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  • CATZ Coached Toronto FC Lose MLS Championship on PK's 12/10/2016

    After a 0-0 draw in regulation and overtime, Toronto FC lost to the Seattle Sounders 5-4 in penalty kicks in the MLS Cup Final at BMO Field in Toronto.  This was the first time a Canadian team competed for the MLS championship.  Jim Liston, president of CATZ, is the Director of Sports Science for Toronto FC and was instrumental in making Toronto the fittest team in the MLS.

    TORONTO — Throughout the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs, not a single Eastern Conference goalkeeper could keep Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore off the scoresheet.

    Seattle Sounders stalwart Stefan Frei – who spent five years with the Reds – stoned Altidore with a spectacular save in extra time during MLS Cup 2016 at BMO Field, keeping the clean sheet and allowing the Sounders to earn their first MLS championship after penalty kicks (5-4).

    When Justin Morrow's high rocket caught the crossbar, it put Roman Torres at the spot with a chance to clinch. His upper-middle strike was square, and crushed the hopes of a stadium-record 36,045 fans, who were chasing the same dream, in just a second postseason appearance after eight futile regular-season runs.

    A energetic and frenetic, though scoreless, first half featured Toronto FC pushing forward for set pieces, working the Jozy Altidore-to-Sebastian Giovinco give-and-go to pepper seven shots at Frei. Seattle was content to pick their spots on the counter, otherwise prodding laterally without finding enough space to send a single shot on goal.

    Toronto created a pair of chances in the second half, fittingly from Giovinco in the opening minutes and then Altidore just before the whistle. Giovinco's shot in the 49th minute appeared to beat the Seattle 'keeper, but found side netting; after the Sounders conceded a corner in the first minute of stoppage time, Altidore's attempt at a diving header was disrupted by an airborne Frei.

    Giovinco was subbed off in the 103rd minute due to an apparent injury. His replacement, Canadian product Tosaint Ricketts, struck for a near winner in the 107th – a volley missed inches wide – before chipping a cross toward Altidore, who's high-arcing header hung just long enough for Frei to get a hand on it at full extension and keep the clean sheet.

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  • Exercise and the Brain 3/1/2016 “Exercise cues up the building blocks of learning, and social interaction cements them in place. The stimulus of social interaction starts your neurons firing like nothing else – it’s complicated, challenging, rewarding, and fun. When you combine this sort of mental activity with the priming effect of exercise, you’re maximizing the growth potential of your brain.”

    - Dr. John J. Ratey, M.D.
    Harvard Medical School
    Author of SPARK

    Recent research has demonstrated the powerful connection between a sound body and a sound mind. This Mind-Body Connection shows that as we exercise, not only do our muscles grow stronger, but our brains grow stronger as well. In fact, exercise improves our ability to learn, our overall mental health and even helps us better manage stress.

    In his book “SPARK – The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain”, Dr. John Ratey of Harvard Medical School found that aerobic exercise increases the levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, and that increased levels of these neurotransmitters positively affects brain activity, attention and learning. Examining the academic success of school systems that have focused their physical education programs on aerobic fitness, Dr. Ratey explains the science behind these academic success stories. He describes exercise as Miracle-Gro™ for the brain. In the end, Ratey states, “My hope is this book will encourage you to grab your gym bag instead of the remote, or spend time on the field rather than the sidelines.”

    While exercise helps the brain develop, the right type of exercise in the proper environment hastens the process. Ratey found that when you combine aerobic exercise with [6] complex movements you maximize the benefits of the exercise. As he states, “the more complex the movements, the more complex the synaptic connections.” Complex motor skills have to be learned and therefore challenge the brain which causes it to develop more quickly.

    Other studies have shown that the human brain is affected by social stimuli. Ratey suggests that there is strength in numbers, “The stimulus of social interaction starts your neurons firing like nothing else – it’s complicated, challenging, rewarding, and fun. And when you combine this sort of mental activity with the priming effect of exercise, you’re maximizing the growth potential of your brain. Exercise cues up the building blocks of learning, and social interaction cements them in place.”
    A vigorous, ever-changing exercise program, practiced regularly in a group setting will not only create healthier students, but smarter ones as well. If we can create these great habits when students are young and sustain them by making exercise a fun process to be anticipated and not avoided, everybody wins.

