ThermoHuman Podcast 9: Noah Tegatz (Sports Scientist at VfL Wolfsburg, Football Bundesliga Team)
🎙 In the ninth episode of ThermoHuman podcast “Thermography: Science, Health and Sport” (podcast in English) we introduce Noah Tegatz, Sport Scientist at VfL Wolfsburg, a soccer Bundesliga Team, Germany.
🏋️♂️ Noah Tegatz offers us a very interesting testimony about the application of thermography in the daily basis of a high performance soccer team. His experience during this year with thermography in high performance brings us a great approach of how to use this technology to analyze athletes during their daily routine of performance and return-to-play.
⚽ Indeed, one of the most interesting statements from Noah Tegatz is the one about how thermography can support the rehabilitation process. In this sense, Noah explained us the way he uses it as a complementary diagnostic tool during a plantar fasciitis injury, assisting in decision-making to progress from a phase to another one.
“I think (that thermography) specifically helped us out in the return-to-play process […]. We had a player, who had plantar fasciitis unfortunately, and then we used infrared thermography to detect the changes in temperature over a period of time […] we recognized based on thermography that the player was ready to play again and objectify our decision […] it was pretty useful…”Noah Tegatz (Sport Scientist at VfL Wolfsburg)
ISMAEL: Hello everyone, welcome to the new episode of the podcast thermography, science, health and sports. I am very happy that you are here to listen to a new episode, a new testimonial form great professionals and I’m very happy to have on board today Noah Tegatz, he is sports scientists from Germany, he’s working in a Bundesliga team Wolfsburg and I thank you very much for being here.
NOAH: thank you very much for your invitation I highly appreciated the pleasure to be here thank you
I: That is our honor so, as I told you the most of these podcasts is just to mean closer testimonium from different professionals and today we have Noah here and what is very interesting for us is your approach as a sports scientist in our First Division on top elite team as possible and indeed you have been so performing an exceptional season congratulations for your Champions League qualification for next season.
N: thank you very much, thank you very much.
I: that is absolutely brilliant and that’s why we are here as you know is a very informal conversation and I I like to just perform A to start with the first question Noah just to know, how did you know thermography, when was the first time you hear about this technology?
N: So, within the team we try to look for a new internal market to quantify our players load, until two years ago we always used to work with session RPE at the Wellness questionnaires regarding the players sleep and recovery, get it kindness measurements prior to the training session and also heart rate frequency and other hardware measures during training session. However, we found out that those markers are really good for detecting the training intensity as well as volume whoever they don’t really tell us where the overload within the player might, so which muscle region might be overloaded so, we try to look for a new way which is a bit more localized than that and I wasn’t actually there two years ago when Chris our head of performance doesn’t looking for a new method, but he was actually the first one who got to know infrared thermography and then make the connection to ThermoHuman.
I: That´s great and I think that it was like 2 years ago when we firstly add the contact of kristoff and then the second question it´s very interesting because you were mentioning about the problem, the issue regarding internal loads quantification, so my question is, how are you using actually thermography on your daily routine?
N: OK, so first of all, we use infrared thermography to help affect changes in skin temperature that are related to inner tissue physiological modification obviously, and like we said, subsequently utilized as an additional markup for the internal loading and for injury prevention. At the beginning of the year, in January we started using infrared thermography and ThermoHuman on a daily basis, so prayer to every training session early in the morning the players come to me and I take the infrared images, upload into the software and then analyze them, so we have qualitative and quantitative approach of analyzing pictures.
I: OK and then, when you are using that weight, so taking pictures on a daily basis before training started, how do you combine the information of thermography with other technologies?
N: basically, after I take the pictures I have a discussion with Chris our head of performance and also with Sasha, our Head of Physiotherapist and Sasha provides us with a subjective impressions of the players, Chris also does it and while I take infrared images of the players, Chris is doing CK measurements, and after we are doing with all the measurements, we have like a method discussion talk about all results and then adjust the training load accordingly.
