The Evolution of Injury Prevention

Sports Business Insider

Since the introduction of Dr Jean-Pierre Meerssmen’s injury prevention system in 2002 at AC Milan’s “MilanLab,” injury prevention and performance management in elite sport hasn’t quite been the same.

“Before we implemented our holistically‑based chiropractic approach, we had so many injuries we needed about 35 players in the team. Today, we only require 22,” commented Dr Meersseman.

Dr Meersseman refers to the fact that since 2002, the incidence of non-traumatic injuries has dropped by 92%.

This is a staggering statistic by itself, but think of it in the context of elite sport and the fact that the financial burden of injuries, even today, is about $16 billion per annum.

This issue is so visible that the New York Times actually has an interactive, real-time injury calculator called ‘Money on the bench’ that displays the hourly, daily and total financial burden of injury in Major League Baseball.

As crazy as it sounds, at any one time this can be as high as almost $700 million! And that’s just one professional league in one sport.

Numerous other examples of the impact technology has had on injury prevention exist including that of the Sydney Swans in 2007, and of course the likes of Catapult and their wearable technology.

Injury prevention is only getting better and it’s not an accident, it’s the result of deliberate, scientifically validated effort, combined with accelerating modern technology.

Across the board, when a decent combination of complementary technology is utilised, many clubs are seeing soft-tissue injury decrease by about 33% and an increase in performance output by around 40%.

This is of course good news for everyone in sport. But there are still many prevalent problems that exist, specifically associated with the likes of concussion related injuries in sports like the AFL.

And as such, there are numerous high-value problems that need solving.

The combination of complimentary technology utilised by elite athletes and professional sporting clubs I mentioned above comes both in the form of hardware and software, with the underlying value residing in the data (and of course what you can do with the data) rather than the objects.

Data capture is becoming more ubiquitous and every day, even normal people, but specifically elite athletes get closer to the possibility of the quantified self. In short, self-knowledge through self-tracking, and because of this, the capability to gain deep insight into ones life presents itself.

A full psychophysical picture that can be analysed and optimised.

This is highly relevant in the context of elite and professional sport.

We are no longer only interested in closed silos of data that relate somewhat specifically to a particular objective or activity. We are now much more interested in the context of the bigger picture, both real-time and predictive, and how each moving part or piece of the puzzle affects the ‘big picture.’

To give a brief example: capturing inertial movement, GPS, testing results and those types of data sets from an activity of physical exertion provides you with data that you can analyse, draw relational inferences on and try to use the insight you derive from that data to make good decisions about how to create an opportunity or mitigate a risk.

Fifty years ago this may have seemed like science fiction.

But now, it’s the context of an outcome that is most intriguing and provides the greatest opportunity to derive insight.

In this specific example, by context, I refer to the combination and aggregation of every possible data set, rather than only a few.

Rather than just capturing the moment, we capture the context of one’s environment, the world that surrounds them and therefore the factors that effect their performance output, susceptibility to injury, extrinsic and intrinsic motivators, and numerous other factors.

And we don’t do this intermittently we do this 24/7. But to make this work, and protect the privacy and intellectual property of various stakeholders, it’s likely sports will need to embrace open standards.

This capability presents an opportunity to derive historic, real-time and predictive insight into both the performance and injury of an individual athlete or an entire team.

I believe that this is the evolution of performance and injury management in elite sport.