Soccer team in a huddle

The Crippling Cost of Sports Injuries

August 12, 2015 by Kasem Abotel 46

Taking the fear out of the sport: the Injury Risk Monitor from SAP helps athletes and leagues deal with the biggest threat to the game.

When Neymar, the Brazilian soccer star, was carried off the field during last year’s World Cup on a stretcher with a fractured vertebra caused by a kick in the back, teammates and fans around the world were horrified.  A players’ worst nightmare had come true; not only did Brazil end up losing a world championship, but such a serious injury could end his career or cripple him for life.

Fortunately Neymar recovered completely, but how can he reduce the risk of further, long-term damage to his back as he continues to play in a game known for its rough and tumble tactics?

Injuries are Common and Costly

IRM_infographicAnyone familiar with the sport knows soccer players ‘do it’ for 90 minutes. During that time, as pressure from fans, coaches, and league managers mounts minute by minute, players’ knees, feet, joints and ligaments are taking a brutal beating. Every twist, turn, shot, tackle, and collision takes a toll on their body.

The cost of player injuries is astonishingly high. The estimated average cost of player injuries in the top four professional soccer leagues in 2015 was $12.4 million per team. It is estimated that every year soccer teams lose an equivalent of ten to 30 percent of player payroll to injuries.*

This means that even a small reduction in the number of injuries could add up to big savings. So imagine if half of all professional sports injuries could be prevented. The savings for men’s leagues alone would be well over a billion dollars a year!

The Big Game Changer

Once a player suffers an injury on the field, a whole slew of recovery processes are put in motion. The good news is that further injuries can be prevented if the risk is known early and the athlete goes through corrective custom intervention programs. Here’s where technology like project “Injury Risk Monitor” from SAP, currently in proof-of-concept stage, could really move the needle.

How It Works

Injuries can happen for any number of reasons, including: over-exertion, age, technique, hydration, and even the weather. By identifying deficiencies in fitness, technique, and workload management, the Injury Risk Monitor highlights the possibility of injury before it happens. Any injury becomes a critical data point in the tool to help predict the risk of future injuries for that player with greater accuracy. The tool can also predict the risk of similar injuries for other players with the same circumstances.

The software takes all the relevant data of a player from training, physical fitness tests, matches, demographics, location, and so on and applies a mathematical formula to derive the risk of injury. Data is collected through wearable and non-wearable devices. The risk of each type of injury for every player is calculated, so that the team physiotherapists can run simulations and take appropriate steps or corrective actions. Because the solution runs on SAP HANA, it can process an unlimited number of factors and derive relations among them. This essential capability helps the team physiotherapists to quickly understand where the problem areas are or what is influencing the risk of injury. Monitoring a player during training sessions and putting in place a remediation plan can be done in real-time as quickly as necessary!

In short, the Injury Risk Monitor could play a role in monitoring players like Neymar, as they recover from injuries, to measure how well they are shaping up, and provide predictive input about how to prevent further injury.

The Big Difference

Unlike other solutions in the market which focus on sensor based data, the Injury Risk Monitor runs on SAP HANA, a platform with a wide range of capabilities allowing a holistic view of all data pertinent to the athlete. The key differentiator is the tool’s risk determination framework, which generates a customized risk profile for each athlete along with the option to define personalized intervention programs. The Injury Risk Monitor leverages Internet of Things (IoT) technology and is being co-developed with customers and partners. As the project moves out of the proof-of-concept phase, plans are to include Injury Risk Monitor in the SAP Sports One solution, which was launched earlier this year and is the first sports-specific cloud solution powered by SAP HANA, providing a single, unified platform for team management and performance optimization among other areas.

Will Neymar get a second chance at the next World Cup? Who knows, but with technology like Injury Risk Monitor, the risk of injury in the sport worldwide might be greatly reduced saving money for teams, heartache for the fans, and physical wear and tear for the players.

Check out “Injury Risk Monitor” for cricket on SAP-TV.com

Kasem Abotel, Ph.D., is senior director of Product Management for Customer Innovation and Strategic Projects at SAP

*Injury Cost Data Calculation formula ( Injury Cost = 20% of Payroll); Payroll data: Sporting Intelligence Global Sports Salaries Survey 2015

Photo: Shutterstock

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