Technology provides some incredible data on sports performance. We're able to see how fast a football player sprints and how long he runs in a game. But what does all this data mean and how can we use it to our advantage?
That's been the missing link. We're inundated with data, but have no idea how to put it all together.
This is a problem that Kitman Labs, a sports science software company, has tackled head on.
Kitman Labs developed a platform they call "the world's most advanced athlete management system." Created by sports scientists, it can assess an athlete's performance and provide real-time information on his or her health, which coaches can use proactively.
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"In today's data-driven world, gaining a competitive edge has much to do with science and analytics as much as it does coaching and desire," says Kitman Labs founder Stephen Smith. "When delivering real-time actionable insights, our platform reduces injury rates and increases team performance."
To get ahead of injuries, the platform has three primary components: workload assessment, motion capture and profiler system.
Elite athletes spend their days training, practicing or competing. Each of these activities is intense and puts a great deal of stress on the body, which the athlete needs time to recover from. If there's too much work and/or not enough recovery, the athlete will break down and get hurt.
The Kitman Labs system tracks activity based on coach input or third-party data sources to fully understand how much each athlete is working. It identifies peaks in training workload, tracks fatigue and allows coaches and trainers to adjust so their athletes don't do too much.
The system also factors in how athletes are feeling and what they do outside the facility. Athletes answer questionnaires on their smartphones covering their sleep, mood, stress and soreness.
Based on this comprehensive assessment, coaches can pay particular attention to athletes whom the system identifies as at risk of injury.
Kitman Labs has a patent-pending motion capture technology that enables fast and accurate biomechanical screenings, allowing coaches to assess their athletes in minutes rather than hours. The data from the tests is impressive.
The system produces an extremely detailed wireframe model of a person, indicating each and every joint. What shocked us the most was when the athlete jumped, the system showed that he produced slightly less force with his left leg than his right. This indicates a slight imbalance, which, if left unaddressed, could result in an injury—extremely powerful data for a coach.
Also, since athletes can move through the tests quickly, they can go through a pre-workout screen that identifies any potential issues that could cause a problem that specific day.
The Profiler System compiles the data from the workload assessment and motion capture. If the algorithms identify an athlete at risk, the system alerts the coach so he or she knows the athlete needs special attention. If an athlete is at extreme risk, the coach is notified to get ahead of a potential injury.
The key here is proactive. We are very good at reacting to injuries. If an athlete tears an ACL, doctors and physical therapists can get that athlete back on the field in less than a year. But what if we could prevent that injury from happening in the first place?
The information generated by the Kitman Labs system allows coaches and medical staffs to get in front of many injuries. So far, the results have been promising.
"Over the last two years, we've helped some of our teams reduce their injury profiles by 30-32 percent," says Smith. For NFL, NBA and other pro teams that use the system, more players were available to play, improving their seasons and each team's odds of winning.
The challenge for Kitman Labs? Growing beyond professional sports. We'd love to see a system like this to benefit all athletes. If there's an opportunity to reduce injuries, it needs to be explored. But do lower-level coaches and athletes have the resources to acquire and use such a comprehensive system? Time will tell.
"The future for us is that we'll be the gold standard platform across all sports," adds Smith.
To learn more about Kitman Labs, check out KitmanLabs.com.
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