Connecting sports with data
Michael Clarkson, Sports Scientist at Catapult, blogs for IoTUK about connected sports technology and how real-time player data is changing the game.
Sports science is becoming a mature industry in countries like Australia and the UK and for the last 10 years many sports have been adopting various technologies to monitor their athletes. There are also fast growing markets such as Latin America and Asia who are learning how to use the data to help reduce the risk of injuries and increase performance on competition day, resulting in a positive evolution for elite sport globally.
Catapult’s technology sends player data from a device, worn in a vest pocket situated between the shoulder blades. Inside the device is a GPS antenna that calculates the position of the player, providing accurate and reliable data on their speed, distance and acceleration – as well as many other more advanced metrics.
The smarter side of connected sports technology such as Catapult, uses inertial sensors – including accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers. These inertial sensors measure the orientation, acceleration and direction of the body, which suits someone like a football goalkeeper who doesn’t cover a lot of distance on the field but will complete a number of explosive dives. Using these inertial sensors and advanced data science, Catapult can automatically detect the number of dives, their direction and intensity as well as the time it takes to get ready to dive again.
You can access these types of insights both in real time via a laptop on the sidelines, or you can download the data post-session. You can then push the data onto our online analytics platform called OpenField that helps you make smarter decisions when prescribing future training. One way our elite clients use our technology during training sessions is to help set targets for the players. The data being sent from our devices allows coaches to make decisions in real time on the field and to set realistic KPIs to which coaches can instantly see which players are over or under exceeding.
Providing the data you collect is accurate and reliable, the more data you have, the more value you can gain from it. Once you have normalised data you can begin to understand what the typical outputs of a player are, ultimately their optimal zones on a given day. When players deviate from these zones, this is then an indicator of change and something worth exploring.
One of the main ways Catapult is changing sport is by reducing the number of injuries, particularly in the US, where injury information is more transparent. Coaches of American football teams are already seeing an ROI from adopting our technology by using their athletes’ data to mitigate the chance of injuries.
The end goal is about using the data to influence behaviour changes, and if a coach sees that a player has worked too hard on a particular training day they can then adapt their subsequent training days to ensure they don’t overtrain. In sport this is known as periodisation, which ensures that on game day the players are optimised and ready to perform. Wearable technology in elite sport has three key benefits: reducing the risk of injury, understanding the readiness of individual athletes both physically and tactically, and quantifying an athlete’s return to play from injury.
By combining these benefits derived from wearable-based performance data with video analysis, which Catapult is beginning to take to the next level with our recent acquisition of US-based XOS Digital, a market leader in video-based technology, you gain the full context of athlete performance. Sports technology is no longer just the future. Coaches and athletes are using data from wearables and video to make informed decisions today.