Hearts stars trial software that predicts injuries

Adam King and fellow Hearts players undertake tests under the watchful eyes of the Heriot-Watt team. Picture: contributed
Adam King and fellow Hearts players undertake tests under the watchful eyes of the Heriot-Watt team. Picture: contributed
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Academics have teamed up with Hearts to trial pioneering software which can work out when players are on the verge of suffering an injury.

Hopes are high that the sophisticated technology could ease queues in physio rooms at football clubs.

The computer system, created by experts from Heriot-Watt University, records information including types of training sessions, underlying medical issues and tiredness.

Many of the details are already recorded on a daily basis, but the Indicio system pulls them all together to provide a complete picture of a player’s health and fitness.

The software then computes when players should ease off a full training programme to avoid injuries.

Sports scientists Neil Gibson and David Sykes worked with Professor David Corne, from the department of computer science, on the project.

The invention will be tried out on Hearts footballers at their Riccarton training base, which is owned by Heriot-Watt. If successful, it will be rolled out to other teams – and different sports.

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

Mr Gibson said that the injury predictions were more accurate when as many factors – including “variables” such as weather, type of pitch and even jet lag – are recorded.

He added: “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.”

A recent study of the English Premier League revealed that the cost of player injury in the 2013-14 season was more than £100 million – which represented the salaries paid to players unavailable for at least 30 days due to injury.

With the recent announcement that Heriot-Watt will host the National Performance Centre for Sport in 2016, becoming home to numerous national teams, it is hoped that the software system will be used across the board.

Mr Sykes said: “Our sports scientists work at Hearts on a day-to-day basis. Individually, we record an awful lot of data, but it tends to be quite fragmented, including medical information and nutritional details.

“It becomes quite difficult to analyse it all and make decisions. This software is designed to highlight ‘at risk’ players. You have all the information in one place so you don’t have to keep processing it.

“It’s a massive step forward for us, from the university’s perspective.”

The Heriot-Watt team is working with Ian Hope, an entrepreneur in the sports software sector, and expects to release the first commercial version of Indicio later this year through its start-up business High Performance Sport Innovation Ltd (HPSI).

The first version will specialise in football. However, Prof Corne believes there is scope for expansion. He said: “The underlying technology is applicable to any sport.”