How university athletes deal with stressors

KPE Professor Katherine Tamminen on how parents, coaches help athletes to cope

How university athletes deal with stressors

Varsity athletes often have a large amount of stressors to deal with that are different from those of other athletes. They often have to balance school, sport, and other factors in their personal lives. Professor Katherine Tamminen from the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education studies the abilities of adolescents and university aged athletes to deal with stress in sport — and helps them face it in a healthy way.

Tamminen said that parents and coaches can play a huge role in how athletes deal with stress by “helping them learn to cope with [it],” she said in an interview with The Varsity. “And they also influenced the type of stress that they might experience. So parents and coaches might also be a source of stress for athletes… I think it’s a bit of a double-edged sword there.”

Tamminen also emphasizes that this topic is very nuanced, and that there is no one universal answer when it comes to dealing with stress in younger athletes. “There are some strategies that may be more useful in some situations whereas other strategies are going to be more useful in other situations,” she said.

“It really comes down to the type of stressor that the athlete is facing and then selecting the most appropriate coping strategy to use when dealing with that stressor.”

“If an athlete is having problems with their performance or a skill or something technical, seeking information from their coaches and from their teammates or spending more time working specifically on that skill in practice is likely going to help them to deal with that performance issue,” Tamminen said.

“But if the issue is an ongoing conflict with a teammate or if it’s an issue in a conflict with a coach, or if it’s a stressor from outside of sports that they’re dealing with, like academic demands or they’re dealing with health concerns from a family member, those are going to require different coping strategies.”

However, some athletes deal with things that they have no control over, to which Tamminen recommended dealing with one’s emotions instead of trying to control the situation. She advised “seeking social support or re-appraising the situation and trying to see the positive side of things. Practicing mindfulness.”

She continued, “These can also be very helpful strategies, whereas in situations where they have more control over the stressor, then they might do things that are more active and problem-oriented.” She said that athletes may need to spend more time on these problems, and seek out additional information.

When asked what the most important thing she learned in her research was, she highlighted the importance of social support and having people to turn to.

“The importance of having either a close friend, a teammate, a coach, a parent, somebody that you can confide in and talk to and turn to is so important. It comes up across every single study that I think I’ve ever done in this area… the importance of that social connectedness that people, that athletes have.”

What the ‘ruck’ is underwater rugby?

How a U of T swimmer rose through the ranks to make the national team

What the ‘ruck’ is underwater rugby?

On Friday evenings at the Riverdale Collegiate Institute’s pool, the water may look empty — but a practice is in full swing just beneath the surface. That’s because at 8:00 pm sharp the Toronto Underwater Rugby Club (TURC) gathers to tough it out underwater for a strange and wonderful iteration of an otherwise straightforward sport. Practicing alongside is U of T Varsity swimmer Hannah Hermanson, who teamed up with Toronto Varsity Blues alum Melanie McDonald to join Team Canada at the Underwater Rugby World Championships in July and August of 2019 in Austria.

“I was initially shocked at the opportunity, but knew I couldn’t pass it up,” said Hermanson. As a Varsity swimmer, she realized that many transferable skills from her main sport could be useful for underwater rugby, including breath-holding and kicking underwater. Once she met the coach and some players at the next practice, she knew she was hooked.

“I was immediately intrigued by the uniqueness of the sport, and the opportunity to be a part of the first women’s team to compete internationally,” she continued.

Underwater rugby isn’t just playing the same rugby underwater, however. The game is played on the floor of a swimming pool. Players throw a ball filled with saltwater that is susceptible to sinking, and there aren’t scrums like regular rugby: teams start at opposite ends of the pool, and dash to the centre to get possession. Points are scored by tossing the ball into the opponent’s basket. However, there is still tackling allowed, but it’s only legal to do so to a player in possession of the ball. As the Toronto club is an inclusive, co-ed space, it can get pretty intense under the surface, but the water softens the blows to make the sport relatively low-impact.

