How Digital Health is Changing Sports Medicine’s Approach to Injury & Recovery

Data from wearable devices are enabling sports medicine physicians to reduce and prevent injuries.
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By Validic
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By: Jennifer Plumer, Director of Marketing at Validic

As wearable devices have become more ubiquitous, professional sports teams and their athletes have taken notice of these technologies and the impact they can and are having on athlete health and performance. While the obvious use of wearables in sport is to optimize athletes’ game-time performance, athletes must first be healthy enough to step onto the field. Professional teams and athletes alike are highly incentivized to stay healthy and injury-free. In 2014, NBA teams lost a combined $358 million to knee injuries alone. Sidelined players not only jeopardize the success and revenue of the team but also the longevity of athletes’ professional careers. 
 
Fortunately, teams and their sports medicine physicians and data scientists can now gain a better understanding of when acute and overuse injuries occur, how each athlete can best recover and how to prevent injuries altogether through the utilization of real-time and continuous data on biometrics, functional movements and workloads from wearable devices from device manufacturers including Zephyr, Omegawave, Firstbeat and Catapult.
 
Measuring endpoints passively and objectively allow for better insights. New devices are emerging to passively measure a variety of data endpoints that are critical for mitigating or recovering from injuries. For example, devices like BMP Physio measure the range of motion and angular displacement of a joint to better assess the injury risk and help trainers and physicians remotely monitor athletes’ recovery. Devices that measure sleep quality and the load placed on the body during workouts and practice are also key to the recovery process.
 
Tailored performance and recovery plans enable improved outcomes. With insights at the individual level, teams’ strength coaches and physicians can tailor performance and recovery plans for each athlete. Since no two athletes will experience the same patterns of muscle fatigue or recover from practice, games or injuries in the same way, it is important for physicians and coaches to understand what is too much and how much time is needed for recovery for each athlete. To better understand the events leading up to an athlete’s injury and tailor a recovery plan accordingly, teams are also beginning to overlay video with the athlete’s corresponding time-stamped biometric data from wearables.
 
Interoperable systems provide better care coordination. Teams utilize a number of systems, including athlete management software, internal spreadsheets and proprietary software and electronic health records. And multiple stakeholders—from coaches to data scientists to team physicians—need access to the data housed in these systems. As a result, interoperability is key to providing all involved parties with the information necessary to coordinate care for an athlete. While oftentimes these various systems are fragmented and unconnected, digital health technologies are enabling interoperability between systems as well as the integration of data from wearables into the systems teams are using.
 
Through digital health innovations, sports medicine physicians can now access more data to help prevent injuries and keep athletes healthy. As new technologies continue to emerge, the ways in which teams are able to predict and prevent injuries will continue to increase. 

About Jennifer Plumer:
Jennifer is the Director of Marketing at Validic, the industry’s leading digital health platform. Validic connects actionable data from fitness and sport wearables, clinical devices, biometric sensors and mobile applications to healthcare, pharma, wellness and sport companies. Jennifer has over ten years of experience building and executing strategic go-to-market and demand generation plans for B2B companies.