Scientific analysis offers athletes more than just a sporting chance of success (video)

8 May 2014

(Clockwise from top left) Aoife Ní Mhuirí, CEO, SportsClinicPlus; Iarfhlaith Kelly, CEO, Kitman Labs; Hendrik Weber, head of strategic projects, Deutsche Fußball Liga; Dr Sherylle Calder, founder, EyeGym.

At the Enterprise Ireland Sports Marketing and Player Performance Conference in Croke Park Stadium in Dublin, we found out how science and technology can help prevent injury and improve athletes’ performance in sport.

With our sporting heritage, it’s no surprise that there are a number of Irish companies working in the field of player fitness. Kerry-based SportsClinicPlus creates software for physiotherapists working with teams and clubs to customise exercises for individuals, which they can view through their personal mobile devices.

Metrifit, from Dundalk’s Health and Sports Technologies Ltd, monitors athletes on and off the pitch to identify trends and patterns in their performance, rooting out key indicators that can be used to prevent injury and boost performance.

Then there’s Dublin’s own Kitman Labs, a sport science company that highlights professional athletes’ risk of injury by analysing subjective and objective data.

“We can look to maybe create an edge with the athletes that we’re working with based on using the technology that’s available,” said Kitman Labs CEO Iarfhlaith Kelly. “And, I think, when you’re at a professional level, having a tiny, minuscule edge on your competitor is all you need to succeed.”

Sports Marketing and Player Performance Conference, Croke Park Stadium (Part 2 of 2) 

Sports teams and athletes around the world are adopting this level of scientific analysis. According to Hendrik Weber, head of strategic projects for Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL), they are collecting data at all 612 football matches each year and making this information available to all of the clubs for free.

In this respect, the DFL is offering a more level playing field when it comes to data analysis. “Obviously, the top clubs – Bayern Munich and Dortmund – they have worked with that for years, it’s a really important piece of their work,” said Weber. “We, as a league, have tried to provide the data to all the clubs so even the clubs with less money can do that and become a little bit better.”

In Scotland, Dr Malcolm Fairweather and the team at the Sportscotland Institute of Sport work closely with athletes, coaches and support teams in an effort to influence high-performance behaviour to the point of winning on the world stage. “A lot of work is understanding where the gap in performance sits and how to provide an advantage in that gap area,” he explained.

“Really, the marginal gains in the future are going to be gathered through investigation and analysis,” he added.

One sport scientist whose technique has seen success in two Rugby World Cups and the British Open golf championship is South African Dr Sherylle Calder, founder of EyeGym.

EyeGym provides training for visual motor performance and, while 95pc of their work is with elite sportspeople, Calder has also put her scientific method to use with children learning cognitive skills.

“We think everyone should be training the eyes and the brain every day in their decisions, because that’s really what life is all about,” she said. “We’re using mobile phones and so on, and we’re actually destroying those skills, so we need to find a way of compensating.”

Check out part 1 of our coverage of the Enterprise Ireland Sports Marketing and Player Performance Conference in Croke Park Stadium, Dublin, on 6 May 2014.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.