Software keeps sports stars match fit

Heriot-Watt experts have created software that can forecast when star sportspeople are at a higher risk of injury.

The injury analytics software system, called Indicio, takes data that many athletes already record daily regarding their body composition, exercise intensity, health and fatigue levels before applying a sophisticated algorithm that can indicate when an athlete needs to ease off a full training programme to avoid potential injury.

The underlying predictive technology is applicable to any sport, and we plan to develop versions for a number of other team sports and athletic activities.

Professor David Corne, School of Mathematical & Computer Sciences at Heriot-Watt

First version to specialise in football

Sports scientists Neil Gibson and David Sykes along with Prof David Corne in the University's Department of Computer Science have jointly led the project, and are working with others to make the system commercially available. Heriot-Watt has provided sports science support to Hearts FC for more than 10 years, so its footballers will be the first to use the new software.

"We plan to use this new system with at least two football teams in the new season," Neil Gibson said. "Most top level footballers are already very used to recording daily statistics including mood, fatigue levels, body mass and exercise statistics.

"Our system works behind all of this information to provide a forecast, using an evidence-based computational model, indicating when a particular player might be more prone to injury based on all these indicators. The more we feed the program the better it will perform.

"The greatest cause of injury is not the intensity but the duration of exercise, therefore the data will be able to indicate when a lower volume of training may be more suitable," Mr Gibson said.

Recent analysis of the English Premier League placed the cost of player injury in the 2013/14 season at more than £100 million, which represented the salaries paid to players unavailable for at least 30 days due to injury.

The system will be able to analyse data, and also factor in variables such as weather conditions, type of pitch and even if players have been travelling or have jet lag, to make its calculations. Mr Gibson believes Indicio will allow clubs to protect their most valuable players to help ensure they remain available for selection throughout the entire season.

National Performance Centre for Sport

With the recent announcement that Heriot-Watt will host the National Performance Centre for Sport in 2016, a home for numerous national teams, it is hoped that the software system will be used by a variety of different sports to develop a detailed analysis of injury risk factors across a range of activities.

The Heriot-Watt team is working together with Ian Hope, an entrepreneur in the sports software sector, and expects to release the first commercial version of Indicio later this year through their start-up High Performance Sport Innovation Ltd (HPSI). The first version will specialise in soccer but, according to Prof Corne, "The underlying predictive technology is applicable to any sport, and we plan to develop versions for a number of other team sports and athletic activities."