Incredible feats and the impact of Anthropomorphic advances
Following on from our 1st article entitled; The Athlete or Equipment? I, we wanted to take a look at the other side of the argument – Are athletes simply better, faster and stronger within modern sport or does the advancing technologies within the sports world account for the progression of athletic performance?
The simple answer is that both points go hand in hand. The advances in the technology of equipment has coincided with the advancement of understanding of the human body and as a result, athletes are able to train more often, more efficiently and with a greater specificity of focus. The perfect example of the understanding of the human body can be observed in the temporal understanding of the ‘ideal human body for elite sport’.
What Is The Ideal Human Body For Sport?
In the 1920’s, the ideal body shape for an athlete was perceived to be that of an average height and weight from the general population. As a result, elite level high jumpers and elite level shot putters were the exact same body size and shape, somewhat laughable in the modern era.
Since then, an artificial selection took place where athletes’ body shapes morphed towards the standards we have been accustomed to today. As a result, in the 2000’s, elite shot putters stood 2.5 inches taller and 130 pounds heavier than their counterparts from the 1920’s. Whilst the direct correlation of athletic progression can be attributed to human athletic performance, these performances would have been impossible had it not been for the understanding of the human traits that better fit the requirements of the sport. As an example of this difference, 2016 Olympic Champion World-record holder Ryan Crouser, often seen wearing the Nike Zoom SD Throwing Shoes, stands at 6ft 7 and 320lb; a far-cry from an ‘average’ human height and weight.
Changing Gene Pool Of Athletes
This changing gene pool from which athletes have been selected has been a direct result of a specialisation of sporting pedigree as well as the modernisation and monetisation of sport as an entity. Greater financial backing and rewards has resulted in a greater understanding of the human body best suited to returning the best results.
No greater example of this can be found in modern sport than that of the National Basketball Association (NBA).
In 1983, the NBA made a groundbreaking agreement in which players became partners in the league, entitling them to shares of tickets revenue and TV rights. Almost instantly, teams began to scour the globe for international tally and, as a result, the number of individuals 7ft tall in the league doubled to 1 in 10.
In general, it is incredibly rare for an individual to be 7ft tall. Kevin Durant, known outside of the league for his range of Nike Basketball shoes, stands as an elite player of 6ft 10 with a wingspan of 2.25m and is often referred to as being 7ft. A true 7ft player is hard to find, especially so considering the number of human beings on earth that there are to choose from within that field.
The most prominent statistic from this era is that if you found an American man between the ages of 20-40 that was 7ft tall, there was a 17% chance they were in the NBA. The fact that 1 in 6 7ft people in America are playing in one of the world’s most lucrative professional sports leagues is a staggering statistic and a clear and obvious sign of the advancement of understanding of the benefits of anthropomorphic factors on success within a given sport, supported by the funding to implement its’ findings. The wingspan of an average NBA player has also developed to freakishly large proportions. An average NBA player stands at 6ft 7 with a 7ft wingspan. A far cry from Leonardo Da Vinci’s idea of the perfectly proportioned man.
As well as growing, the same effect has been had on those sports demanding a smaller body type. Over the last 30 years, the average elite female gymnast has shrunk from 5ft 3 to 4ft 9. Although a small frame with which to perform the actions required, it requires a fantastic power to weight ratio, thus providing the best platform from which to achieve the best results. Arguably the most recognisable gymnast in the world, Simone Biles epitomises this transition to a smaller athlete, standing at just 4ft 7.
More athletic trainers and smarter training opportunities have opened a plethora of doors to world and championship records in recent times. The facilitation of full-time, professional athletes and coaches has resulted in entire careers and lifetimes dedicated to the pursuit of athletic perfection within the confines of a given sport. Advances in sports psychology have allowed athletes to understand their bodies, the challenge in front of them and best methods to prepare and succeed. A luxury that wasn’t afforded to those a century ago. The understanding of the body’s reaction to pain, its’ ability to push through it without lasting damage as well as the benefits and implementation of recovery strategies has allowed individuals to repeatedly perform at an elite level for sometimes decades at a time within a given sport.
As a result, the advancement of human performance has come as a result of the technological advancements within sport as an entity. A greater understanding and methodology of training has allowed athletes to specialise in their chosen field to remarkable precision, allowing them to produce the results that has elevated sport to the status it holds in society today.
The financial support and incentives accompanied with success has driven the progression of athletic performance and anthropomorphic specialism to an acute degree. The benefits to which can be seen throughout the world, in every specialist field in the sporting world. When the margins of victory are so small, it remains the small things, whether technological or humanistic, that create the separation.