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Performance Coach

Framework 411

Paradigms provide scientists not only with a map but also with some of the directions essential for map-making” —Thomas Kuhn.

A framework, or more precisely a 'scientific framework' (because the only right way is to be empirical, huh?), is a term that is becoming increasingly blowing up in the sports sciences research papers and/or marketing campaigns headers. That compelling concept, whatever it may be, appears to provide a capacity for structuring, or — as suggested by its name — creating a 'framing' effect on the knowledge prime for integrative decision-making within the territories of clinical and athletic performance.

Let me enlighten you with the brief definition of framework (scientific, no doubt), accompanied by some practical explanations for a better understanding.


It may sound odd, but even in academia, there is no detailed definition of what a 'scientific framework' is. Broadly speaking, its purpose is to synthesise evidence, assist in understanding phenomena (often complex) and inform future research in subjects where knowledge is in a certain kind of crisis and requires revision. When used in a practical context, it can also offer a search for superior and innovative methods of injury recovery, motor learning and strength–skill development.

It's worth thinking about a framework as an expansive canvas with the edges hugging the existing paradigms and concepts used in clinical practice i.e. evidence–based medicine (EBM), biomechanics, patient–centred care or biopsychosocial model. Frameworks can be isolative and thus more simplistic, but they can also be vast in terms of linking different aspects of expertise, such as in athletic rehabilitation, principles of adaptation, clinical criteria and dynamometric analysis.

Every working framework depends greatly on the 'scientific' (in the case of many of us, 'clinical') reasoning capabilities of a practitioner/s and it's additionally beneficial when one is shaped to the realities of a particular environment culture (clinic, club, sports organisation).

At the end, the function of a all–rounded framework is to improve communication by setting up a common language within a team and finally to optimise the final outcomes.

Outer Frame.

Initially, the above diagram includes the canvas mentioned before (the outer rim). It represents the education level of a practitioner, his/hers knowledge, analytical skills and discriminating reflection.

This opening crosses into the area of case studies without which knowledge regularly is just an abstraction devoid of the impact on the athletes. It also gives practitioners a chance to check black–and–white textbook truths in the real game scenarios, which often are full of grey–scale diversities.

And here comes the essence: it is within this domain where we make [1] empirical generalisations and [2] theoretical fitting to begin [3] hypothesising to finally end up with the [4] implementation of practical solutions.

Inner Circle.

The inner ring can be described as a circuit of reasoning.

Logic can follow two main pathways: deductive — when we use a specific theory to confirm observational input (as is usually done in natural sciences) — or inductive — when we use the available information to confirm the generalised theorem or, at least, a reasonable hypothesis (frequent approach in sports sciences).

There is also a third way called abduction. It's a common mode of inference when practitioners encounter unexpected observations. Abductive reasoning (sometimes also called heuristics) involves making an initial guess and creating a rapid speculation to explain surprising input before it's possible to verify it with deduction and induction.

Practical Example.

Imagine you are testing an athlete.

You conduct a single-leg drop jump test to assess imbalances, reactiveness and stiffness, but the feedback you receive is unclear. The numbers indicate that, despite equal concentric and eccentric impulses, the average landing RFD (rate of force development) shows a 25% asymmetry towards the left, non-dominant leg. A quick assumption might be that the athlete is still suffering from a past injury (abduction). You explore other RFD measures and notice that in seated isometric knee extension test, the asymmetry level is also significant, at 18% (induction). In trying to solve this riddle, you adopt a more general biomechanical perspective considering this specific individual (deduction). One day, you record a side-cutting manoeuvre and recognise the typical posture associated with lower limb injuries (again, induction); et cetera.

Taking into account all the elements described in the example, we can easily see how extensive and helpful procedural framework can be. The more we comprehend within it, the better, but with just one reminder: as long as it remains cognitively manageable.

Inspiring Story.

To be honest, I'm addicted to the framework idea.

I have created many, including those with clear phase divisions in the rehab continuum, proper exercise selection, periodisation principles, return to running, on-field rehab, objective information and medical clearance. This is because I love making complicated issues simplified and adjusted for a particular injury type, while also offering an inspiring story to share with you (and with all my homies).

However, honesty obliges me to express at least one skeptical opinion about them. The message is simple: their use is not always suitable for rookies.

Not for Beginners.

To build a successful framework, it's necessary to have a profound understanding of scientific paradigms (theories or methodologies that shape the way things are understood and done). If we lack this kind of insight, we may include thoughts and practices that are essentially contradictory.

A certain level of cohesion is necessary to start with.

So, if we wish to make optimal and as solid decisions as possible in organisations we work, creating a structured protocol of service is an excellent idea. However, we should always remember that every decent framework is designed to function effectively in a particular place and shouldn't generate more confusion.

When it empowers teammates — within their specialisation bubbles — with the ability to understand each other and share information for the benefit of the patient/athlete, then, the most important function of a decent framework (definitely scientific) is fulfilled.

Further Reading.

Partelow S. What is a Framework? Understanding Their Purpose, Value, Development and Use. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences (2023). FREE ACCESS.

Jeffries AC et al. Development of a Revised Conceptual Framework of Physical Training for Use in Research and Practice. Sports Medicine (2022).

Fort-Vanmeerhaeghe A et al.. Return–to–Sport Following Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction in Team Sport Athletes. Part I: From Initial Injury to Return–to–Competition & Part II: Progressive Framework. Apunts Sports Medicine (2021 & 2022). FREE ACCESS: Source One & Source Two.

Enrich the Converation.

Respond to the ideas raised in this text by writing to

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