Hermanson quickly fell in love with the unorthodox sport and soon found herself in Austria for the World Championship. “Trust and friendships grew within a very short period of time, making the whole experience all the more memorable,” she recalled.

“After games, the team would meet at the hotel and watch game footage for future improvement and receive feedback from each other… Walking along the cobblestone streets and eating schnitzel, or exploring the hidden secrets of the city while not competing, completed the surreal experience,” said Hermanson. The team found themselves in 13th place at the end of Canada’s first-ever appearance at the competition, and each teammate from across Canada brought home lifelong memories.

For those interested in a break from traditional sport, Hermanson said that “if you love being in the water but also the intensity of land sports, underwater rugby is perfect for you.” The TURC holds regular practices that they announce on their Meetup page for anyone interested; who knows, you may end up on the national team!

COVID-19 delays Europa League Round of 16, but predictions must continue!

Sevilla vs. Roma highlight of fixtures, Leverkusen likely to advance with ease

COVID-19 delays Europa League Round of 16, but predictions must continue!

The Europa League Round of 16 — the second tier of European club football below the UEFA Champions League — has been postponed due to COVID-19.

In both the 2016–2017 and 2018–2019 seasons, I correctly predicted six out of the eight Round of 16 results, however in 2017–2018, my success was a meagre four out of eight. For consistency’s sake, I thought I’d predict what would happen if the tournament didn’t get suspended, or what will happen if it continues in the future. Hopefully these predictions are more accurate than streaming FIFA 20 to decide matches, as some clubs are doing.

Sevilla-Roma and Wolfsburg-Shakhtar Donetsk look like the most tightly contested fixtures of the round. The first legs were played on March 12, and the second were to be played on March 19.

İstanbul Başakşehir vs. København

Both teams enter this match having achieved mixed results in the group stages, and neither were favourites to progress beyond their Round of 32 ties. Still, İstanbul Başakşehir overturned a 3–1 first leg deficit against Sporting Club de Portugal in remarkable fashion, while København dispatched the Scottish champions Celtic 4–2 on aggregate. Başakşehir have faced far tougher opposition than København, and have thus developed stronger defensive resilience. København have no real attacking threat — they have scored the fewest goals of the 12 remaining teams that started in the group stage — and they are unlikely to overcome their opponent’s narrow organizational structure. İstanbul Başakşehir win.

Olympiacos vs. Wolves

Wolves’ 17-goal haul in the competition proper is more than that of any remaining teams, and they have better players than Olympiacos in virtually every department.

Olympiacos will be buoyed by their victory over Arsenal in the previous round, and have every reason to believe they can cause Wolves trouble. However, with Wolves’ solid defensive line marshalled by Captain Conor Coady, Olympiacos will likely pin their hopes on their top scorer Youssef El-Arabi to create magic. Even then, Wolves’ forwards Diogo Jota and Raúl Jimenez have performed reliably in Europe with nine goals apiece, and will likely prove too much for the Greek side to handle. Wolves through.

Rangers vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen

Steven Gerrard deserves plaudits for guiding his unfancied Rangers outfit thus far in the Europa League with some solid, if unspectacular, performances. This is Rangers’ best season in Europe since the 2010–2011 season, but their progress is likely to come to a grinding halt against the in-form Leverkusen.

Leverkusen finished third in a tough Champions League group containing Juventus and Atlético Madrid, after dismantling Porto in their first Europa League contest, with Lucas Alario and Kai Havertz particularly standing out. The German team tends to dominate possession — they averaged 60 per cent against Porto over two legs — and they make full use of an impressive press.

In recent weeks, Rangers have all but blown their chances of winning the Scottish Premiership with a stunning collapse in mentality that also saw them knocked out of the Scottish Cup, meaning that the Europa League is the last trophy they are still realistically competing for. If they want to progress they will need to be at their organized best and ensure that Alfredo Morelos and Ianis Hagi take full advantage of any chances they can carve out. However, given Leverkusen’s meticulous match-management and their stronger squad, the German team should win.

