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When Neymar, the Brazilian soccer star, was carried off the field during last year’s World Cup on a stretcher with a fractured vertebra caused by a kick in the back, teammates and fans around the world were horrified. A player’s worst nightmare had come true: not only did Brazil end up losing a world championship, but such a serious injury could end his career or cripple him for life.

Fortunately Neymar recovered completely, but how can he reduce the risk of further, long-term damage to his back as he continues to play in a game known for its rough and tumb

le tactics?

Injuries are common and costly (click graphic to enlarge)

Anyone familiar with the sport knows soccer players ‘do it’ for 90 minutes. During that time, as pressure from fans, coaches, and league managers mounts minute by minute, players’ knees, feet, joints and ligaments are taking a brutal beating. Every twist, turn, shot, tackle and collision takes its toll.

The cost of player injuries is astonishingly high. The estimated average cost of player injuries in the top 4 professional soccer leagues in 2015 was $12.4 million per team. It is estimated that every year soccer teams lose an equivalent of 10%-30% of player payroll to injuries.*

This means that even a small reduction in the number of injuries could add up to big savings. So imagine if half of all professional sports injuries could be prevented! The savings for men’s leagues alone would be well over a billion dollars a year!

The big game changer

Once a player suffers an injury on the field, a whole slew of recovery processes are put in motion. The good news is that further injuries can be prevented if the risk is known early, and the athlete goes through corrective custom intervention programs. Here’s where technology like the Injury Risk Monitor (IRM) from SAP, currently a proof-of-concept solution, could really move the needle.

How it works

Injuries can happen for any number of reasons including over-exertion, age, technique, hydration and even the weather. By identifying deficiencies in fitness, technique, and workload management, the IRM from SAP seeks to highlight the possibility of injury before it happens. Any injury becomes a critical data point in the tool to help predict the risk of future injuries for that player with greater accuracy. The tool can also predict the risk of similar injuries for other players with the same circumstances.

The solution takes all the relevant data of a player from trainings, physical fitness tests, matches, demographics, location and so on and applies a mathematical formula to derive the risk of injury. Data is collected through wearable and non-wearable devices. The risk of each type of injury for every player is calculated so the team physiotherapists can run simulations and take appropriate steps or corrective actions. Because the solution runs on SAP HANA, it can process an unlimited number of factors and derive relations among them. This essential capability helps the team physiotherapists to quickly understand where the problem areas are or what is influencing the risk of injury. Monitoring a player during training sessions and putting in place a remediation plan can be done in real-time as quickly as necessary!

In short, the IRM from SAP could play a role in monitoring players like Neymar as they recover from  injuries to measure how well they are shaping up, and provide predictive input about how to prevent further injury.

The big difference

Unlike other solutions in the market which focus on sensor based data,  the Injury Risk Monitor from SAP runs on SAP HANA, a platform with a wide range of capabilities allowing a holistic view of all data pertinent to the athlete. The key differentiator is the tool’s risk determination framework which generates a customized risk profile for each athlete along with the option to define personalized intervention programs.

The IRM from SAP leverages IoT technology and is being co-developed with customers and partners. As the solution moves out of the proof of concept phase, plans are to include IRM in SAPs Sports One solution, which was launched earlier this year and is the first sports-specific cloud solution powered by SAP HANA providing a single, unified platform for team management, training planning, player fitness monitoring, scouting and performance optimization.

Will Neymar get a second chance at the next World Cup? Who knows,  but with technology like IRM the risk of injury in the sport worldwide might be greatly reduced saving money for teams, heartache for the fans and physical wear and tear for the players.

*Injury Cost Data Calculation formula ( Injury Cost  = 20% of Payroll);  Payroll data: Sporting Intelligence Global Sports Salaries Survey 2015

Check out IRM for cricket on

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Dr. Abotel is a senior technology leader with 20+ years’ experience in the Enterprise Software Industry with specialty in Analytics, Big data and user experience. In his current role as a Senior Director of Product Management at SAP customer Innovation and Strategic Projects (CISP) team, Dr. Abotel is responsible for Customer Engagement, Solution Definition and Go to Market activities for SAP CISP.