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Injured Nadal In U.S. Open Battle After Toronto, Cincinnati Pullout

Toronto (Canada) (AFP) — Rafael Nadal was forced to pull out of the Toronto and Cincinnati Masters with a wrist injury on Wednesday, just over three weeks out from the U.S. Open where he is defending champion.

The 28-year-old Spaniard said he had hurt his right wrist in training and needed up to three weeks rest. The US Open gets under way in New York on August 25.

“Unfortunately I injured my right wrist yesterday (Tuesday) during practice and after the tests I have undergone today in Spain, including an MRI, and checking with my doctors, I will have to stay out of competition for at least 2-3 weeks,” said the world number two.

“I’m extremely disappointed that I am unable to defend my titles and compete in Toronto and Cincinnati this year. I was looking forward to coming and playing again after my great results last year.”

The Toronto Masters starts on Monday with the Cincinnati event getting under way the following week.

“I was looking forward to playing again in Toronto as I have always loved to play in Canada and had great results in the past at a very important event,” added Nadal, whose career has been plagued by injury with persistent knee problems often forcing him onto the sidelines.

He missed seven months of action in 2012-2013 before making a blistering return with a successful defense of his French Open and capturing an emotional second U.S. Open crown in September.

Nadal hasn’t played since his shock Wimbledon fourth round loss to Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios four weeks ago.

He was defending champion in Cincinnati as well as Canada where the Masters event was played in Montreal last year.

“It is very unfortunate that Rafa is unable to defend his title,” said Cincinnati tournament director Vince Cicero.

“He is a great champion, and his run to the title last year electrified our fans. We will miss him, and we wish him a very speedy recovery.”

Cincinnati still boasts a powerful field led by world number one Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray.

Nadal is one of five players to withdraw from the Cincinnati event due to injury, joining Nicolas Almagro (foot), Alexandr Dolgopolov (knee), Tommy Haas (shoulder), and Florian Mayer (groin).

The Spaniard will miss the Toronto event for only the second time since his 2004 debut.

“We know Rafa is a fan favourite and our fans will be upset by his absence,” said Karl Hale, the tournament director of the Rogers Cup event.

“But we also know that if Rafa could play he would as he has a great respect for our event and his Canadian fans. We wish him well and hope he returns to the Tour healthy as soon as possible.”

Toronto will still boast eight of the top 10 players in the world, including Djokovic, Federer, and Murray.

AFP Photo/Carl Court

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Six Injured In Shooting At Georgia FedEx Hub

By Alana Semuels, Los Angeles Times

A gunman shot six people at a FedEx facility near Atlanta early Tuesday before turning the gun on himself, local police said.

Authorities said they received a call at 5:54 a.m. EDT reporting an active shooter at the FedEx facility at the Cobb County Airport in Kennesaw, Ga., about 30 miles northwest of Atlanta.

After sweeping the area, officers found the shooter dead from an “apparent self-inflicted” gunshot wound, said Cobb County Police Department public information officer Mike Bowman.

Police said they have not yet identified the gunman and are still sweeping the area to make sure it is safe.

After the incident, six patients were transferred to WellStar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, said Tyler Pearson, a hospital spokesman. One was taken immediately into surgery, but several were able to walk from ambulances, Peterson said.

FedEx confirmed the incident. “Our primary concern is the safety and wellbeing of our team members, first responders and others affected,” FedEx spokesman Ben Hunt said.

FedEx workers were being turned away upon arriving to work at the facility Tuesday morning. Other local businesses at the airport, when reached by phone, said police had asked them not to speak about the incident.

Photo via Wikimedia

18 People Hurt, 2 Firefighters Killed In Boston 9-Alarm Fire

By Matt Pearce, Los Angeles Times

Two Boston firefighters died and 18 other people were hospitalized after a nine-alarm fire tore through a brownstone building in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood Wednesday, officials said.

“A sad day in Boston,” tweeted Boston City Council member Josh Zakim, who represents the Back Bay neighborhood and who confirmed the deaths to The Associated Press.

Several local media outlets also reported the deaths, citing unidentifed sources. A spokesman for the Boston Fire Department could not be reached for comment, and a Boston Police Department spokesman declined to comment on the reports.

The fire began in the basement of a four-story Beacon Street brownstone before spreading upward and growing into a nine-alarm blaze, the fire department said on its official Twitter account.

That account tweeted several dramatic photos of firefighters battling the blaze before going into a long silence.

Emergency radio traffic painted fragments of a dramatic scene at the building, with one emergency official telling responders, “All companies out of the building, now!”

A male responder radioed, “I’m at zero. Getting hot down here!” with another adding, “I’m running out of water, I’m running out of water.”

A female voice, apparently a dispatcher, told another official, “They say they don’t have any water, it’s getting hot in there … They’re in the basement heading toward the front of the building.”

Sam Wallace, president of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay, told the Boston Globe that he saw people “running out of the building screaming” as well as several soot-faced firefighters being placed into ambulances.

Nicolaus Czarnecki/METRO Boston/Zuma Press/MCT

Cutting-Edge Technology Can Track Players’ Health

By Frank Seravalli, Philadelphia Daily News

BOSTON — When the Philadelphia Flyers’ 18 non-Olympians returned to the ice for practice on March 19 after an NHL-mandated 10-day break, the veterans organized a little team activity to see who fell out of shape the quickest on vacation.

They called it a battle for the “Green Jacket,” in reference to the Masters prize, since the “winner” likely spent too much time on the golf course during the break.

