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How the Seahawks use Microsoft’s new high-tech performance platform to prevent injury and plan practices
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How the Seahawks use Microsoft’s new high-tech performance platform to prevent injury and plan practices

Microsoft’s {hardware} has already made its means onto NFL sidelines, as the firm’s Surface tablet is utilized by coaches and gamers to strategize throughout video games.

However now its software program — particularly, Microsoft Azure and Energy BI — can also be more and more making an influence for prime skilled groups like the Seattle Seahawks, which use the firm’s newest machine studying and predictive analytics expertise to assist predict and prevent injury.

Microsoft in June debuted its new Sports Performance Platform, a product born out of the firm’s inside incubator that helps coaches and trainers acquire perception into injury prevention, or analyze the correct workload for a apply routine.

Now the Seahawks are lifting the hood on how the platform, together with different sports activities tech {hardware} and software program, helps with data-driven determination making. Different groups like Actual Madrid; Cricket Australia; SL Benfica; and some U.S. schools are additionally utilizing Microsoft’s expertise.

At the Seahawks apply facility in Renton, Wash., not removed from Microsoft, sports activities science gurus crunch heaps of information drawn from quite a lot of sources, starting from Catapult GPS motion trackers to the wellness report surveys gamers take earlier than and after apply on Floor tablets with facial recognition.

That info is analyzed with Azure, plotted with Energy BI, and in the end fed to Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll.

“He doesn’t watch for us with bated breath to make his selections,” Sam Ramsden, director of participant well being and performance, advised GeekWire in an interview. “Nonetheless, he does depend on the info to make the greatest determination for his workforce.”

Ramsden has been with the workforce since 1999, and in 2012 he helped create what was the NFL’s first sports activities science group. With higher expertise and extra historic information to work with, Ramsden and his geeky colleagues have change into an vital a part of gameday preparation.

The info will help the coaches and trainers higher perceive how sure practices have an effect on gamers, notably at completely different phases of a season, and make subsequent adjustments. Gamers reply questions that assist calculate a “perceived fee of exertion,” or how drained they felt after a given exercise.

“Generally as the season goes on, you will be doing the identical apply and the load is the identical, however gamers begin reporting that the apply is tougher,” Ramsden famous. “Then you can begin getting a way that mentally and bodily, they’re beginning to really feel the results of that sort of monotonous coaching.”

The sports activities science workforce talks rather a lot a few “dose,” or how a lot exercise Carroll prescribes for a given apply. That dose is affected by various factors, together with what kind of kit gamers put on — cleats vs. tennis footwear, or pads vs. no pads, for instance — and is in contrast in opposition to how gamers reply after apply.

This helps the Seahawks higher measure the influence of a apply and in the end discover developments if there are will increase in soreness or stress for specific gamers.

“As soon as these triggers are hit, then we are able to have a really assured data-based dialog with the coaches,” Ramsden famous.

Whereas the predominant objective of Microsoft’s platform is to assist groups maintain their gamers wholesome, it’s troublesome to see any influence from such an evaluation with out historic information. However now that the Seahawks have been utilizing Microsoft’s software program for 3 years, there’s sufficient info to spot developments and correlations between apply masses and participant sturdiness, Ramsden stated. The machine studying and predictive analytics additionally assist.

“We’re beginning to actually see issues extra crystal clear,” he added.

One would possibly query the workforce’s sports activities science clout given all the injured Seahawks this season. Star gamers like Richard Sherman; Cliff Avril; and Kam Chancellor suffered season-ending accidents. In the meantime guys like Earl Thomas, Dion Jordan, Thomas Rawls, and Chris Carson have been held out of a number of video games.

Ramsden wouldn’t go into element about any developments the workforce is seeing this 12 months with the accidents.

Gamers, in the meantime, appear combined on the advantages of sports activities science, particularly if the information can be utilized in opposition to them. Talking at the GeekWire Sports Tech Summit final 12 months, broad receiver Doug Baldwin stated the potential draw back of information assortment is that a variety of gamers are frightened that coaches use it to chart whether or not a participant is declining sooner than when coaches are ready to see “with their eyes on the area.” Gamers are frightened they could possibly be reduce due to this sort of evaluation.