VFL Wolfsburg vs. Shakhtar Donetsk

On paper, Wolfsburg and Shakhtar look like very evenly matched sides. Wolfsburg Manager Oliver Glasner has turned his defense into a consistently disciplined unit while implementing an intense high press. Shakhtar Manager Luis Castro has likewise set his team up with defensive resilience at times this season, but his team often sit back patiently and hit opponents on the counter-attack. The two contrasting styles of play should have made this an entertaining duel, and success will hinge upon each team’s ability to stick to their game plan and avoid individual errors. Shakhtar to sneak through, courtesy of their more dynamic midfield.

Inter Milan vs. Getafe

Inter enter this game with a greater sense of expectation, which they owe to their high expenditure on players this season and Manager Antonio Conte’s credentials. Inter fans have been itching for a first-place trophy since the 2010–2011 season, and with the team still in the running for Serie A, the Coppa Italia, and the Europa League, Conte’s men are targeting an ambitious treble. Strikers Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martínez regularly dominate the headlines, but Inter have a number of other impressive players who, on paper, should outmatch their Getafe counterparts.

Getafe have been impressive both domestically and in the Europa League so far this season. They claimed a noteworthy victory against Ajax in the previous round, but have otherwise struggled to impose themselves against stronger teams. With Conte’s tactical astuteness and his host of star players, Inter should be able to book their quarterfinal spot.

Sevilla vs. Roma

This matchup is arguably the most exciting of the round, as both Sevilla and Roma are European heavyweights who harbour realistic ambitions of winning the competition. Sevilla have had more impressive results in the competition, but have faced much weaker opposition, so this tie is very open. Sevilla are adept at managing the ball and retaining possession, while Roma often set up in a compact and organized structure.

Given the similarities in tactics and ability between the two sides, control of the midfield and workrate will have a huge influence in determining which team progresses. Sevilla seem to have the edge in both departments. That said, Roma look unlikely to qualify for the Champions League through their domestic league, meaning that they may view this game as an all-or-nothing to save their season. In what could be decided by a coin flip, Sevilla to progress.

Frankfurt vs. Basel

Even though Frankfurt have fallen off the high standard they set for themselves last season, they have retained many of the tactical fundamentals that made them so successful. Like the other two German teams in the draw, they operate with an intense high press. Their inconsistency this season stems from opposition matching their intense press and barraging their flanks.

Basel do not play this way, nor do they seem capable of maintaining a high-tempo game. That said, they have shown that they are ruthlessly efficient and can capitalize on any errors that Frankfurt may make. Finding a middle ground between pressing Frankfurt enough to force mistakes and maintaining their own system of play will be essential for the Swiss team to get something out of this tie. In what could be a very close affair, Basel to pull off an upset win.

Linzer Athletik-Sport-Klub vs. Manchester United

Despite Manchester United’s inconsistent form this season and their at-times startlingly fragile mentality, the January addition of Bruno Fernandes looks to have improved their ability to assert control over the midfield, which will be a big boon to their forwards Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial, and new boy Odion Ighalo.

Linzer Athletik-Sport-Klub (LASK) have been quietly impressive, however — right wing back Reinhold Ranftl in particular has demonstrated his creative ability with four assists and a goal in the competition. Manchester United’s defense may struggle to cope with LASK’s 3-4-3 formation, particularly given goalkeeper David De Gea’s increasingly shaky performances. To win, United need to play on the front foot and take advantage of the space between LASK’s full-backs — speedy winger Daniel James may be a useful option — while remaining diligent with possession. United to progress.

Editor’s Note (March 16, 7:03 pm): This article has been updated to correct that the games have been postponed, not cancelled.

Several U SPORTS Championships cancelled due to COVID-19

National champion in men’s and women’s hockey, volleyball called off

Several U SPORTS Championships cancelled due to COVID-19

The U SPORTS national championships for hockey and volleyball were cancelled for the 2019–2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the first time that the David Johnson University Cup, awarded to the national champion of university men’s hockey, or the Golden Path trophy, awarded to the university women’s hockey national champion, will not be awarded in their respective 58-year and 22-year histories.