I: Okey. In that sense in this process of analyzing different aspects, using different technologies as you mentioned, obviously the idea I guess for you is to use thermography information, to take decisions regarding training adaptations or treatment decisions, how important is thermography in this decision making process for you?
N: Personally I think that you want experience always comes first and that´s the subjective impressions of Sasha and Chris always have his high priority. For example, Chris provides us with information about the players neuromuscular activation during gym sessions are doing our warm up, where Sasha provides us with really insightful and useful information of the players for muscular tone when it comes to physiotherapeutic measurements. I think that those are the most important things we are working with, whoever the data we gain from our measurements like infrared thermography, it’s always a great support tool and definitely helps us to reduce the number of injuries within the sport and also helps us to optimize performance, but I also do think that if you have the data it’s really important to actually work with that data so it’s not really about data collection it’s much more about the practical application so, as soon as I recognize a noticeable several pattern among one of our players or high asymmetry index it’s my responsibility to reported to Sasha and Chris and together we will decide about possible practical interventions and we’ll adjust the training load accordingly.
I: So I guess as other experts mentioned, technology and methodology is important but I see that the communication
N: Technology is always a good support
I: But the basis is the communication flows, the dynamic internally
N: But I think it´s also always important to objective our decisions and we can only objective our decision if we have enough data and infrared thermography, and specially ThermoHuamn is able to provide that data and so it’s also CK, so if we make decisions it’s also good to objectify them in the same time.
N: I think it had actually like a good influence finally on our decision making in the end.
I: So now more or less my next question is regarding that, so as you know this is not a business podcast, my idea is always to ask regarding the pros and cons so, what you consider that is an advantage of thermography, and on the other hand, what you see as a limitation so I would like to ask you from your perspective, what is the most interesting advantage of using thermography on your approach?
J: first of all I think the biggest advantage is that thermography is not invasive and really easy to conduct. In the morning, it probably takes around 45 minutes and the data is already analyzed and I’m done with all the players, yeah, so it’s really fast and not invasive
I: how many players are you anallyzing, normally?
J: 26 a day approximately
N: Thow it only takes about 15 seconds to do one picture, I upload the picture to the software. we analyze it and then I give feedback to the physiotherapist and to our head of performance.
I: And on the other hand, the limitations, what do you consider as main limitations?
N: I think that is a lot more research focusing on certain patterns of different injuries is essential for more practical applications and that it’s also really important that we made more correlations. For me personally, it’s really difficult to make a correlation between our external load sometimes and then to compare it with the results provided by the infrared thermography or with the CK values with creatine kinase measurements, we don’t really see that connection at that stage yet and we need to make more correlations in order to recognize the patterns basically.
I: That’s very interesting, so far you mentioned that at the beginning you were looking for this kind of correlation between thermography and creatine kinase, so you are mentioning that so far you didn’t see this correlation, correct?
N: Until that stage we did not see the correlation and we mainly use infrared thermography, to detect asymmetries but we left and right for example and then, to prevent injuries accordingly, but we don’t really use it as a marker for training consistency, for example.
I: OK and then, let me ask you for example, because we have been mentioning limitations and something that we actually to improve, research and look for better correlation in case we can find them, but on the other hand, do you remember some special case during this season where thermography specially helped you to I don´t know, prevent an injury or to solve a specific situation with a player that was injured, something that you remember as a special moment that you say, okey thermography help us out with this problem.
N: Yeah, I think it specifically helped us out during the return to play process of some players, for example, we had a player who had plantar fascitis unfortunately and then we use infrared thermography to detect the change in temperature over a period of time and we recognize that the temperature, the difference between left and right between the right ankle was consistently decreasing so we recognize based on infrared thermography that the player we ready to play again and objectified our decision basically, which was pretty useful.
