Leicester Tigers tackles player injuries head on

Keeping the team fit with predictive analytics from EDGE10 and IBM

Published on 15 Oct 2012

"The EDGE10 Sports Performance & Medical software, running alongside IBM SPSS Modeler, has allowed us to collect, manage, analyse and report pertinent data throughout the organisation. Our initial results suggest that we may be able to predict around 50 percent of our injuries." - Andrew Shelton, Head of Sport Science, Leicester Tigers

Customer:
Leicester Tigers

Industry:
Media & Entertainment

Deployment country:
United Kingdom

Solution:
BA - Business Analytics, BA - Predictive Analytics, Smarter Planet

Smarter Planet:
Smarter Media

IBM Business Partner:
EDGE10

Overview

Founded in 1880 as Leicester Football Club, Leicester Tigers has grown to become the most consistently successful rugby club in England, with nine English league titles and two European Heineken Cup wins. The best-supported club in the country, Leicester Tigers generates an annual turnover of around £20 million.

Business need:
Player safety is a paramount concern for English rugby club Leicester Tigers; if top players are absent from big matches, it not only affects the team’s performance, but could also worsen financial results.

Solution:
Using funding from the Matt Hampson Foundation, Leicester Tigers is in the early stages of integrating IBM predictive analytics technologies with its existing EDGE10 Sports Performance & Medical platform. This will help the club gain insight into its historical biometric data with the aim of identifying the common factors associated with previous player injuries. By analysing its current player data for these factors, the club hopes that it will instantly be able to see which players are at the highest risk of an injury, and take preventative measures such as altering training intensity.

Results:
May predict around 50 percent of injuries, helping the club keep at-risk players healthy by proactively altering their training programmes.

Benefits:
May reduce business risk by ensuring a higher level of play – helping the club to improve league and cup performance, boost ticket sales, increase TV revenues and enhance player transfer value. May allow up-and-coming players to develop more effectively, increasing their chances of playing for the first team.

Case Study

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Smarter Sport Science: Boosting player performance and reducing injuries
Instrumented: The new solution integrates data collected throughout the season, including biometric data from sensors placed on the players' bodies, and physiological and psychological information.

Interconnected: Coaches and trainers access the information to help inform the design of individually tailored training programmes.

Intelligent: Using predictive analytics, the sports science team aims to spot patterns and trends in player performance and behaviour, enabling the club’s trainers to alter at-risk players’ training programmes to reduce the risk of injuries.

Founded in 1880 as Leicester Football Club, Leicester Tigers has grown to become the most consistently successful rugby club in England, with nine English league titles and two European Heineken Cup wins. The best-supported club in the country, Leicester Tigers generates an annual turnover of around £20 million.

Increased injuries, decreased ticket sales

Injuries to players are common in the sport of rugby – on average, one in four players will be injured during a season. Hamstring injuries alone, for example, account for an average of 14 missed playing days per season. Injuries to players can have as great an impact off the pitch as on it. Aside from the human cost, if top players are frequently absent from important matches, there will be an increased risk of losing games, potentially leading to reduced ticket sales, and, ultimately, a fall in revenue. For these reasons, Leicester Tigers wanted to reduce the business risk presented by injuries to its 55-strong squad.

Andrew Shelton, Head of Sport Science at Leicester Tigers, explains: “Our data suggests that if we have a fully fit squad, we’ll rival any team in Europe. When we’ve had a lot of injuries in the past, we had trouble competing with the best.”

Need for deeper insights

Prior to working with EDGE10, the club’s sports science team used spreadsheets to store, manage and analyse the large volume of data it collected on its players – including statistics on player fatigue, game intensity levels and injury rates. However, this spreadsheet-based process did not provide the analytics tools required to deliver the deep insights that Leicester Tigers needed to reduce injuries. Furthermore, the spreadsheets were unable to manage the sheer volume of data that Leicester Tigers was generating.

Choosing a professional platform

The club wanted to gain the ability to use its massive amounts of objective and subjective raw data to identify and protect players at greatest risk of injury. To obtain the greatest value from its player data and reduce risk to its business, Leicester Tigers, with funding from the Matt Hampson Foundation, decided to implement a professional data management solution.

EDGE10, an IBM Business Partner helped the club deploy the EDGE10 Sports Performance & Medical platform, a solution that provides a single central point of control for collecting and managing player-related data. Data on every aspect of the club’s sporting operations is input by the medical, sports science and strength and conditioning teams, and by the athletes themselves. This information is then managed throughout its lifecycle, and provides a 360-degree view of the club and its players.

“The EDGE10 software gives us a single, consistent source of accurate data that we can use to support better decision-making both on and off the pitch,” says Andrew Shelton. “It’s also very flexible: the EDGE10 team understand that different teams in different sports operate in different ways, so they helped us customise the software to our specific needs. As a result, our players, sports scientists and medical staff have the scope to make creative and innovative use of the data, which helps them to improve performance across the board.”

To take the solution a stage further, EDGE10 and Leicester Tigers began exploring the potential of predictive analytics. Working closely with IBM, the club decided to implement IBM® SPSS® software, which would enable the creation of predictive models that would assess the risk of injuries, based on several years of historical player data.

