Published: Nov. 5, 2021 By

When CU volleyball’s Rachael Fara (MChemEngr’21) arrived at CU in July 2020, quarantine and a shoulder surgery had left her body weak and atrophied.

Enter Adam Ringler, CU’s assistant director of strength and conditioning and head of sport science research. His specialized recovery program for Fara included jumping on force plates to measure lower body power and symmetry, limited jumps in practice and a daily questionnaire about mood, soreness and hydration. Six months later, Fara started 2021 as the Pac-12’s most statistically effective hitter.

“The culture Coach Ringler has in the weight room helped me find joy in a sport that had physically beaten me down,” said Fara.

Sport science helps student-athletes understand the competing stressors on their bodies. Force plate measurements, for instance, can indicate whether to push intensity or go lighter to support recovery.

Ringler’s sport science initiatives integrate state-of-the-art technologies that identify performance deviations and help staff intervene before student-athletes suffer unnecessary stress or injury. In addition to muscle group activation measurements, he employs a system to track acceleration and distance run, and another to assess joint range of motion. Heart rate monitors record cardiovascular strain. 

“These data sources are independent silos of information, and they’re all incredibly valuable,” Ringler said. 

Sport science is one aspect of CU’s Crawford Family WHOLE (Wellness, Health and Optimal Life Experience) Student-Athlete Program, named in August 2021 after the Crawford family donated $5.5 million — the largest one-time gift in CU Athletics history — with much of it designated to address student athletes’ physical and psychological health while providing academic and career support. 

To support the WHOLE program, Athletics partnered with management system Kitman Labs last July to organize student-athlete inputs.  

“[Sport science] supplemented the X’s and O’s of basketball and weightlifting,” said women’s basketball’s Annika Jank (Comm’21). “My body composition completely changed.”

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Photo courtesy CU Athletics