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IoT at play to prevent sports injuries

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A new IoT solution from SAP seeks to reduce the risk of sports injuries. Developed in Silicon Valley, the Injury Risk Monitor was introduced during the Cricket World Cup in Australia this year. Raj Valame, portfolio lead, and Sijesh Manohar, product owner, speak about the solution and its potential impact on athletes’ performance and careers.

Q. What problem does the Injury Risk Monitor seek to address?

A. An injury to a critical player can take away the competitive advantage of a team and have major monetary losses for both the athlete and the team. Case studies show that athletes in the top five sports leagues lose 15% – 30% of salary to injuries. In soccer, for example, a mean of 17-24 injuries per 1000 playing hours have been reported, and 10% of these injuries are serious.

The optimal lifespan of any professional athlete is limited to a few prime years when they can excel and get to the top. If these years are marred by injuries, it can be disastrous. Many of the injuries are non-accidental in nature. These can be prevented if the risk is detected early. The Injury Risk Monitor is designed to identify these risks and help place players into custom health and training programs to prevent injuries.

Q. Can you tell us how the solution works?

A. Sports injuries can happen due to multiple factors, including exhaustion during training, hydration levels, weather, age of the player, and the technique he/she adopts. The solution compiles different kinds of data from trainings, physical fitness tests, matches, demographics, and location, and applies a mathematical formula to derive the risk of injury.

Some of the data about the player is collected from non-obtrusive wearable and non-wearable devices. The risk of each type of injury for a player is calculated and presented with simple representations to the team coaches and physiotherapists. They are also given the potential causes for the risk, so that appropriate corrective actions can be taken. The solution also has a “what if” simulation capability to enable coaches and physiotherapists to understand problem areas.

Q. What are the advantages of running the solution on SAP HANA?

A. The key strength of the solution is the ability to derive the risk of injury from several data sources, including unstructured data. SAP HANA will help to understand the patterns and define the mathematical predictive models. SAP HANA can process unlimited number of factors and derive relations among them. This capability will help team physiotherapists to identify problem areas for the player and the factors adding to the risk of injury. A key feature of the solution is also the ability to generate custom risk profiles for each athlete and define tailored personal intervention programs.

Q. Tell us where the project stands currently and the plans for it.

A. We have developed a proof of concept in cricket of how this can work with wearable sensor shirts and other data about the player. This proof of concept was demonstrated in Melbourne during the Cricket World Cup this year. We brought together a panel of athletes and leading researchers for a discussion on the potential of IoT in sports. Australian fast bowler Shaun Tait, who retired early from international cricket due to a history of injuries, said in a news article, “I wish this had happened 13 years ago. Technology like this is proof that sometimes you need to rest for a couple of days. You can manage players through a series or a season.”

Currently, SAP is in discussion with several sports teams in cricket, baseball, and soccer to co-innovate on this solution. Injury Risk Monitor brings together IoT, sports, and healthcare, opening opportunities for these areas.

Check out a news story in the International Business Times, UK on how the Injury Risk Monitor can prevent football injuries

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