With head injuries an increasingly prominent topic in elite sport, there has been great focus on both identifying and preventing them from occurring.
Technology will play a pivotal role in tackling this problem across key sports including American football, rugby and football, with a recent collaboration between elite sports performance analysts Catapult and Prevent Biometrics.
The process will see Catapult’s flagship ClearSky and OpenField athlete wearable tracking technology and Prevent’s Impact Monitor Mouthguard used together to gather extensive and detailed data around head impacts in sport.
Having been successfully trialled during spring training by the University of Colorado football team, the companies now plan to expand this to selected elite teams in American football, rugby and Aussie rules football.
Albert Tsai, senior vice president of global elite product at Catapult, said:
I think understanding head injuries is critical.
There are sports where head injury and impact are naturally of great concern, here in America we are seeing drops in participation rates because of that concern.
The understanding of head impact is still pretty nascent, but there are things in training that are unnecessarily putting people at risk and we talk about eliminating these risks.
We aim to ensure the process being used gather data is accurate, practical and the volume of data is across the right areas to drive meaningful outcomes.
Tsai admitted it has taken a while for professional teams to fully buy in to the role of technology in sport. He said: ‘Certainly at the onset the fear of technology was probably really high, just think about the world 20 years ago compared to now.
Tsai said: “There has been overall acceptance of tech as a way to improve everything we do, and every coach now is my age so we’ve grown up to accept it.
“Technology isn’t a solution unto itself so unless we can apply it and bring benefit and efficiency to something we want to do, it doesn’t matter.”
Catapult has over 340 staff based across 24 locations worldwide, working with over 2500 elite teams from 39 sports in 135 countries globally.
Alongside gathering data to improve knowledge of head injuries and how to reduce their impact, Tsai believes the data will also offer valuable coaching insights and improve near term and long term overall benefit for the player.
Citing an example, Tsai said:
We knew from data a player was getting really low grade impact, nothing of concern medically.
But the fact we were getting impact in this drill was eye opening as there should have been none at all.
After assessing video it was technique flaw, and there was a coaching opportunity around addressing this.
That’s where we think integrating the data into our overall stack is compelling because no one in the world has that data set but that is what we want to gather across various sports.
Catapult has also agreed with the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to provide all member nations with wearable technology – including all African sides in the upcoming Women’s World Cup.
A partnership with sporting goods manufacturer Wilson also saw an integrated American Football used at the CFL Combine a few months ago, where new metrics were developed to measure Quarterback performance. These measurements were timings of snap to release, snap to target and release time, throw quality and arm strength. The data was gathered using a chip in the football and wearable technology on the athletes.
Tsai added: “What we have a is a lot of capability, we can focus on elite performance but recognising the opportunities at all levels is important.
“The comprehensive context we can bring across all departments will help people deliver what they need.”