The Varsity Blues women’s volleyball team, men’s volleyball team, and women’s hockey teams had qualified for the U SPORTS championship games after the women’s hockey and volleyball teams won the Ontario University Athletics championships, and the volleyball men’s team finished second. However, the women’s hockey team had already been eliminated by Mount Royal University.

The women’s volleyball championship was set to be played in Calgary, and the men’s was set to be played in Winnipeg. As of March 15, there were 39 cases of COVID-19 in Alberta and four in Manitoba.

“Over the past 24 hours, many things have changed in sport across Canada and it’s a really difficult position to be in as these types of important decisions impact so many people,” U SPORTS Chief Sport Officer Lisette Johnson-Stapley wrote in a statement. “Our host committees have worked tirelessly for two years on these events and we thank them for their support and the great experience they wanted to provide for the student-athletes, coaches and officials as well as family, friends and fans.”

The men’s and women’s hockey championships were cancelled after Hockey Canada called off all sanctioned activities due to the pandemic. The women’s tournament was being held on Prince Edward Island, where there is currently one case of COVID-19. “As [a] proud partner of Hockey Canada, we understand how difficult a decision this was to make,” Johnson-Stapley stated, regarding the hockey championships. “We understand the disappointment felt by our student-athletes, coaches, officials and wonderful hosts however the decision was made with the best interest of all participants in mind.”

U SPORTS has also stated that it will refund any tickets that people had bought in advance.

Several other professional and collegiate leagues and tournaments have been either suspended or outright cancelled. The NBA, NHL, Major League Soccer, and several European soccer leagues, including the Premier League, have suspended their seasons, with little clarity on future steps. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the United States has cancelled all winter and spring championships, including March Madness — their profitable men’s volleyball tournament.

The NCAA will, however, grant another year of eligibility to athletes who compete in spring. There is little indication on how these leagues and tournaments will continue if the status of the pandemic changes, or if any changes to eligibility will be made for U SPORTS athletes who have been affected.

The Varsity has reached out to the Varsity Blues for comment.

Women in STEM: Kirti Saxena

U of T engineering student on injuries, challenges, and balancing coursework with wrestling

Women in STEM: Kirti Saxena

Kirti Saxena is a second-year undergraduate student in mechanical engineering, an area where she is able to combine design, mathematics, and science. Outside of academics, Saxena wrestles — a sport she took up at age nine, after her father competed in the sport at the 1980 Olympics.

While she first started as a way to keep fit, her involvement in the sport became more serious by the time she was in grade nine, when she placed first in her category nationwide. She has also represented Team Canada in several international championships.

The importance of focus

Having to balance school and wrestling has given her the ability to focus. “Be it wrestling or school, whatever environment I am in, I am able to give it my all in that moment,” wrote Saxena to The Varsity.

People have questioned her as to why she has decided on studying such a time-consuming discipline while pursuing wrestling. Her answer is that she “[wants] to be able to use [her] academic gift to create things that will make positive change.”

She noted that U of T’s engineering student body has been “an inviting and welcoming community and made the transition smooth.”

On balancing her engineering coursework with wrestling, she wrote: “I have a strict schedule, strict meal plan, and a loving support team that all help me balance everything,” which has helped her persevere through many challenges.

“It all takes a whole team,” she wrote. “This team includes my family, strength and training coaches, my personal coach (aka my dad), physio and massage therapists, psychologist, nutritionist and accommodating professors.”

Challenges on and off the mat

Saxena writes that recovering from an injury was a big challenge for her. “Mentally and physically it’s a hard process and it is something that I am still going through.”

“Being a [woman] in sport is definitely challenging. Being a woman of colour in sport is even more challenging,” she reflected.

