Posts Tagged ‘Catapult Sports’

Mavs First To Dive Into Fatigue Analysis

DALLAS — In the next few days, the Dallas Mavericks will become the first team in the NBA to have their players wear black, digital wristwatches that don’t tell time.

The watches will tell when the players are sleeping, and for how long and how deeply they’re doing so. The collected data will quantify how fatigue from training, competing, travel, time-zone adjustments and other variables affect multiple aspects of game-day performance such as reaction time and readiness. The goal is for the Mavericks’ coaches and trainers to pinpoint the causes of fatigue, both team-wide and individually, and adjust travel schedules and training regimens to ensure players get proper sleep.

It’s not just telling guys to get their eight hours of shut-eye, but rather scientifically guiding them.

The watch, called Readiband and created by Vancouver-based Fatigue Science, is the latest technology to enter the burgeoning sports science arena in the NBA as teams search for untapped advantages. The company is expected to officially announce its partnership with the Mavericks on Thursday.

“There’s two sides to it: part of it is just working with the players, just like any other fitness or conditioning aspect to a player’s career, and part of it is their education,” Fatigue Science founder Pat Byrne told shortly after demonstrating the technology to the Mavericks earlier this week. “So If a player is sleeping six hours a night and says, ‘I feel fine,’ we can actually say, ‘we can make your reaction time better if you’re sleeping eight hours.’ We can prove it to you, we can show you.

“I told this to the Mavericks and I tell it to all the pro players that we work with: you confuse how you feel with how you can perform. Our technology will show you how your sleep will actually affect your actual performance during the games.”

A half-dozen other NBA teams contacted Fatigue Sports citing interest in Readiband. One NFL team that requested anonymity to protect its competitive advantage began using the device this season. Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders and the Canadian men’s national soccer team are also clients.

The NHL’s Vancouver Canucks were the first to contact Fatigue Science in 2009, desperate for solutions to sleep issues associated with having the league’s most exhaustive travel schedule. After a couple years of collecting data and implementing schedule changes, the Canucks were so impressed with the results that they purchased the exclusive rights to the technology for three years to prevent other NHL teams from obtaining it. That deal ends after this season and Fatigue Science expects more NHL teams to sign up.

“What it allows the team to do is to say, look, how long does it take players to get to sleep after games? How do naps affect their performance? Take all of that, look at the holistic view of the whole team and then they can make smarter decisions to create sleep opportunities,” Byrne said. “Teams can say, ‘we finished this road trip, let’s just fly home.’ But you can look at the sleep patterns and say, you know what, that’s not the smartest thing to do because you’ve got a game two days from now and you’re not going to recover. This allows them to make smarter decisions.”

The Canucks are wearing the watches during their current seven-game, two-week road trip. At the end of it, “team sleep data” will be collected and studied. The Mavericks will soon begin their own test period.

“We’re teaching [the players] that we’re changing the culture here,” said Jeremy Holsopple, the Mavericks’ recently hired athletic performance director, the new-era name for a sports and conditioning coach. “So we give them information, show how their bodies are working, how it’s sleeping, how it’s affecting them.  If you can show them how low their reaction times are based off sleep than it’s a little more objective than saying you’ve got to get your sleep.”

Previously with the MLS’ New York Red Bulls, Holsopple’s relationship with Sounders fitness coach David Tenney led him to Fatigue Science and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban backed the experiment with Readiband.

Cuban is out front in the emerging technological arms race. Dallas is one of eight NBA teams this season using GPS tracking devices developed by Australian company Catapult Sports. The beeper-sized devices are worn by players and records movement and measures workload levels. The collected data allows coaches and trainers to determine how to tailor training sessions and practices, optimize game-day performance and reduce the risk of injury due to overexertion (the NBA does not allow the devices to be worn during games).

For the first time this season, every NBA arena will be equipped with six motion-tracking SportVU cameras. The Mavericks were one of a handful of teams to dip into the technology and Holsopple said the Mavericks are discussing the possibility of marrying the SportVU cameras and Catapult’s technology.

For the Readiband to provide accurate sleep data, players must wear it, which could be tricky if some might not want to make known their nocturnal habits. Byrne, citing the last five years with the Canucks, said early tangible results typically encourage players to embrace the project: “They’ve changed the team culture so that the players actually are now conscious about how their sleep affects their performance.”

“We can really dial in on guys individually,” Holsopple said. “I think if you take a third of the team who’s going to do this thing religiously and live by it, you’re going to see improvement in their recovery and their ability to stabilize their performance day in and day out. If you take the middle third of the team, they’ll do it some, they’ll improve to a certain degree, let’s say maybe 50 percent change in what they do can make a big difference for them.

