The National Football League is turning to Amazon’s cloud technologies as it looks to improve the safety of its players.
The NFL and Amazon Web Services today announced a new partnership to learn more about what contributes to player injuries — including game rules, equipment, rehab, and recovery strategies — and how to prevent them.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and AWS chief Andy Jassy made the announcement at Amazon’s AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas on Thursday.
“There are very few relationships we get involved with where the partner and the NFL can change the game,” Goodell said on stage.
The NFL and AWS will work to create a “Digital Athlete” platform, described as “a computer simulation model of an NFL player that will be able to be used to model infinite scenarios within the game environment without any risk to the athletes.”
The deal is an expansion of the Amazon and NFL’s existing partnership. The league already works with AWS for Next Gen Stats, an analytics product powered by Amazon’s massive cloud arm that takes advantage of RFID chips inside of player jerseys and other sensors.
For the past three years, Amazon has streamed Thursday Night Football games via Prime Video.
And just last week, Amazon inked a deal with the Seattle Seahawks to provide the company’s hometown team with cloud, machine learning, and artificial intelligence services. The tech will help the Seahawks better track player performance in both games and practice and build predictive models for how to defend quarterbacks and other crucial parts of the game.
Earlier this week, Goodell was in Seattle for Monday Night Football — we spotted the commissioner on the sidelines chatting with Jeff Blackburn, an influential Amazon executive and one of the longest-running members of Jeff Bezos’ senior leadership team. Blackburn, who helped build Prime Video, is taking a one-year sabbatical in 2020.
Goodell said on Thursday that he hopes Amazon can help the NFL take all the data it has been collecting over the past decade — and data collected in the future — and crunch it with various AWS analytics and machine learning tools. The league believes it can revolutionize the way injuries are prevented and how players bounce back from injury.
Safety of NFL players has become the No. 1 priority for the league, Goodell said. The NFL has been under the microscope in recent years as reports show an increasing number of retired players suffering from brain-related injuries. The league reached a $1 billion settlement in 2013 with former players who had cognitive and neurological problems.
Concern for safety is impacting youth and high school football participation, which has declined in recent years. Nearly half of parents say they would sway their kids away from playing football due to concerns over concussions, according to a poll last year from NBC and The Wall Street Journal. The NFL and the NCAA teamed up this summer to make the sport of football safer.
Other companies, including Seattle high-tech helmet maker Vicis, are developing new ways to improve player safety.
Amazon said that the partnership can make “transformational change possible in football, other sports, and potentially other industries.” Matt Wood, vice president of artificial intelligence at AWS, also spoke Thursday on stage and talked about potential healthcare applications; Amazon has shown a strong interest in the healthcare industry over the past few years.
“Exactly as we’re doing with the ‘digital athlete,’ the opportunity to create and simulate and then ask ‘what if’ in different situations without putting real humans at risk — and doing that hundreds of millions of times to get accurate results — is an incredibly inventive and broadly applicable technology,” Wood said.
He added: “Once we have biomechanical information which can be combined with healthcare information, you can start to do wonderful things and develop more and more precise models for treatment for all matters of diseases.”
Amazon made several other “customer win” announcements at re:Invent, its big conference for AWS, including deals with Verizon, Fox, and others.
The company has been making various inroads in the sports industry recently, including its work with the NFL, producing the All or Nothing sports documentaries, buying parts of sports broadcast companies, and more.
— Andy Jassy (@ajassy) December 5, 2019