She notes that it is difficult to be in what has traditionally been viewed as a male sport. “Being a strong girl intimidates people, a lot of people picture girls to be a certain way and most don’t expect them to be fighters. Growing up I dealt with a lot of people saying that ‘wrestling is not good for a girl.’ ”

The importance of speaking up

Saxena cites her sister, who is also one of her coaches, as her mentor. “She has shown me how to be a strong [woman] and always tells me to fight for what I believe is right,” she wrote. “Without her influence I feel like I would not be as confident in voicing my opinion.”

Her advice for women in STEM is to not be afraid “to voice your thoughts.”

“A lot of people want you to stay quiet. Especially because they cannot handle the thought of a woman knowing more. Let them know you got a voice for a reason.”

What to do if you get burned

U of T researchers publish paper on identifying, treating, preventing burn injuries

What to do if you get burned

Do you recall a time when you were young, maybe around 10 years old, and you wanted to see how hot the stove was, so you touched it? Or the first time you tried to straighten your hair for the school dance and accidentally burned your ear?

We’ve all been there. However, we often downplay the importance of these injuries. Many of us think that proper treatment involves massaging the burn a few times, while others run cold water over the burn for less than 30 seconds and continue with their day.

What you may not realize is that burns are one of the most commonly ignored injuries, with the most severe consequences to our health.

“An estimated 180,000 deaths every year are caused by burns — the vast majority occur in low- and middle- income countries,” according to the World Health Organization.

A University of Toronto-affiliated review summarized the different types of burns and relevant treatment methods.

What do we know about burns?

Burn injuries can be caused by radiation, heat, cold, friction, and electrical or chemical sources, with the most common source being heat. These injuries lead to instantaneous tissue destruction, accompanied by metabolic changes, immune and inflammatory responses, and distributive shock throughout the body.

The impact of the shock can often be overlooked, which can potentially cause multiple organ failures and even death. The assumption is that, once the burn is healed, the injury is resolved. However, burns can lead to long-term changes in quality of life and mental health.

Let’s break down the four degrees of burn injuries categorized by severity, which is defined by the size and depth of the wound.

A first-degree burn is a superficial burn with temporary pain, and some redness. It does not penetrate below the uppermost layer of the skin, called the epidermis.

Second-degree burns are broken down into two categories. The first type is a superficial partial-thickness burn which requires wound care and dressing; they can be quite painful, but do not require any type of surgery. The second is a deep partial-thickness burn. Interestingly, this type of burn is less painful than the superficial partial-thickness burn due to its destruction of the pain receptors. This type of burn will most likely require surgery. Both of these types of burns will scar; however, a superficial partial-thickness burn can heal with a minor scar or maybe even no scar in some cases.

A third-degree burn is a full thickness burn that penetrates the entire dermis, or skin, destroys pain receptors, and has a strong likelihood of becoming infected if not treated quickly. This type of burn is less painful than a second-degree burn due to the destruction of the receptors. In most cases, treatment for it requires surgery unless the impacted area is very small.

Finally, a fourth-degree burn is a type of burn that we do not hear about often. It goes past the dermis and affects the underlying muscle or bone. This deep burn can lead to loss of the burned part due to lack of blood flow and excessive damage of the sensory and pain receptors. The flesh can become black due to the burn.

What can you do in the event of a burn?

The first step in cases of burns is to determine the cause of the burn in order to remove the person from the source, as long as it is safe for you to do so, according to the co-authors. If the source is electrical, ensure the source of the burn is off and no longer active. If chemical, you need to contact your local poison control centre to receive further steps to mitigate your risk.

You then need to flush the site of the injury with cold water to prevent further destruction of the skin. Do not use ice, according to the co-authors, as it can cause further damage to the flesh due to frostbite. Avoid applying home remedies such as toothpaste, lemon, butter, or hydrogen peroxide ointments, which the co-authors note can further worsen tissue damage.

It is always important to contact emergency services in the event of a burn that feels uncontrolled, or greater than a first-degree burn.

Further education on burns

There are many measures that can be taken to mitigate the risk of a burn injury. A large part of burn safety involves education.

Dr. Mark Jeschke, the lead author and a physician at U of T’s Institute of Medical Science, explained to The Varsity that education on proper treatment is important, as trauma and burns “really [affect] lives for a long time.”