After importing historical data from its legacy spreadsheets and from the EDGE10 platform into the SPSS solution, the club’s sports science team began to identify trends that had led to player injuries in the past. The team then configured SPSS to look for these early indicators of injury in biotelemetric data from sensors attached to players’ bodies, alongside physiological and psychological data.

Biometric monitoring with SPSS

Sensors attached between players’ shoulder-blades are connected to live performance analysis software, which measures the frequency and intensity of collision and movement during training and matches. The sports science team aims to set individual parameters based on predicted injury thresholds, and keep players within a safe range.

If the psychological, physiological or biometric data displays a statistically significant change, the IBM solution could issue a warning that the player is likely to become injured imminently. Using these insights, Leicester Tigers’ trainers can create personalised training programs for the players who are at most risk of injury.

“Leicester Tigers has always been proud of challenging at the top of national and European rugby competitions, but as the game gets more competitive every year our focus must be on helping our players stay injury-free for longer,” says Andrew Shelton.

“There is a tremendous value to be gained by retaining experienced players within the squad. We are confident that by adopting the EDGE10 and IBM predictive analytics solution, our team will be able to leverage data about the physical condition of players for the first time and considerably enhance our performance.”

Preventing injuries, reducing risk

In the past, the club’s spreadsheet-based approach made it difficult to prevent injuries because there was no easy way to identify risk factors and proactively alter players’ training routines. Today, Leicester Tigers is able to load information about individual fatigue levels, injury records, psychological reports, and data on the intensity of matches or practices from the EDGE10 solution into the IBM SPSS software, and perform sophisticated analyses. By quickly identifying trends that increase the likelihood of an injury and taking action before damage is done, the solution could enable the sports science team to ensure that more players are fit and healthy at any given time.

The sports science team plans to develop the solution to easily compare the relative health of the whole squad – seeing which players are trending upward in performance, and which need more rest or more training to prevent the harmful effects of over- or under-training respectively. With more players on the pitch for big matches, Leicester Tigers would be even better placed to continue to win games, attract large numbers of spectators, and maintain healthy ticket sales.

The club also hopes to use the IBM and EDGE10 solution to help invest in its future success. By using predictive analytics in its under-19 academy, Leicester Tigers could assist coaches in selecting the most talented young players.

Conclusion

With expert support from IBM and EDGE10, Leicester Tigers has gained the professional analytics platform it needs to predict and prevent injuries.

Andrew Shelton concludes: “The EDGE10 Sports Performance & Medical software, running alongside IBM SPSS Modeler, has allowed us to collect, manage, analyse and report pertinent data throughout the organisation. Our initial results suggest that we may be able to predict around 50 percent of our injuries.

“The end goal is that none of our players will get into a state that could predispose them to injury. The logic behind this approach is simple: if you have your best players on the pitch, combined with the best tactical knowledge, you’ll win more games.”

About IBM Business Analytics

IBM Business Analytics software delivers data-driven insights that help organisations work smarter and outperform their peers. This comprehensive portfolio includes solutions for business intelligence, predictive analytics and decision management, performance management, and risk management.

Business Analytics solutions enable companies to identify and visualise trends and patterns in areas, such as customer analytics, that can have a profound effect on business performance. They can compare scenarios, anticipate potential threats and opportunities, better plan, budget and forecast resources, balance risks against expected returns and work to meet regulatory requirements. By making analytics widely available, organisations can align tactical and strategic decision-making to achieve business goals.

For more information

For further information please visit ibm.com/business-analytics

About EDGE10

EDGE10 is a global leader in sports performance and medical software. Its solutions help professional sporting organisations achieve core goals such as performance maximisation, talent identification, injury prevention and organisational cost reduction and efficiency. The company’s software covers all areas of sports data management, including administration, sport science, planning, strength and conditioning, recruitment, athlete development, competition analysis and medical management.

EDGE10 works with organisations such as governing bodies, national teams, clubs, colleges and universities, multi-sport service providers and elite individual sportspeople in the USA, the UK, Europe, Africa and Asia. Clients across a wide range of sports – including rugby, football/soccer, basketball, Formula 1, cycling, Olympic and winter sports – are already seeing the benefits of the EDGE10 approach.

To learn more about EDGE10, please visit edge10.org

About Leicester Tigers

To learn more about Leicester Tigers, please visit leicestertigers.com

Components

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Software:
SPSS Statistics

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2012 IBM United Kingdom Limited PO Box 41 North Harbour Portsmouth Hampshire PO6 3AU Produced in the United Kingdom February 2013 IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, Let’s Build A Smarter Planet, Smarter Planet, the planet icons and SPSS are trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. A current list of other IBM trademarks is available on the Web at “Copyright and trademark information” at: ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml. References in this publication to IBM products, programs or services do not imply that IBM intends to make these available in all countries in which IBM operates. Any reference to an IBM product, program or service is not intended to imply that only IBM’s product, program or service may be used. Any functionally equivalent product, program or service may be used instead. All customer examples cited represent how some customers have used IBM products and the results they may have achieved. Actual environmental costs and performance characteristics will vary depending on individual customer configurations and conditions. IBM hardware products are manufactured from new parts, or new and used parts. In some cases, the hardware product may not be new and may have been previously installed. Regardless, IBM warranty terms apply. This publication is for general guidance only. Photographs may show design models.

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