Saberseminar 2017 (part 2)

A writeup of my Saberseminar presentation (and a little more) has been posted at The Hardball Times: Better Playing Through Chemistry… Still 

A huge thank you to Paul Swydan for the opportunity to write for THT!


Saberseminar 2017

I had the honor of presenting at this year’s Saberseminar, on a few topics near and dear to my heart: Organic chemistry! Drugs! Pharmacokinetics! and oh yeah, baseball!

Here’s a link to a pdf of my slides: Stephanie Springer, Saberseminar August 2017

Of course, the slides on their own don’t really make much sense. As bright and scientifically inclined as the Saberseminar attendees are, it is really hard to cram that much analytical chemistry and biochemistry and PK stuff into a short talk for a baseball audience. And since I only had ten minutes, I glossed over the conclusion. I promise there will be a write up/follow up shortly.

I had so much fun at Saberseminar, and I can’t wait to go back. It’s a tremendous feeling to be surrounded by like-minded people, and it was a pleasure meet several people that I’ve been following for years.

“This Doesn’t Sound Legal”

This NYTimes article about Nike’s Oregon Project is interesting, and I’m looking forward to catching up on the story as reported by other outlets. This jumped out at me:

Even though L-carnitine is not a banned substance, the method of infusion used by Dr. Brown was prohibited, antidoping officials believe. Antidoping rules prohibit “infusions and/or injections of more than 50 mL per 6 hour period except for those legitimately received in the course of hospital admissions, surgical procedures or clinical investigations.

The method of administration should never be ignored. In this case, it makes the difference between carnitine being a legal supplement versus a banned substance.

PEDs and safety

Cardiovascular Effects of Performance-Enhancing Drugs“, Circulation, 2017, vol. 135, no. 1, pages 89-99

I still need to read the full paper, but from the abstract (emphasis mine):

This review will summarize the known health effects of PEDs but will also focus on the potentially greater health threat posed by the covert search for performance-enhancing agents that have yet to be recognized by the World Anti-Doping Agency. History has taught us that athletes are subjected to unmonitored trials with experimental drugs that have little or no established efficacy or safety data.

Many athletes who test positive for PEDs allege that they did so unknowingly. If that’s true*, it’s very possible that someone is going to exhibit an adverse reaction to a compound that they are receiving as part of someone’s experiment. Hopefully it’s nothing as severe as what some of the East Germans experienced.

*I can’t imagine implicitly trusting someone to an extent where I would ingest or inject anything they gave me, without question.

Mighty Mouse drugs

This article in Cell Metabolism is getting a lot of attention, and for good reason: PPARδ Promotes Running Endurance by Preserving Glucose. I highly recommend the original article, as its chock-full of great references regarding all things PPARδ. For the layman, here’s the Nature News writeup (Athletic endurance enhanced by metabolic shift) and Discover writeup (With An Injection, Mice Nearly Double Their Endurance), which are great for distilling the original research paper down to the important bits. But this headline from Endpoints is eye catching: A new Mighty Mouse drug, making marathon runners with a pill. That last headline…! Who wouldn’t want to take a pill that would turn them into Mighty Mouse? Of course, this particular Mighty Mouse drug is on WADA and MLB’s lists of banned substances. And it’s not what you might think it is.

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platelet rich placebo

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) pops up from time to time in my twitter timeline, both from my baseball feed and my science feed. I would be very skeptical of a therapy made famous by Kim Kardashian, namely the vampire facial. The vampire facial uses PRP to promote collagen growth to achieve a more youthful look. But of course aesthetic treatments and medical treatments are very different, so I shouldn’t let my Kardashian bias influence my view of PRP as a cure-all for many sports injuries. A selling point for athletes: “One great benefit of PRP is that it is a completely natural procedure, since it uses your own blood. No injecting of foreign materials required!” (Yes, that quote is from another story about vampire facials, but hey, all natural is all natural!)

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chemically treated baseballs

The Arizona Fall League is often a testing ground for new ideas that MLB hopes to eventually implement in the majors; the 2016 AFL season saw the use of a chemically treated ball, having a tackier feel. By February 2017, it was again reported that MLB is developing a chemically treated baseball, suitable for use in major league games. As Paul Hagen reports, “The purpose is to eliminate the need to rub down the balls before each game with a special mud that takes the gloss off the surface and makes it easier to grip.”

That “special mud” is supposed to impart a tackier feel, and every ball is treated with it. But of course, people are always looking for a potential competitive advantage, however slight. So using foreign substances on baseballs to improve one’s grip on the ball is nothing new. People use various combinations of rosinpine tar, and sunscreen to achieve a tackier ball so that they can get a better grip. And technically, it’s against the rules.

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