Data, Human Performance, Sports Medicine / Science | Jan 28, 2016

Sports Science is an evolving field and each season presents new challenges. We asked some industry experts from the NBA and Premier League to college sport via data and analytics for their opinions on the challenges ahead in 2016:


Ryan Podell, Sports Scientist, Portland Trail Blaizers

The biggest challenge sports science practitioners face today, and will continue to struggle with, is the fact that the human body is dynamic in its truest essence. We are trying to identify key variables that influence performance and injury mechanisms within such a fluid subject, the human body. It’s the equivalent of trying to determine what picture a 10,000 piece puzzle forms, while only have a limited number of pieces to look at.


James Malone, Sports Scientist, Catapult Sports

Personally within the sports technology field, we are facing challenges from practitioners to continually provide new parameters and information which might lead to a competitive advantage for athlete monitoring and subsequent performance. Whilst we should be always looking to push the boundaries of our knowledge in sports science support, it is crucial that anything that is new has been fully validated and is reliable to use. It must also have a significant application into the applied sporting context that practitioners understand so they can better shape their athlete management structures.

west ham

Tom Taylor, First Team Fitness Coach/Sports Scientist, West United United FC

I feel that one of the greatest challenges we will be facing this year within sports science will be centered around the increasing availability of various technologies and available services; in terms of being able to select the product(s) that will ultimately have the most impact on how we operate on a daily basis. Being innovative and looking to introduce these new products can obviously be very important, however we will always need to be mindful that we are not doing this at the expense of the consistently proven, and often overlooked, more basic areas of sports science and conditioning.


Stuart O’Brien, Technical Sport Scientist, Kitman Labs

The rise of wearable technology and the increased ease of collection of athlete bio markers e.g Saliva & Blood samples has led to a massive increase in the amount of data practitioners can collect on their athletes. The challenge facing practitioners is collating these disparate data sources in order to positively impact their decision making in a manner that will lead to a reduction in injury and optimise athlete performance. A huge part of this challenge is being able to do this in a timely and effective manner as possible to have the largest impact on your athletes. 


Chip Schaefer, Director of Sports Science, Sacramento Kings

The biggest challenge we face as sports science professionals is taking the data we’ve collected and creating a validated action plan from it. As athlete monitoring technologies and data management systems continue to evolve, it’s really about committing to a system of continuous quality improvement strategies to create an integrated system that meets our needs.

british swimming

Karl Cooke, Head of Sport Science and Sport Medicine, UK Swimming

Wearable technology for 24-7 athlete and coaching insights continues to elude most performance teams. The promise of wearable tech, the internet of things and data analytics suggests a utopia for sports professionals to optimize training, learning and recovery but few organizations have mastered its power. Greater collaboration between leaders in sport, engineering and data science will be required to make strides in a field that could revolutionize athletic performance. Truly understanding what drives us faster, higher, stronger is within reach but it will need teamwork from partners across sport, business and technology.

notre dame

Matt Howley, Director of Sport Science, University of Notre Dame

The two biggest challenges which face sports scientists in the collegiate setting this year are firstly developing student-athlete buy in. You need consistency, validity and reliability in your data collection. Once we are getting reliable and consistent data we need to communicate this to coaches. You need to be able to present coaches with the information in a form which they can understand. You need to educate your coaches. Like athletes with sport coaches, they need to know what the athletes learning style is when communicating a game plan or game review.

The second biggest challenge we face is getting where we are just collecting data and not making any decisions or providing feedback to coaches or athletes on the data. We need to keep our analysis concise as we begin while ensuring we are using information from multiple sources as one source generally, won’t give you an entire picture. You need to have a systematic approach to ensure the data which comes in, can go out being assessed, stored and communicated where necessary.



Catgegory Partners




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