams are turning towards dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) to measure body composition.  

The increased usage of DXA to determine body composition is due to a number of reasons.  The main reason is the greater accuracy that DXA offers.  Another reason is the ability to determine muscle and fat content in arms, legs and trunk.  This allows one to examine asymmetry between the left and right sides of the body, and upper and lower body.  This data is useful in training and obviously, return to play from injury.  

The other big area of interest for exercise and nutrition staff is handling the at times overwhelming amount of data.  Not only from storing and analyzing the data, but also using it as a teaching tool for the players. Imagine how helpful it can be to show a player the differences in muscle and fat masses, or show them what happens during the offseason if they do not follow their diet and training programs.  Dexalytics:TEAMS is perfect for tracking data and is extremely useful as a teaching tool, not only for players but also for coaches and training and performance staff. 

These are exciting times for exercise and nutrition science and their interface with professional and collegiate sports.  I believe over next few years you will see those teams and individuals that utilize exercise and nutrition science having a distinct advantage over their competitors.  


About the Author: Donald Dengel, Ph.D., is a Professor in the School of Kinesiology at the University of Minnesota and is a co-founder of Dexalytics. He serves as the Director of the Laboratory of Integrative Human Physiology, which provides clinical vascular, metabolic, exercise and body composition testing for researchers across the University of Minnesota.

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