A decade ago, the Flyers’ least conditioned player would likely have been chosen subjectively — by a kangaroo court of vets judging simply with their eyes.

Last month, the Flyers — and team management — were able to tell which players maintained their fitness by huddling around a computer screen. The numbers spoke for themselves.

That’s because the Flyers are the only NHL team to train with data-collecting technology by Catapult Sports. During nearly every practice, Flyers players skate with a durable GPS tracking device that is roughly half the size of an iPhone sewn into a pocket on the back of their shoulder pads that remotely monitors distance, velocity, acceleration, deceleration, jumps, heart rate and recovery time, among many other things.

The heart-rate monitor, a strap that wraps around their chest, is the only piece of equipment players notice.

“I don’t think anyone in here had any issue with wearing it,” Flyers forward Jay Rosehill said. “In fact, I think everyone was pretty curious when we first started to wear it. It’s funny how the game has evolved and they’re using technology like that to track us.”

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren was not able to speak about his team’s use of the data gathered by Australia-based Catapult, citing the “legalities of our agreement.”

Eagles coach Chip Kelly started using Catapult at the University of Oregon and brought the technology with him to the Eagles. More than 250 teams in numerous professional and amateur sports leagues work with Catapult.

Numerous Flyers said this week that the technology, which can compute workload in practice, actually has fostered an interest in competition in practice. Hal Gill, who has appeared in only four games this season, will routinely ask Flyers strength and conditioning coach Ryan Podell how his numbers from practice stack up before he has even pulled his jersey off.

“I think, more than anything, this isn’t used to compare yourself to any other guy,” Rosehill said. “Once you get enough data, you can begin to track your own progress throughout the course of the season. You know whether you might need to spend more time in the gym or more time on conditioning.”

Indianapolis Colts quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Matt Hasselbeck participated in a panel at MIT’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference last weekend and said the use of these types of monitoring technologies has piqued their interest.

“As athletes, there’s always hesitation to wear anything that might hinder your performance,” Luck said. “We want to be as distraction-free as possible.”

Hasselbeck, Luck’s backup, said he saw Luck testing a similar device in practice last season, which immediately made him want to try.

For the Flyers, perhaps the biggest boon to using Catapult is not only fine-tuning conditioning, but possibly being able to prevent injury. About 95 percent of soft-tissue injuries — such as groin pulls, hamstring strains, and so forth — come from overuse.

With Catapult, the Flyers are able to manage workloads in practice, possibly being able to tell when a player may need a day off. Since the NHL does not allow the use of devices such as Catapult during games, all the Flyers have to go on are minutes played and overall feel.

Ray Emery’s groin injury suffered during last Thursday’s game, when he entered cold in relief of Steve Mason, was thought to be the Flyers’ first soft-tissue injury of the season.

“I think in the old days, coach probably would have kicked our ass in the first practice back after the Olympics,” Rosehill said. “Now, I think they’re smart enough to look at the data and ease us into a little bit. It’s better. Guys aren’t pulling their groins or having tight muscles and stuff.”

Catapult has really only begun to scratch the surface of player monitoring. No one has perfected a way to manage and monitor athlete hydration levels. Catapult chairman Adir Shiffman told the Philadelphia Daily News that once one of America’s four major sports leagues allows the use of Catapult during games — which he hopes happens within two years — that is when real benefits will be realized, particularly in contact sports.

Since Catapult tracks acceleration, deceleration, force, facing and changes of direction, their devices could help better predict the chances of concussion.

“That is the holy grail of predictive analytics,” Shiffman said. “We want to be able to extend players’ playing life. I don’t want to be critical of leagues, but the technology is still emerging. We’re already able to tell if players sustain big knocks or small knocks, and that’s just in practice.”

In the case of the NHL, the Department of Player Safety could also use the technology if implemented to determine whether a player was in decelerating quickly enough before a questionable hit.

Any change in rules would need to be negotiated with the NHL’s Players Association, which would likely be wary of data collection, for fear it could hurt future earnings. Plus, it would spark a debate as to who owns the data collected: players or teams?

For “old-school” hockey executives, these numbers gathered — like many of the advanced stats in the sport — don’t tell them anything they already cannot see with their eyes.

“I’m not trying to be a smart ass, but to me, most of this stuff is supported by the video that we already have,” Calgary Flames president Brian Burke said. “Brendan Shanahan can see when a player is slowing down. We did the whole heart-rate thing already. When players skate, their heart rate goes up. When players stop skating, it goes down. A player’s recovery time is important, but that’s not analytics to me. That’s medical data. No one has been able to tell me anything I can’t already see.”
Rosehill, who played for Burke in Toronto, tended to agree.

“I think everyone out there is working hard,” Rosehill said. “And if you’re not, I think the coach is smart enough to know anyway. It’s more of a tool to see if anything is out of the ordinary. I have a naturally high heart rate, it’s high even before games when playing soccer. I think it’s good to get a sense whether we need to work harder or whether we should maybe back off a little.”
For a Flyers franchise spending north of $70 million just on player salaries, implementing technology that is rumored to cost more than $100,000 per season, is a drop in the insurance bucket.

“At the end of the year, you don’t want to have any excuses,” Rosehill said. “Why not try it? It doesn’t hurt anything. They provide us with the best stuff here. There’s no excuse for us not working hard. It’s on us.”

Photo: Francois Peeters via Flickr