How Big Data Can Reduce Football Injuries

Published Feb-11-19

A big data system to help NFL teams prevent player injuries.

Sparta Science, United States

The Story:

How Big Data Can Reduce Football Injuries Injuries are a huge problem in American football. A player injury is not only bad news for the individual, but it can also threaten a team's prospects during a season. For example, in 2018 Jimmy Garoppolo, the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers went down with a knee injury in week three. He had torn his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and it put him out of action for the rest of the season. He is such a pivotal player that his absence ended any chances the team had of taking the NFC (National Football Conference) West division title.

The impact of injuries on a team’s performance and finances can potentially be devastating. Consequently, teams have embarked on huge research initiatives that focus on improving injury prevention. The focus of much attention is the power and actionable insights provided by big data and data analysis.

Improving Injury Prevention

Several teams including the 49ers are working with Sparta Science, a Silicon Valley startup that uses big data and predictive analytics to analyze players’ injury risks and to develop personalized injury prevention plans.

"At the end of the day, a player's availability to a team is the most important factor. That's really the heart of injury prevention. So how do we create this availability through technology where every player on that roster is available for selection and participation every week?" Phil Wagner, CEO Sparta Science.

The way Sparta does it is with a type of measuring instrument known as a force plate. A player steps onto the plate and performs a few simple tasks such as jumping up and down and balancing. All the while the system is collecting thousands of data points which Sparta later analyzes. Then through machine learning, a player's risk of concussion or some other injury can be determined.

The force plate data is combined with on-field play data to help teams make prescriptions tailored to each player. The aims are to reduce injury and improve performance. And with the continued collection of individual player data over the years the technology can be even more predictive.

Player data changes all the time, and studying the numbers allows teams and players to make changes to best keep injuries at bay. “Sparta gives us instant feedback on what the athlete needs for that day,” said Chad Englehart, strength and conditioning coach, Washington Redskins.

Big Data Benefits

Injuries are a fact of life in the NFL, but better prevention can keep players healthier, cut down on the costs to cover player rehabilitation and may even lead to better results as a fully fit team is able to play throughout a season. According to Sparta, its big data system has been able to save 18 percent of all injuries for a given NFL team.

Share on      
Next Story »

What Can we Solve for You?