The Seattle Sounders FC is adding yet another technology tool to its arsenal of gadgets and software that help players perform at their highest level while preventing injury.
The soccer club today announced a new partnership with Kitman Labs, an Ireland-based company with an office in Silicon Valley that develops biometric measurement technology to help identify players at risk for injury.
This is Kitman’s first partnership with an MLS team. The company already works with organizations like the Miami Dolphins in the NFL, the Los Angeles Dodgers in MLB, and the Detroit Pistons in the NBA. It also just inked a deal with Norwich City FC, a Premier League soccer club in England.
Kitman Labs was founded in 2012 by Stephen Smith, a former Irish rugby trainer who started the company after working on a master’s thesis that focused on risk factors for athlete injury, as TechCrunch noted in September.
One of Kitman’s more impressive technologies is Capture, a 3D video-based athlete-screening tool that utilizes a combination of Microsoft’s Kinect camera, its Surface tablet, and machine learning algorithms to scan a player’s range of movement and produce precise biomechanical data within minutes.
The Sounders already use an array of technology from wearable GPS harnesses to heart rate monitors that track player performance during games, practices, and even sleep. This helps the Sounders keep their players healthy and maximize output, with the ultimate goal of winning more matches.
But the new technology and analytics from Kitman Labs will help the team better prevent injury, explained Dave Tenney, the team’s Sport Science and Performance Manager.
“This is a technology that really helps us hone in on where guys start to have disfunction or asymmetry, and does it in a really easy way,” Tenney told GeekWire.
Tenney said that being able to quickly and efficiently assess a player’s internal hip rotation, for example, is helpful for determining how he or she might feel pain during a season. Kitman’s technology can also detect how mobile a player’s ankles or hips are, or how their body reacts when jumping or squatting. This becomes even more important to track for a team like the Sounders that has a handful of veteran players who may be more prone to injury.
Tenney, who joined the Sounders in 2009 and has helped establish the team as a sports science leader among professional franchises worldwide, said he’s impressed with the ease of use and the non-intrusive aspect of Kitman’s technology.
“Our technology doesn’t directly correlate with success on the field,” Tenney said. “But we know that long term, being able to see how our players change with their biomechanics and capturing that data, it’s one of the next steps in our sports science program.”
Smith, Kitman’s founder, told GeekWire that the Sounders sports science team is “leading the charge in the MLS” and called the new partnership a “natural extension” given the company already works with soccer clubs in England.
“Intelligent insights from the Kitman Athlete Optimization System will help the Sounders to make informed decisions,” Smith said. “We all know that fielding the best team means keeping players healthy and on the field while optimizing their performance. This is what our system helps teams do.”
When GeekWire visited a Sounders practice earlier this year, we spoke with Tenney and Ravi Ramineni, the former Microsoft employee who joined the Sounders in 2012 as its sports scientist and performance analyst. Ramieni noted that the club was looking to use technology that would help create something to flag at-risk players.
“What we are aiming for is where we have an early warning system,” Ramineni said in September. “I don’t want to say predicting injuries, but an early warning system that flags when there might be something going on that we need to look into. We have enough data now that we can do this and we’ve been adding contextual information to the data as we go. That’s where we want to go and we are making progress, but there is always room for improvement.”