Leicester Tigers Partner with IBM & Edge 10 to Help Prevent Player Injuries

By Community | May 2, 2012

English rugby union team, Leicester Tigers, has partnered with Edge 10 and IBM to implement predictive analytics software that it hopes will help prevent player injuries.

The team will be using a wide range of data from training and games to assess the risk of injuries to its players. This could include physical information such as distance covered and movement on the pitch to information on how well the player slept the previous night.

This data is then used to spot trends that can precede an injury. For example this could be a player rating very highly in two or more ‘fatigue parameters’ that the club sets.

Players can then have individual training schedules devised that can reduce their injury proneness. The data will be pulled together from IBM’s predictive analytics product SPSS Modeler into Edge 10’s reporting portal.

Rugby is an incredibly physical sport with as many as one-quarter of all players picking up injuries during the season. On average a hamstring injury will cost a team an average of 14 playing days.

While this means teams will not be able to put out their strongest team as often as they would like, which impacts on-field performance, it can also impact a team off the pitch. An injured player will still be picking up his or her salary while out of action.

Andy Shelton, head of sports science for Leicester Tigers, explained what sort of impact injuries can have on a club’s fortunes. “We’re playing on an uneven playing field with our European rivals because of the salary cap we have to play under. They can replace one highly-paid international with another; we cannot.”

“So we have to spend our money more wisely to gain any competitive advantage we can. It’s common sense but we always do better when our key players are fit, so that means we have to avoid injuries,” he added.

The platform will be rolled out across the club, from the under-19 Academy players up to the first team. As well as preventing injuries throughout the club, the predictive analytics software will also be used to help spot the best young players coming through the ranks, improving the percentage that graduate to the first team.

“Sport is no longer just a game, it’s becoming more and more a scientific undertaking which is driven by data and numbers,” added Jeremy Shaw, director, IBM Business Analytics for Media and Entertainment. “Gone are the days of relying on raw talent and gut instinct alone to succeed.”

CBR has reported previously on how sports clubs are using predictive analytics to gain a competitive advantage.

Manchester City is also using IBM software to help it identify transfer targets that will improve the club’s on-field performance. For example the software revealed the team was very poor at retaining possession in and around their opponent’s penalty area. The club then studied players across the world that were very good at keeping possession in that part of their field and used that information to identify transfer targets.