Last season, the Washington Capitals began using a wearable technology product from Australian company Catapult Sports. Soccer fans might recognize the harness-like apparel containing the trackers that collect athletic performance data, as products from Catapult and other similar companies have been used within the sport for years.
The NHL plans to implement player-tracking technology in the 2019-20 season using similar tech embedded in the shoulder pads of players. NHL fans caught a glimpse of this in action during the 2019 All Star Game. But the Capitals use of player tracking goes beyond fancy broadcast tricks. The new player-tracking options will help the Caps better understand practice performances and rehabilitation progress.
Catapult’s technology is used by teams across the sporting world — football, soccer, rugby, hockey, basketball, cricket, etc. — and boasts use from Real Madrid, Newcastle United, the Swedish women’s national soccer team, and Duke college basketball.
During the recent Caps Media Fantasy Camp, Caps equipment manager Brock Myles delivered a presentation about the team’s use of the product. Myles said the equipment staff originally had to sew the trackers into shoulder pads and chest protectors, but they ran into trouble as players would frequently swap out their pads. Players change their pads “like they change their underwear”, Myles said.
To solve that problem, players will wear the sports bra-like attire during practices, as seen on Jakub Vrana below, which was taken right before Vrana took the team’s skate test on the first day of training camp on Friday.
Photos: Elizabeth Kong
The data that the Capitals are collecting is proprietary, and we don’t know how they use that data to drive decisions, but Catapult’s website offers some clues.
One possibility is that the data allows the Capitals to match the intensity of practices to the intensity of games.
The physical performance manager for the Swedish women’s national soccer team says, “[Catapult] helps us to establish the desired intensity during [practice] sessions so we can replicate [game] match demands. The data we collect tells us the proportional impact on the players from each of the selected parameters across training and games.”
The data collected can also help with rehab of injuries, or preventing injuries in the first place by being able to recognize when a player is being pushed past their limits for too long.
“Catapult means we have more objective evidence about the condition of the players,” said the team doctor for the Egyptian National Soccer Team. “We have reliable data and we can go through this data to manage load and consequently reduce injury risk. Getting injured players back to pre-injury levels is another major benefit.”
It remains to be seen what in-game player tracking will contribute to the fan experience this upcoming season, but earlier this month the NHL replaced its partner for the service.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong
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