I: So from your opinion, when we are normally just mentioning the different applications, prevention, diagnosis report and also with the return to play or injury monitoring and internal load simulation, from your opinion, which is the most interesting application so far?
J: The most interesting application is I think the return to play process and I still enjoy injury prevention practical to training I can also give you other examples, one of our players I think it was in February got strain injury in his calf muscle, on that day shortly before he got that strain I took a thermal image and realized that the calf muscle had a higher temperature than the calf muscle on the other leg but we didn’t do anything yet because we were just collecting data and we were just trying to create baseline to every individual player and then after the player got injure we recognize that the calf muscle all of a sudden show hypothermia, so it was getting colder.
I: So based on that, are you planning to change the way you use thermography for next season, so are you going to take more into account the results in order to take decisions?
J: Yeah, definitely. There will be a big part of it like I said until that stage we only used infrared thermography for five months when the player where actively there and the first three months we solve on collecting data and I am creating baseline values for every single individual player, so I think that in order to make good decisions we need to have like a certain baseline for every individual player so then we can work with data, I think that always the important, when it comes to metrics, neutralize assymetries or coefficient of variation, I think that one thermal images isn’t really enough to prevent injuries and I think that like I said we need to have multiple images in order to make good decisions.
I: That´s great. I hope you will really help in Champions League experience next year.
N: I hope so too.
I: So, Noah, from my side I don’t have more questions, I don’t know I if you have or you want… I yes, for sure. I would like to ask you for my last question normally is regarding the future, so you were mentioning that from your opinion as a limitation you can see that we need further investigation in order to know more about the correlations about the thermal patterns based on different pathology
N: In injuries types basically, like what is the thermal patter after a rapture compared to like a muscle strain I think it’s like really research need to expand on.
I: Okey, and any other topic you needs that you think it’s important in the future of thermography?
N: I think it would also be beneficial if we can create more regions of interest so there we get a better overview of the player and the muscles in the system in general.
I: Yeah. I was asking in general but, what is your opinion regarding specifically the application of thermography in top football institutions, what do you think that is going to happen? Do you think that thermography it´s going to be as for example GPS is for external load, for internal load or you think that probably the role of thermography is going to be different in the next years? What is your opinion?
J: I think it’s infrared thermography will definitely gain more popularity overtime, it will definitely become a good tool, a good additional marker to prevent injuries and I think that it can be quite successful definitely.
I: For that we need more research on people like you.
N: I think we just need more data
I: Absolutely I agree on that, and that’s why we try to improve and to keep on research. As I was mentioning, I don’t know if you have any other comments to do?
J: I think, I’m fine so far, thank you very much.
I: so I appreciate a lot of your time and your opinions and your experience because I think it’s very enriching and another professional probably will hear and with a lot of attention and carefully what you’re saying and hopefully might help other people to understand how can we use that, the limitations we can face, but also the interesting benefits of using thermography and thank you very much once again. thank you
J: I think I have one final point to make.
I: Go ahead.
N: I think what we need to look right now is how are we dealing with the data which is providing. For example, if detect an symmetry between the left and the right hamstring, what it´s our next step, like the strength and condition coach he needs to focus on the on your neuromuscular activation before the warm up session, how our physiotherapist suppose to deal with that thermal pattern. I think right know it´s also important to focus on the practical applications, it’s not all about collecting the data, I think it’s also about implementing the actions after receiving basically.
I: Instructions based on the results to help professionals or to guide them to do their supposed to be the best option. That’s a very good final comment. Thank you very much Noah.
N: Thank you very much Ismael.
I: Danksagung. Enjoy your holidays. All the best for next season
N: Thank you. I appreciate it. Thank you for your time.
Thank you for listening to this ninth episode of ThermoHuman podcast “Thermography: Science, Health and Sport” (podcast in English) with Noah Tegatz, Sport Scientist at VfL Wolfsburg, a soccer Bundesliga Team, Germany.