Professional Sports Teams Tap Data Analytics To Prevent Injuries
Professional sports teams -- including several in California -- increasingly are using mobile activity trackers and biometric devices to monitor players to help prevent injuries and improve top-tier players' viability, the Washington Post reports.
Joe Rogowski, director of sports medicine and research at the NBA Players Association, said teams are using such tools to monitor all aspects of players' performance and health, such as:
- Hormone levels;
- Muscle fatigue;
- Travel; and
- Vitamin D levels.
According to the Post, most of the detailed data gathering takes place during practices when players wear biometric sensors that can track movement and vital signs, helping coaches and athletic trainers to decide how hard to push players to avoid injuries. Meanwhile, many sports venues now are outfitted with motion-sensor cameras and GPS tracking devices that monitor players during games.
In the NFL this season, analysts will be able to merge the data collected by the sensors with video to create reports that measure performance and identify areas of distress and the potential for injury.
Meanwhile, the Seattle Sounders soccer team analyzes various risk factors and previous injuries to predict future injuries.
According to the Post, many sports teams are contracting with outside technology companies to conduct the analytics, which requires costly, specialized software, as well as time and labor to process the data.
For example, technology and analytics company Catapult measures players' movement using a device equipped with an accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer. The activity tracker is precise enough to record when a player twists or leans, and it sends such information in real time to a computer where it is analyzed to generate a single metric.
According to Catapult's North American President Brian Kopp, one unnamed NFL team used such data to reduce soft-tissue injuries from 16 in 2013 to three in the following season (Maese, Washington Post, 8/24).
In California, Catapult counts the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings basketball teams, San Diego Chargers football team and San Jose Earthquakes soccer team among its clients (Catapult website, 8/27).
Some industry experts have raised concerns about the accuracy of the monitoring tools and who would have access to the data.
Leslie Saxon, executive director of the University of Southern California's Center for Body Computing, said such services are often untested and unproven. She also questioned how that data would be used in the future, who could access the data and whether such information could be used against players.
Saxon said, "The first guy who gets cut or who suddenly appears to be damaged goods is the first time guys will start ripping these off their bodies."
According to the Post, collective bargaining agreements limit how much teams can monitor their players' biometrics during games, but the difference between performance data and health data is still being debated (Washington Post, 8/24).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.