Super Rugby: IBM To Help Waratahs With Player Injury Prevention

The possible prevention of injuries through scientific analysis may help players such as Tatafu Polota-Nau stay on the park for longer

The possible prevention of injuries through predictive analysis
may help players such as Tatafu Polota-Nau stay on the park for longer

NSWRU Media Release –

The NSW Waratahs have announced they will use IBM (NYSE:IBM) predictive analytics technologies to monitor the 35-strong player squad.

An Australian-first, the long-term predictive analysis project comes as IBM signs a new two-year agreement to be the club’s Technology Partner, extending the relationship between the two parties to nine years.

Launching the initiative, Waratahs Rugby CEO Jason Allen welcomed the continuation of the already successful relationship. “It goes without saying that we are thrilled to have IBM on board for another two years.

“IBM is a global leader and an organisation with a culture of high performance.  Through our seven-year relationship with them, we have already established our mutual abilities to create value and grow each other’s business.  As we prepare for the exciting new chapter ahead, we believe we can take these opportunities to another level and can’t wait to move forward with some of the plans and initiatives we have in place to do this.”

The predictive analytics technology will be used by the NSW Waratahs to analyse player data from multiple sources, to assist in the decision marking surrounding player training load and injury predication, enabling the club to field the best possible team throughout the season.

The analysis predicts the likelihood of a particular player being injured, which then enables the NSW Waratahs coaching team to adapt and modify each player’s personalised training program to maximise their training load and minimise their risk of injury.

IBM Waratahs Analysis Infographic

IBM Waratahs Analysis Infographic

NSW Waratahs Athletic Development Manager Haydn Masters said, “The aim of our strength and conditioning program is to improve athletic performance and increase injury resilience to ensure players spend the most amount of time possible on the field. IBM’s predictive analytics technology gives us a very objective, sensitive and reliable measure of predicting each player’s limit and their injury risk and allowing us to modify training accordingly.”

The NSW Waratahs collect player data from a range of sources to build a clear picture of each individual player’s welfare and performance. This includes a GPS tracker fitted to each player to measure and monitor intensity levels, collisions, and fatigue during training and matches. The GPS data is then is combined with medical data, wellness data and player data, and over a period of time, clear patterns and early warning signs start to emerge. The long-term project for predictive insights will provide the Waratahs with a critical opportunity to anticipate an injury and change the variables, such as modifying the training regime or resting a player, to reduce the chance of injury.

Masters added, “At the moment we collect between 100 and 250 variables per player per week from GPS data, medical screenings and wellness reports. IBM’s system allows us to collate and analyse all these variables, which in turn helps us to best manage each player and, over time, build an accurate picture of what to look for individual players (and future players) and positions, in terms of predicting injury risk.”

Brock Douglas, IBM Business Analytics Leader said, “When we tested the predictive analytics model we built for the Waratahs the results were compelling.  Our model analysed retrospective data from the players and identified three players who went on to sustain an injury in the following weeks. This project truly showcases the power of predictive analytics and illustrates how it can be applied across a variety of scenarios and sectors to great effect.

“Sport isn’t just a game, it’s also a business, and it can be managed more scientifically by combining the power of data and the insights of analytics.  With predictive analytics, sporting clubs no longer need to rely on raw talent and gut instinct alone to succeed. We are delighted that NSW Waratahs has chosen to partner with IBM to pioneer this Australian-first project, and to help protect the health of its players and to make the club more competitive in its field.”

Analytics is driving a growing trend among all types of organisations to uncover hidden patterns in data in order to predict or prevent outcomes for competitive advantage. Advances in analytics now offer powerful insight and enhanced decision making to organisations across various industries, from healthcare and energy conservation to retailing and public safety.

Douglas added, “In recent years, sport has become more technical and analytics has become a critical asset for professional sports teams. IBM has established the world’s deepest portfolio of analytics solutions. IBM’s analytics technologies are used by a number of sports including tennis across the four Grand Slams, golf, American football and rugby. Our analytics technology is used to enhance the fan experience whether within a stadium or online; to provide players with the keys to a match (insights needed to win); to reducing injuries. Last year, IBM embarked on a similar predictive analytics project around player injuries with the UK based Leicester Tigers.”