    Carl Cotman, Director of the Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia at the University of California, Irvine showed a direct biological connection between movement and cognitive function. His work showed that exercise was one of the common factors in sustaining cognitive ability during the aging process. Cotman also found that exercise helped the brain learn more efficiently and improved the rate of learning in his subjects.

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  • Unintended Consequences: Hyperactive parenting in sports is making kids less active 6/16/2015 If you want your children to be active and fit while having fun, don’t be a ‘helicopter’ parent.  The results of recent research indicate that 7-to-12-year-old children with overly involved and protective parents tend to spend less time being physically active and playing sports.

    Read on:  Hyperparenting in Sports

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  • Train Like the Pros: First Step Quickness 6/10/2015 The 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup soccer tournament is under way, and our very own US Women’s team has already won their first match. By the way, did you know that 20 different athletes from 6 different World Cup Soccer Teams have trained at CATZ Needham with Coach Mark and Coach Tracy?

    Read on: First Step Quickness

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  • Building a Better Brain Through Exercise 8/30/2014

    Erin Anderson examines the science that has teachers across Canada pressing pause during math or English so their students can get physical - and boost their grades.

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  • All Played Out 8/18/2014

    Parents and doctors may have disparate views on the goals of kids’ sports. I know how disparate because I happen to be both. As a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and the dad of a kid who loves sports, I see this world from both sides.

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  • Tommy John Surgery Epidemic for Youth Baseball Players 7/24/2014

    Kellen Sillanpaa remembers the big games.

    There was a no-hitter in the championship game of a travel tournament when he was 12; the “120-pitch epoch,” where nobody came close to hitting it out of the infield; and the high school playoff game in which he struck out the side in relief as a freshman.

    Sillanpaa was competitive, talented and threw hard. College recruiters were watching. But there was a problem. Sillanpaa kept throwing through elbow pain and eventually needed Tommy John elbow surgery, from which he would never fully recover.

    The procedure, in which a pitcher’s ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow is reconstructed, has become a topic of national conversation with 28 major leaguers having the surgery or expecting to have it this year. But the injury is also shutting down players years before they even reach the big leagues, with the number of procedures at the youth level rising at an alarming rate. James Andrews, the famed orthopedic surgeon, has called it an epidemic.

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  • Too Much Practice and Specialization Can Hurt 7/8/2014

    Recently, a preteen tennis player came into Neeru Jayanthi’s clinic for follow-up on an overuse injury to his wrist. Jayanthi, a sports medicine physician at Loyola University Medical Center in suburban Chicago, learned that the child’s coach had instructed him to take off his splint before a tryout, for fear that it would hinder his performance. “He’s only 11!” Jayanthi says.

    The tennis player’s story may be an extreme example, but Jayanthi says it’s emblematic of a growing emphasis on performance and specialization that has invaded many youth sports. Efforts to corral children into highly focused sports programs often arise from good intentions, Jayanthi says, yet research suggests that kids who specialize in a single sport when they’re young risk injury and burnout but don’t improve their odds of attaining an elite sports career. In most cases, giving kids more time for unstructured play and a chance to sample a wide array of athletic pursuits provides a better recipe for success, he says.

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  • Physical Activity Can Reduce ADHD 6/24/2014

    Physical activity may work just as well if not better than strong drugs in countering the symptoms of ADHD. Yet we live in a culture where people are conditioned to want a quick fix for everything, and with a medical system that has learned to provide it. Unfortunately, this is not always the best approach, and the case of ADHD may be the latest example. Before turning to expensive drugs rife with side-effects to treat ADHD, parents, physicians, teachers, and education policy makers should consider the role of physical activity, and promote making it a regular part everyone's lives.

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  • The Dangers of Early Sports Specialization 6/11/2014 THE national furor over concussions misses the primary scourge that is harming kids and damaging youth sports in America.  The heightened pressure on child athletes to be, essentially, adult athletes has fostered an epidemic of hyperspecialization that is both dangerous and counterproductive.
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