Catapult - Case Studies

FC Business

Known for his innovative ways of using performance monitoring technologies, Hammarby IF Head Physical Preparation Coach, Mladen Jovanovic, has quickly become an advanced Catapult user.

Previously working in a variety of roles in Servia and Turkey, Mladen first heard about Catapult “from time-motion studies I have read a couple of years ago.

“I believe the author was Tim Gabbett or some other high-level sport scientist from Australia. I remember being jealous of those guys for being able to collect such data and take an empiric approach to training and decision making.”

How does Mladen see Catapult improving the performance of his athletes?

“In multiple ways. First one, and the most basic, involves creating the exercise database for the coaches to select from and to suit planned loading and training objectives, at least from a physical standpoint.

“Second one involves individualised tracking of external work being done by the player. Before GPS this could be done only using notational system, which is time consuming. With Catapult one could do this in real time.

“Besides having the objective quantification of work being performed by the players, this creates certain accountability in them since they know they are being monitored. The future of GPS monitoring involves creating individualised predictive models to optimise training, competition, recovery and injury prevention together with other data.

”Working intimately with the data to discover ‘actionable insight’, Mladen knows that data for the sake of it is not what Catapult is about.

“The system provides valid and reliable estimates that one needs to put into a certain model to get insights.

“The model building is up to the client still and that sometimes leaves the users paralysed – which estimate to follow and how to interpret it.”

Talking specifically about football, Mladen finds it difficult to name the most valuable aspect that needs quantifying.

“That depends on the goal of such task along with signal/noise of the estimate and its pragmatic value. Research is still inconclusive in this regard and I am not sure if someone has it figured out. That is also very motivating since there is still a lot of work to be done to figure out what is the best estimate for a given monitoring task. The recent papers by Chris Carling and Martin Buccheit have put more oil on the fire regarding this very important task.

“The new metabolic power data might be something that merges acceleration data and velocity data and provides better external work estimates.

“PlayerLoad is also a very interesting metric, especially because it is done with high frequency (100Hz) and also accumulates non-running activities, which could provide a useful measure of total load applied to a player. Besides, it could be done indoor as well.”

With regular experiments with Catapult devices in martial arts for his Twitter followers, Mladen discusses his findings:

“It is hard to quantify external workload in martial arts. The load monitoring in martial arts usually involves internal load (HR, bLA) and subjective indicators (like sRPE).

“One interesting idea I tried to play with was estimating external workload using PlayerLoad metric and Catapult devices bandaged on the wrists to take into account punches as a source of external work.

“Additional Catapult devices could be put on the ankles, between the shoulder blades, as it is common with team sports and possibly on the headgear to take into account head punches.

“Wrapping these might be impractical for daily monitoring, but it might help with the drill classification and database building from physical demand point of view.

“Being able to estimate external load might provide info such as if a given athlete is able to generate more work on the heavy bag or in sparring after a given training program and thus have the higher potential to be used in a match.

“External work rate measuring might also help with the design of sport and training specific tests. As of now a lot of boxers and martial artists perform running based tests, such as VO2max testing on the treadmill, which is not really sport nor training specific.

“For sure, running around the ring is not a sign of a great boxer.”

David Tenney is highly-regarded in the sports science community as a Fitness Coach that understands the requirements of helping athletes reach their athletic potential.

Joining the Sounders after two seasons with the Kansas City Wizards, Tenney has worked from a variety of angles within the world game and has turned to Catapult to monitor the physical characteristics of his world-class MLS athletes.

“Catapult provides the opportunity to better quantify the mechanical load and physical load performed in training,” Tenney explains. “It has aided the coaching staff in selecting exercises based on whether we want to overload PlayerLoad, velocity load, or aerobic parameters - giving us a more precise framework from which to work off of”.

Known in particular for his valuable work getting injured Sounders players back on the pitch faster, Tenney’s name is generally the first mentioned when athletes are asked about their road from recovery.

While he notes that this notoriety is “flattering” and shows “that the system we have in place is working”, he is also quick to promote the benefits of Catapult’s athlete tracking technology when it comes to player rehabilitation.

“There are several areas that Catapult is used to improve a fitness coach’s ability to bring a player back from injury,” Tenney says.

“First, it’s easy to assess and monitor the peak velocities an athlete may achieve within a session. This is one metric that we monitor specifically, before a player is considered for match play again. Secondly, it helps us choose the right exercises to slowly overload certain muscle groups that may be more susceptible to a re-injury during the rehab process.

“A player may optically ‘look’ close to 100% in training, but athlete monitoring will give us more evidence as to how close a player can perform max velocity, sharp change of directions, and high-intensity work in comparison to training sessions prior to the injury”.

A big part of that analysis is the use of the revolutionary PlayerLoad metric, which is the only accelerometer-based work metric on the market, and provides one number which summarizes an athlete’s physical output, and “has proven to be beneficial to monitor over-use in the quad, hip, and adductor areas.”

From the data collated through Catapult technology, the Seattle Sounders have adjusted their three-game-a-week schedule to include ‘non-impact recovery’ the day after a game – which involves 20 minutes on a spin bike, foam rolling, stretching, mobility and stability exercises.

“The biggest issue we have regarding training programs and recovery work is the decision of how much specific work to do the second day after a game. Many football coaches want to begin to do a lot of field work again, thinking that the players have already had one day off, but I have found that typically, players are still in a pretty fatigued state still 36 hours after a match”.

Football is an alactic-aerobic sport where players will complete between 50-80 sprints per game for a total of 10-14km, resulting in players needing extended recovery time and substituting strength gains during the season for necessary stability and corrective work that may prevent injuries.

A strong believer in football-specific training, meaning that athletes should spend most of their practice time on the field using a ball, Tenney understands the huge advantages of having wearable athlete tracking and knows the benefits of sports science in football.

“Having seen some of the top practitioners of sports science work throughout Europe and here in the US, I feel like athlete tracking has helped us really determine optimal loading schemes in training. I am a big believer in the phrase, ‘train as hard as you should, not as hard as you can’, and I feel like athlete monitoring gives coaching staffs a better sense of what that type and intensity of training should be.

“One of the biggest perspectives GPS and athlete monitoring has given us is the subtle changes in match demands from year-to-year”.

“Ball tracking will be able to give sports scientists a whole new perspective on how athletes work relative to the position of the ball, as well as with the ball. How do the speed and distance of passes change over a game? There will suddenly also be a bigger set tactical data points available to sports scientists once ball tracking is also available”.