Methods of prevention include teaching burn safety, which involves advising people to use smoke alarms, have an escape plan from a house, and never leaving a stove unattended, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Prevention methods also include testing bath water for temperature before entering and anchoring ovens and stoves to walls to prevent tipping.

All UTSG libraries except for Robarts and Gerstein to close beginning March 17

UTM and UTSC libraries remain open, libraries to operate with limited hours

All UTSG libraries except for Robarts and Gerstein to close beginning March 17

In an email sent to librarians and library staff on March 14, U of T announced tentative plans to close all UTSG libraries except for Robarts and Gerstein beginning on March 17 due to concerns about COVID-19. UTM and UTSC libraries will remain open, also with limited hours. None of four the libraries will be open on weekends. 

The email was sent the same day the university announced that they would close gyms, child care facilities, and limit library hours, though at the time they had planned to keep select libraries open and deferred an announcement until Monday. The limited hours at Robarts Library, the Gerstein Science Information Centre, and the UTM and UTSC libraries will be from 8:30 am to 8:00 pm Monday through Thursday, and 8:30 am to 6:00 pm on Fridays.

Entrance to libraries will also be limited to only U of T students, faculty, and staff. 

The libraries will begin to implement social distancing measures by turning off every other computer as well as putting up signs that encourage social distancing.

Library administrative staff are still in discussions about professional faculty libraries, and the email noted that plans were still subject to change at the time it was sent.

Visualizing how control methods could slow the exponential spread of COVID-19

U of T model highlights how better interventions can “flatten the curve” of new coronavirus’ infectivity

Visualizing how control methods could slow the exponential spread of COVID-19

COVID-19 has quickly spread around the world, impacting patients in over 140 different countries. There are over 162,000 confirmed cases, and more than 6,000 deaths as of March 14. Meanwhile, Canada has a total of 252 reported cases with one death.

As COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, public health officials have stressed the need for nations to implement controls to contain the virus in order to slow the growth of new cases before hospital systems are overwhelmed.

Effective control relies on improving our understanding of the virus, in terms of its origin, number of cases per country, and transmission potential.

Dr. Ashleigh Tuite and Dr. David Fisman, both faculty members at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, have developed an interactive model, explained in a letter to the Annals of Internal Medicine, that visualizes the impact of effective containment.

Understanding COVID-19’s growth model

Tuite and Fisman’s model depicts how COVID-19 could spread in scenarios with and without effective methods for containment. Before diving into the findings of the model, it is important to understand its components and how they relate to each other.

The key factor that determines the infectivity of COVID-19 is called the basic reproduction number. This is the number of people that a patient with COVID-19 will successfully infect, in the absence of effective control efforts, according to the model.

The effective reproduction number is the predicted number of people that same patient will infect with effective control efforts such as quarantines put in place.

The co-authors have developed their model based on several previously published research papers on COVID-19’s infectivity, according to the notes of their model.

Model demonstrates importance of isolation

By modeling the spread of COVID-19, Tuite and Fisman wrote that it  can “provide helpful insights into the growth of the 2019-nCoV epidemic that are not directly observable in publicly reported data.”

The model gives a visual representation of the concept of “flattening the curve” of COVID-19’s spread. The current growth of COVID-19 is exponential, which creates an upward curve on the graph.

Flattening the curve means reducing the rate of COVID-19’s growth, which would avoid a high number of COVID-19 patients from overwhelming health care systems at once. You can see the curve being flattened by adjusting the interactive model’s slider, reducing the effective reproduction number due to better control methods.

Control methods at U of T have included the cancellation of all undergraduate and research-stream graduate classes.

However, like many models, there are potential limitations to its accuracy. As Tuite and Fisman noted, mild COVID-19 infections may be underrepresented, as they may go unreported.

Tuite and Fisman also largely based the model on China’s epidemic. As the World Health Organization has now declared it a pandemic, the co-authors note that different countries may have different COVID-19 infection rates based on their different control methods.