Attention To Detail: The Data-Driven Sports Science Revolution and RAWO

25.11.2020

In 2020, nobody is working out at the gym anymore. Athletes are "Grinding In The Lab", as many love to claim on social media. However, with the occurrence of an ongoing scientific revolution in training, injury prevention and player development, declaring the training facility as a laboratory might not be as far off as it may sound. Facilities like P3 or SPARTA SCIENCE in California, or the Austrian-based institution RAWO, are currently changing the way training, rehabilitation and prevention have been perceived by approaching the field in a scientific and data-based manner.

Experts like Dr. Marcus Elliot of P3 or Phil Wagner of SPARTA SCIENCE have laid the groundwork for the evolving field of data-driven training and therapy and are now leading the market, providing countless pro and amateur athletes with scientific assessment and individualized training to foster and prolong their active careers.

Elliot's P3 became the first facility to apply a more science-based approach and utilize collected data to better understand how elite players move, when it launched in 2006. Dr. Elliot and his staff are convinced that their data can reveal the future beforehand and they have proof. Using the most advanced technologies, such as costly force plates, high-speed camera systems and motion capture software, P3 captures innumerable biomechanical data points while assessing its clients. After evaluating the collected information, it is possible to identify potential risks of injury as well as points of probable physical improvement, which enables P3 to provide training and therapy tailored to specific individual needs. For example, by visualizing how the body moves and where the body generates power, the experienced staff members can detect asymmetries or imbalances that might indicate a potential future injury and will react by adding corrective exercises to the athlete's training regimen to fix the aforementioned imbalances.

During the assessment, Elliot's staff focuses less on the altitude a prospect can reach while jumping for example, but much rather on 'how' the athlete jumps, accelerates and decelerates, in order to dissect and understand the secrets of human movement. These motions are recorded and transformed into datasets. Afterwards, the results are decoded by a machine-learning algorithm which allows for an accurate comparison to formerly similarly assessed competitors. The insights gained from this process then helps to avoid injuries by adopting new individualized training methods with the aim of changing unhealthy movement patterns unveiled by the data at hand. Another important benefit is that the growing number of collected data allows for a continual increase in the systems accuracy.

Furthermore, P3's Dr. Elliot claims that the suffering of an injury is not a random event. Therefore, these machine-learning models might revolutionize the field of injury prevention because of their predictive features. The concept does not grant invulnerability, as this would be an impossible feat at the moment. But it improves an athlete's odds tremendously. Also, it should be mentioned, that these machine-learning and A.I.-based concepts are still in a phase of infancy, which means there might be much more to come since predictive injury analysis is considered to be the "next frontier in sports information".

Apart from its predictive nature, a data-based view on performance can also lead to new discoveries. For example, analyzing former NBA MVP James Harden by traditional metrics has resulted in the common notion that he is an average athlete. When observing and reviewing the collected biomechanical data though, the trained eye will realize that Harden possesses an extraordinary braking system - meaning his ability to stop and change direction and speed is remarkable.

The wide world of pro sports is only now starting to recognize the advantages of the current revolution in the field of sports science, as more and more NBA teams, for example, are hiring sports scientists.

Another competitor in the industry of sports science is Phil Wagner and his creation SPARTA SCIENCE. Similarly to Dr. Marcus Elliot, he uses analytics to improve a client's athletic performance as well as his or her longevity. The company is confident in their ability to control things that others write of as luck or factors others would not even take into consideration.

SPARTA SCIENCE also assesses their clientele by collecting data with the help of force plates and sensors. Wagner's focus lies heavily on an athlete's jump, however, because he reflects on the fact that all movement is initiated from the ground up. A jump can be split into three separate phases - a loading phase, an explosion or transition phase and a drive or extension phase. Since no two athletes are alike though, every player distributes his or her generated force differently over the three phases. Therefore, Phil Wagner believes that those who are deficient in some aspect of their force production are the ones who in the end are more prone to injuries.

Meanwhile, the Austrian-based RAWO - short for "Researched Athletes World" is leading the competition in Europe. The project was founded in 2014 with the aim of developing a psychological and data-driven approach in order to better understand the movement of an athlete and how to improve. "Lead the industry through innovation, experience and science" is the motto of founder Marko Rados and his staff.

The European frontrunner not only distinguishes itself with its advanced scientific approach in terms of training, assessment, and treatment though, but also the culture-building aspect it has established within the few years of its existence. At RAWO, the client - regardless of his or her performance level - is the priority, as their aim is to build a strong athletic base as well as character. Therefore, RAWO is trying to provide high level service by a trained and experienced staff in a positive and goal-oriented environment for a price that also allows amateurs - and so called "weekend-warriors" - to excel at their craft. They have set high standards for themselves in not settling for mediocrity and not relying on estimation, but on data and precise, research-based methodology.

Their newly evolved project "RAWO INTELLIGENCE" is intended to objectively assess an athlete's body factors to construct training concepts tailored to the client's individual needs. Its structure can be compared to the system P3 is using in Santa Barbara, as it also tracks a player's improvements and characteristics through detailed data-analysis and increases in accuracy with every dataset added.

Although many companies, like P3 or SPARTA SCIENCE, seem to have established a market for the combination of sports and science in the United States, with many startups trying to emulate their strategies and concepts, the same cannot be said about Europe. RAWO, being one of a few, intends to change these currents, however, by improving the data- and machine-learning-based approach in Europe to pave a way for a future market.

But their intentions are not purely business oriented. RAWO strives for optimization in all facets of life. While improving performance, creating optimal career paths, minimizing injury risks and fostering their athletes' longevity, their focus also lies heavily on educating; newcomers in the field of training as well as the general public.