“Some guys are actually anxious and actually enthusiastic about getting their suggestions about their workload about what they did that day or that week,” Baldwin stated. “Different guys are like, ‘Don’t put it on me, I’m not gonna put on it.’ For the most half a variety of guys are shopping for into it slowly.”

Ramsden stated sports activities science is all about relationships. He and his colleagues strive to distill the expertise into one thing that’s relatable for each coaches and gamers.

“Finally, the higher info they supply us, the higher we are able to maintain them,” Ramsden defined. “If you happen to went to the physician’s workplace and you didn’t inform them what your indicators and signs have been, they wouldn’t have the ability to maintain you. Certain, they will take your temperature and blood strain — these are all measurements and information — but it surely’s going to be the relationship and the story that you just join the information with every [person]. It’s additionally the coach and the participant working with the info as effectively. That’s what launches sports activities science and what makes it particular.”

Carroll stated that taking a look at the sports activities science information and info has change into a part of the workforce’s routine.

“The help system permits us to actually have the ability to consider every man, based mostly on the load that he’s endeavor and all that. It does assist us,” he said last year. “And we actually are responding to that usually, all through the week, no matter what occurred the week earlier than. It’s a standard apply for us now to test it out, know what number of performs a man received, what sort of exertion, and we are able to estimate from the video games what’s crucial for the subsequent week. So there’s a giant course of concerned there. I actually respect it.”

“If you happen to requested me 4 or 5 years in the past if I’d be doing this I’d have stated, ‘No,’” he continued. “Coaches for years have achieved it via their sense and instincts and savvy and all of that and now we’ve some extra help and it’s confirmed to us to be very efficient.”

How the Seahawks use Microsoft’s new high-tech performance platform to prevent injury and plan practices

Microsoft has plans to work with extra groups and evolve the sports activities performance platform.

“Our aspiration is to proceed to evolve an open-source model of the codebase in addition to work hand-in-glove with our key companions to each develop and deploy the platform right into a broader set of shoppers,” Steve Fox, a principal software program engineering supervisor who works intently with sports-related tasks at Microsoft, stated in an e mail. “Future variations will cowl a broader set of core eventualities that increase the performance facet and well being facet, make predictive modeling extra accessible and combine extra with core enterprise operations.”

That is the newest evolution of Microsoft’s recent move into the sports world. The corporate inked a $400 million cope with the NFL in 2014; that’s why you see the Surface tablets on the sidelines.

The sports activities science work that Microsoft is doing with the Seahawks is a separate effort.

“Extra broadly, our purpose in engineering is to drive expertise partnerships — we code with our key sports activities clients and companions — as opposed to pure advertising or sponsorship-only partnerships,” Fox famous. “For us, we see an incredible data, expertise and innovation alternate emerge from this sort of partnership.”

Microsoft’s push into sports activities helps leagues use its expertise to enhance their processes; exposes Microsoft’s merchandise to extra customers; and now with the Sports activities Performance Platform, helps enhance participant well being.

Fox stated there are a number of groups engaged on sports activities at Microsoft, starting from engineering, advertising, gross sales, and companies. He referred to as it a “cross-company and broad effort for us and our companions.”

“We love seeing our expertise and innovation assist athletes and groups — this comes from deep ardour in sports activities,” Fox stated. “We additionally imagine that the patterns of innovation which might be pushed by and with the assist of such a dynamic trade can scale to different industries — e.g., healthcare.”

Microsoft has separate offers with the PGA TourNASCAR; Real Madrid; and different groups and leagues.

“Once we have a look at the place we wish our merchandise to present up, one in all the questions you ask is, what are folks’s ardour factors?” Chris Capossela, Microsoft’s chief advertising officer, told GeekWire final 12 months. “A number of of them actually spike to be a lot, a lot greater than all the relaxation. Sports activities is absolutely excessive on the listing.”

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