The technology helping elite athletes reduce injuries and optimise their performance on the world sporting stage

Our elite athletes spend thousands of hours planning, training and fine tuning their performances in preparation for competition. A key part of preparation for Australian athletes is data analysis. Real-time data analytics may not seem like a big leap from an innovation point of view, but for this great sporting nation it unlocks the potential for more medals to be won and records to be broken.

Earlier this year, the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) showcased their world-class Athlete Management System (AMS) at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. Presented by ESPN, the two-day event featured high profile speakers like President Obama, the 44th President of the United States, and a well- known sports fan and other notable speakers including Adam Silver, Rob Manfred, Nate Silver, Alex Rodriguez, Steve Ballmer and Maverick Carter.

The Australian Institute of Sport has been developing their nation-wide Athlete Management System for five years, in conjunction with leading sports technology company Fusion Sport and their elite sports software platform SMARTABASE. Since 2013, the AIS has successfully transformed their culture around data and outcomes for athletes, especially in the prevention of injuries.

The Institute’s AMS monitors 45 high performance sporting organisations across the country, including Swimming Australia, Netball Australia and all state sporting institutes and academies. This equates to 2652 squads and over 12,000 athletes.

So how does all of this data equate to better athlete performance and a reduction in injuries in the lead up to world sporting events like the Olympic games and beyond?
There are over a million training sessions recorded in the AMS and all this data helps athletes and coaches manage their training load and get to competition safely. Over 5000 staff can access and profile an athlete’s status to make the best training decisions in the lead up to these events.

When the AMS initially rolled out, the Australian Institute of Sport needed to get athlete buy-in and get them ‘addicted’ to their data. Increasing the volume of data sources improves detection through machine learning, and for the past two years the AIS has been tracking data from athletes through wearables and mobile devices. Mr. Todd Ryall, Manager (AMS), Innovation, Research and Development at the AIS remarked, “…[That] with the Apple Heathkit integration we now have ‘life load’ and everything the athletes do outside of structured training”.

The Apple Healthkit integration allows athletes to receive instant feedback on their training; informing and advising as to how many training units they have remaining for a week before they ‘over-reach’ or risk injury. Hockey Australia, for example, can access their training data after sessions to review their internal training loads, distance, pace and heart rates. The Australian Institute of Sport’s Stay Healthy project is another example of data analytics being used to reduce interruption to training in the lead up to elite sporting events such as the Olympics. The Stay Healthy initiative kicked off in the lead up to the last Olympics in Rio and is now an ongoing data project at the AIS. During beta testing in the lead up to Rio, 317 Olympians were screened and findings lead to valuable insights such as how low energy availability has a high association to illness.

With the tracking of medical data streams including blood testing, saliva, DEXA body composition, sleep patterns and training load the AIS can track spikes in illnesses and manage preventative follow up effectively. Without the nation-wide AMS it would be near impossible to facilitate the analysis of all this data.

The results of the AMS implementation have been far reaching and the data culture across Australia’s sporting organisations has changed dramatically. “Across the board we’ve seen a 30-40% decrease in injuries, with some squads as high as 90% down in injuries annually” noted Mr. Ryall from the AIS. Recently, an approved and funded study on volleyball biomechanics jumping and landing had to be cancelled as there were not enough injuries to conduct the study. A great outcome for the national sporting organisation responsible for leading the delivery of Australia’s international sporting success.

Watch the whole presentation from the Australian Institute of Sport at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.

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