The Real Science of Sport Podcast

Revealing the truth behind the games we play with Professor Ross Tucker and sports journalist Mike Finch

Latest episode

  • 28. The Most Fascinating Explanation of Rugby Laws You'll Hear This Year / Berlin Marathon Record: Human Excellence or Shoe Tech Mastery

    Keith Lewis is the Laws Co-ordinator at World Rugby and Founder of and is at the fulcrum of many of the law changes in the world of rugby union. The team scrum down to discuss how the laws have changed the game over the years, how to manage the balance between player safety and spectator entertainment and how new laws are introduced into the game. PLUS Ethiopia’s Tigst Assefa established a new women's world marathon record at the Berlin Marathon. But how much of a factor is the shoe tech and how do we measure the athletic performance?SHOW NOTES:The article we discussed in the context of how running shoes have undermined all trust in the human contribution to running records, by Knopp The comparison between different shoes, showing large differences within the same runner in different shoes, and between shoesThe paper that Jordan Santos-Concejero commented on, showing that reducing shoe mass makes a difference to running economyThe link between running economy and performanceGuest Keith Lewis’ details:Email: Laws@worldrugby.orgX: @keithlewisrugbyLinkedin:

More episodes

View all episodes

  • 27. From Cauliflower Ears To Subterfurge: Inside the World of a Pro Rugby Coach

    John Dobson is one of South Africa's most celebrated rugby coaches. As head coach of the Stormers franchise, who won the 2021-22 United Rugby Championship, Dobson is renowned as one of the most passionate and knowledgeable coaches in the game. The team talk candidly to Dobson about tactics, what coaches say to players at halftime, what makes a good coach, the clever way coaches communicate with players during a game and why coaching boxes have to be swept before games to ensure they aren't bugged. For the rugby novice and connoisseur alike.
  • 26. Rugby World Cup '23: The Amazing Tech Used To Look After Players

    Having just returned from a week at the Rugby World Cup, Prof. Ross Tucker explains the amazing tech used to spot concussions during RWC matches. Plus the team discuss how the tackle rule is not a perfect science and if 'bomb squad' tactics further threaten player safety. PLUS latest doping news and a Vuelta a Espana update.SHOW NOTES:Simona Halep’s 4 year ban announced by ITIA: Paul Pogba’s testosterone failureArticle on the concussion experienced by the AFL player discussion on the showThe piece that describes the “duty of care” arguments and whether such injuries should be thought of as footy incidents or preventable brain injuries, and at what cost to the nature of the sportThe first of three articles that Ross published on how head injuries happen in rugbyThe study that found, among other things, that higher contact tackles are more likely to cause head injuriesThe Head Contact Process Currently used by World Rugby for adjudicating high tackles
  • 25. The Man Who Cycled the Globe: Adventurer Ron Rutland from Paris

    Ron Rutland arrived in Paris on 7 September 2023, concluding the fourth leg of a remarkable (and not always planned) journey that has spanned a decade and four Rugby World Cups. Beginning in 2013, Ron rode from Cape Town to London via every country in Africa, then London to Tokyo, Tokyo to Auckland, and Auckland to Paris (via South and North America). It's a journey that has covered over 100,000 km, crossing 115 countries on six continents. In between, he caddied the longest hole of golf every played across Mongolia. Ron has seen and experienced it all - mudslides, heat, illness, adopted dogs, bus accidents, Himalayan and Andean passes, 100km climbs and even longer descents. He and Ross sit down in a hotel coffee shop in Paris to talk about his cycling journey around the world, fitness gains, calorie deficits, see-food diets, and the challenges overcome, lessons learned, and life philosophies developed along the way.Show notesThe documentary made about Ron's caddying expedition across Mongolia: The Longest HoleThe journey from London to Tokyo is available as a link at the bottom of this page (it just requires sign up for a free trial, and possibly a VPN), including Himalayan Peaks and mudslides: Everything in between
  • 24. Sean Ingle on anti-doping, the state of T&F and a look ahead to the Rugby World Cup

    Ross is joined in Paris by Guardian Chief Sports Reporter, Sean Ingle, to look back on the recent World Athletics Championships, but with a focus more on the off-track news stories, including the state of anti-doping in sport, conflicts in the media zone, and the marketability of the sport and its athletes. They also look ahead to the upcoming Rugby World Cup, with Sean visiting France to set the scene for Paris' upcoming eleven-month festival of sports, and Ross attending meetings ahead of this weekend's opening fixtures. That discussion explores some of Sean's family history in boxing, the value of contact sport, and the challenge faced by all sports to prevent and manage head impacts more effectively.
  • 23. La Vuelta and Remco / The Farrell Tackling Incident Unpacked / World Athletics Champs Wrap

    Why the Owen Farrell incident may well have saved rugby / Remco Evenepoel takes on the best stage racers at this year's Vuelta a Espana: Can he dominate? / All the best performances and stories from the World Athletics Championships.
  • 22. Woodpeckers do get concussed, and what this means for the Q-Collar and brain injury prevention

    The Q-Collar is a device that is promoted to prevent concussion and "protect the brain during repetitive head impacts", and has been spotted around the necks of athletes in a number of sports, ranging from cricket to football. But do these claims and promises stand up to scientific scrutiny? Is there a sound biological rationale for the claims? Should parents, athletes and coaches explore and use devices such as this to prevent brain injury?In this episode, Ross explores the answers to the above questions with Prof James Smoliga, professor of Public health and community medicine at Tufts University. Prof Smoliga puts an intense and in-depth scientific microscope on the claims, and concludes that there is no quality evidence in support of concussion and brain health claims, and that the foundational premise on which the product rests is flawed. We also learn that woodpeckers DO show signs of brain injury, that studies linking altitude to protection against concussion are grossly exaggerated and misinterpreted, and, humorously, that NFL teams with animal mascots are less likely to see concussion that teams without animal mascots.Show notes:Dr James Smoliga's university profile pageThe science and research page of the Q-Collar website, describing many of the studies James talks about in the podcastJames' paper on the mechanisms used by woodpeckers to (partly) protect their brains from injuryStudy showing signs of brain injury in woodpeckers, despite the above mentioned adaptationsThe original study showing a purported protective effect of "altitude" (above 600ft!) on concussionThe rebuttal letter from James' colleague that absolutely eviscerates the above mentioned altitude studyJames' meta-analysis that looks at over 5 million data points to show that altitude does not have a protective effect against concussionThe paper discussed on the pod that uses the DTI method to show brain changes with and without the Q-CollarThe 2021 study that failed to find a reduction in concussion incidence with the Q-Collar