“And then if you get that bottom third, the guys who are just typically resistant to new things, even if you can get them to change 20 to 30 percent, to me that’s a victory in the first year because we’re just trying to change the culture.”

Readiband is just now breaking into the NBA, but the fatigue management technology has been utilized for years in high-risk industry such as aviation and the military.

“We’re really an industrial company and we designed this technology to save lives in mining companies, airlines and railroads,” Byrne said. “Now it’s coming down to sports.”

Byrne targeted another group ripe for his company’s fatigue analysis: NBA referees. Unlike the league’s teams, its referees fly commercially from city to city, often on tight schedules.

Now that’s a project that Cuban, an endless critic of officiating, just might add to the Mavericks’ tab.

Teams Advancing Fast At The Intersection Of Science And Technology

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Sports, science and technology are converging at an all-time pace and eight NBA teams are experimenting with a new device designed to optimize and personalize training regiments, thus the ability to maximize performance and reduce injury.

The San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets and New York Knicks, plus four other teams that have chosen to keep their identities secret, have invested in these complex GPS tracking devices created by the Australian company Catapult Sports, the self-professed leader in “athlete analytics.”

“We just want to be able to get smarter about our players and how to train them and how to put them in a position to succeed,” said Mavs owner Mark Cuban. “So that’s just one component of a lot of different things that we’re doing.”

The device, called OptimEye, is roughly the size of an oldfangled beeper and athletes wear it inside their jerseys on the upper back between the shoulder blades. The device records literally every movement the player makes, accurately measuring exertions such as distance, velocity, changes of direction, acceleration, deceleration, jumps, heart rate and more.

These physiological and physical performance parameters are then uploaded to a computer to be analyzed, allowing coaches, trainers and the players to understand their individual workload levels. These are conclusions that once could only be subjective, say, by reading a player’s body language, to now being totally objective. By wearing the devices during practices, teams can monitor their players’ physical output and closely watch their load levels to ensure each player is not being overworked and ensuring ultimate preparedness to play in each game when performance counts.

Worn during workouts, the device can provide real-time data alerting coaches and trainers if a player’s exertion rate is too high, the moment when a player is most vulnerable to injury, allowing coaches and trainers to pull back.

Catapult’s Gary McCoy compares the company’s technology to the intricate and mandatory gauges that measure engine performance and other vital signs of a high-performance race car.

“Imagine NASCAR, or even mechanically more precise, Formula 1 racing,” McCoy said. “Powerful engines. High-performance mechanical needs. Could you imagine driving one of these vehicles without any dashboard whatsoever?  What if you cant ‘hear’ the engine?  Would you know when you are ‘redlining,’ causing untold overload to the system?

“The same happens every day for a high-powered NBA athlete — we drive them without a dashboard, we guess. Our eyes give us extremely limited information.  We don’t know what is too much, what is too little. Catapult data changes all this. Viable, objective measurements on movement, and then simply what we can measure, we can manage.”

The Knicks did exactly that last season with Jason Kidd. Before Kidd returned from injury, he wore the device during workouts to track his acceleration, agility and force. As Forbes’ Alex Konrad reported, with a benchmark reading set in the preseason, the team got the numbers it needed to clear him to play. It allows for specific measurements to be met, rather than a player approximating his readiness. How many times have you heard an athlete say he’s about 85 percent? What exactly does that mean?

The NBA is just the latest pro sports league to jump headfirst into this new technology. Catapult has more than 300 clients worldwide, including the NFL’s New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons, Jacksonville Jaguars, St. Louis Rams and Buffalo Bills, plus half the English Premiere League and most of Australian Rules Football. The company says it is talking to nearly every team in the NFL and NBA.

The Bills produced a video detailing how it utilizes the Catapult devices. The Eagles, under first-year coach Chip Kelly, hired former performance coach for the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Group 2, Shaun Huls, as the NFL’s first “sports science coordinator.” It’s a direction that Cuban could be moving in as well. He recently fired his 10-year strength and development coach and said the replacement will be “more of an expert in performance technology science.”

The NFL and NBA do not allow players to wear the device during regular-season games. The Spurs used the technology during the Las Vegas Summer League, becoming the first NBA to wear the technology during in an actual game environment.

Cuban said he’s considering using it during the NBA’s preseason in October. He said he has not yet been advised against it by the league. A league spokesman did not respond to an email Friday inquiring if the NBA would allow the technology to be used during preseason games.

Allowing the technology to be used in regular-season games might require a green light from the players association. Such data can cause uncertainty among players associations, agents, front offices and others involved in contract negotiations.

Yet, with so many clients around the world and the technology only to become more refined, these tracking devices might soon become as commonplace during games as the Gatorade cooler.