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Game On: Managing Player Wellness with Injury Risk Monitor Scores Big in Seoul

Hong Sung Hyun joined the Yonsei University (South Korea) soccer team, a top collegiate team, in 2010, winning the U-League in the same year and again in 2012. As a promising and upcoming player, he joined a soccer club in 2014. Things were looking up for the young man. And then, there was a knee injury. He was forced to quit his professional soccer career in July 2014, even before it had begun. I spent some time with Hong this past week in Seoul during the SAP Hyper Connected Healthcare Summit.

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So what was the occasion?

Representing the SAP Customer Innovation & Strategic Projects team’s latest iteration of the Injury Risk Monitor (see my cricket-oriented post: Cafeacute;Innovation – Helping athletes run simple with HANA) now focused on Soccer, I had the honor of asking Hong to demonstrate the proposed solution (it is in the proof-of-concept stage). This demonstration was a clear expression of all that is beautiful and creative at SAP. Absorbing input from experts, the solution provides actionable analytics based on data from across a variety of sources – sensors, video, text, and historical structured and unstructured data. I requested Hong to wear a vest that was equipped with sensors and we conducted an exercise that showed – in real-time – how data being picked up by the sensors was producing real-time analytics that a physio or coach would find very useful in managing the wellness of a soccer player. Coach Choi Young Joon (Instructor and Technical Commitee Member, Korea Football Association) and Prof. Kim Jin-goo (Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Konkuk  University), who joined me for a Panel discussion shortly after this demonstration, appreciated the need for such solutions. This was heartening to note as we believe that the sporting fraternity across the globe and across a spectrum of sports can benefit tremendously from a solution such as Injury Risk Monitor (IRM).

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So what is unique about this?

Well, to appreciate that let us consider the fact that it is estimated that soccer leagues could lose up to 30% of player payroll to injuries (Global Sports Salaries Survey 2015). The estimated average cost of player injuries in the top 4 professional soccer leagues in 2015 was $12.4 million per team.  In soccer alone, an average of 17-24 injuries per 1000 playing hours have been reported.  Many of these injuries can be very serious and potentially career-ending – as in the case of Hong Sung Hyun. In a recent blog post titled “The Crippling Cost of Sports Injuries,” my colleague, Kasem Abotel (who was with me in Seoul), shared an infographic that summarizes the case well.

Now that we have acknowledged the financial impact let us consider the nature of the solution. There might be a number of point solutions out there that look at monitoring injuries and perhaps suggesting possible courses of remedy. The IRM solution proposes to take things to the next level – it is geared to predict, monitor, and help implement a relevant intervention program. It is designed to leverage copious quantities of available data together with live data to help compute the possible risk of injury. It does intend to then help plan and execute, with appropriate monitoring, measures that will reduce injury risk and help a player attain a more healthy playing life.

To sum it up, IRM uniquely applies a predictive model approach and helps cater to personalized management of a player’s wellness. I use the word, “wellness” as IRM seeks to look at composite risk (across factors) and aims to apply measures that are comprehensive, and not be limited to narrowly defined physical fitness parameters. I emphasize “personalized” because one-size-fits-all as an approach would be a disaster. Today, with respect to many aspects of healthcare it is recognized that every treatment option for serious conditions can yield different results merely because no two individuals are alike. Why should we not hold player wellness to the same standards?

As a solution built on SAP HANA that lives in the cloud it will be an SAP thoroughbred that knows how to work in an increasingly digital world. To some the nature of this comprehensive approach might seem ambitious, but ideas that were mere wishful thinking at one time are now very real possibilities thanks to the capabilities of HANA that include working across technology boundaries, as we must, to take advantage of the Internet of Things (IoT).

So what’s next?

We are finding resonance within the sporting fraternity about SAP’s approach to building solutions for sporting needs. SAP SportsOne has already been launched – it seeks to provide a comprehensive approach to team management, training, scouting, and performance optimization. The intent is to build IRM to augment this solution in a synergistic manner. A composite risk of injury will be derived by taking data from training, physical fitness tests, matches, demographics, location, and so on. The solution’s ability to seamlessly process data across sources and modes of collection (including wearable devices) will provide a completely data-based, smarter, and more efficient way for team physiotherapists to help enhance player wellness and longevity.

This is what I was proud to bring to South Korea. And, it was heartening to be met with great affection and understanding. In fact, I am very impressed with how well South Korea has adopted the move to becoming digital. Some claim that it has the fastest internet capabilities on the planet for general use, and is one of the most hyperconnected economies on the planet.  I can buy that argument because I did have at least one very superlative digital experience. Every time I used my credit card in a taxi-cab in Seoul, a split second after the card was swiped – and I mean, literally, a split second – the transaction was approved and a receipt printed out. I believe this society is far more ready to get aggressive with IoT driven solutions than some others. And, they do have a passion for sports – soccer is definitely one of them.

Given what can be accomplished with technology as we demonstrated recently, we might yet be able to prevent the disappointment that players such as Hong, and by extension the respective sport, have had to face. I am optimistic about a great IoT future in sports and healthcare that SAP can help bring to South Korea and beyond.

I am thankful for the opportunity provided by our friends and colleagues in Seoul – Kamsahamnida (Thank you).

Follow me on Twitter at: @puneetsuppal

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      Author's profile photo Kasem Abotel
      Kasem Abotel

      Great Blog Puneet,  It was great for me to be part of this event and view first hand the audience response to  the value proposition of IRM. It is about technology from SAP helping players maintain their health

      As you recall, we have the chance to have dinner with the panelists the night before the event. Dr. Kim who is considered to be the "Father" of Sports Medicine in Korea was extremely enthusiastic to work with SAP in this co-innovation project and he was particularly interested in the potential of the solution for female athletes - to quote Dr. Kim  "Risk of injury among female athletes is about four times higher than that of male athletes due to landing positions. The IRM
      solution would be a great asset to examine these incidents and further study
      the injuries"

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks, Kasem. Glad you mention it. Also, we should note that in a separate conversation, Coach Choi mentioned to me how movement  - excessive or faulty - led to many preventable injuries. IRM can make a big difference in these areas.