Analytics

Cognitive + Sports Science: World-class training for weekend athletes

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Chasing the world’s fastest athletes

Brian Moore is relentless. Moore has spent 16 years using technology to dissect the magic that sets the world’s best athletes apart from the rest.

As a leading PhD sports scientist in Ireland, Moore has worked with dozens of Olympic medalists and more than 1,500 NHL, MLB, PGA, British Premier Soccer League and other professional athletes. He uses blood tests, heat maps, GPS and wearable devices to collect bioanalytic data.

“I’ve always been borderline obsessed with people who are right on the limit, who are pushing the boundaries and who are doing and trying new things,” Moore admits.

With his research, Moore has launched a revolutionary coaching application and founded the sports science firm ORRECO.

The proving ground

Current ORRECO athletes have won a total of 30 medals over the last four summer Olympic Games.

The latest proving ground for the ORRECO app is Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. Hayward is the home base for many of the world’s best distance runners and recent Olympic medalists, including the Nike Oregon Track Club Elite. Olympic medalist Mark Rowland coaches the Nike club, and is one of Moore’s most enthusiastic supporters. Recently, Rowland tested the ORRECO app with athletes preparing for the summer games in Rio de Janeiro and beyond.

Rowland says, “There’s definitely something in this—and I want to be part of it. There is the art of coaching, and there is the science… we want to blend those two together.”

Cognitive + sports science

The ORRECO application uses IBM Watson cognitive technology to map structured and unstructured data from athlete biomarkers, performance, diet, sleep, weather and travel plans against findings from volumes of worldwide scientific research.

ORRECO is part of the Watson developer community with more than 550 partner companies across 17 industries and disciplines. These partners join more than 80,000 developers globally that are tapping into APIs via the Watson Developer Cloud to pilot, test and deploy new business ideas. ORRECO and more than 100 other Watson partners have already introduced commercial cognitive enabled apps, products and services to the market.

The ORRECO app sends training suggestions to a coach’s tablet, where the coach can use the information to tailor an athlete’s training. The app’s suggestions can be as specific as what an athlete should drink before going to sleep, what they should eat after each event and how they should transition for upcoming travel into a new time zone.

The app also lets coaches test variables and weigh their likely effects, using the IBM Watson Tradeoff Analytics API. Moore explains: “If a coach is saying ‘I want to do this session and this session,’ what’s the quid pro quo on it? Will this take the athlete into the peak of performance; but, does that risk their injury profile?”

Moore adds, “We can super-charge things with Watson. Watson will help improve the power, potential and competitive edge of the athlete.”

From Rowland’s perspective, the app helps him illustrate his coaching instincts as he speaks with athletes. When planning, he can show athletes that they will get faster if they mix in some slower sessions. “Why run 4:50 miles when you can run 5-minute miles and get the same effect out of the session?” he asks. “They can’t understand that because they’re not pushing it. So you need to say, ‘Look, this is the data. This is why. Now do you understand?’”

The next challenge

ORRECO is now developing a new version of its app for the consumer market.

Moore sees a bold vision ahead. “Really, the algorithms that we’re developing we think will in time have applications for everyone at home,” he shares. “With Fitbit, Jawbone, Garmin, you have all these platforms. They’re collecting the data and they’ll visualize that very nicely—I think we’ve got to transition from ‘wearable’ to ‘actionable.’”

Moore says that, in any sport, the trick to performance optimization comes down to finding the right balance between load—or body stress—and recovery. Finding and maintaining that balance is unique to each individual, and it can be more complex for people who are also balancing the demands of family and full-time jobs.

That’s where Moore thinks cognitive technology’s personalized recommendations will help maximize performance and minimize injury to a degree never before possible. “ORRECO is using cognitive analytics to better equip athletes, coaches and teams with the critical information they need,” Moore says. “With this information they can make better-informed decisions about training and performance.”

Listen to the IBM Wild Ducks podcast on ORRECO below or read the case study to learn more.

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