SMARTABASE FOR FOOTBALL CLUBS: RETURN TO PLAY

A football (soccer) team has the best chance of winning matches when it’s able to put its best 11 players on the pitch as often as possible. Having ready access to every data point relating to player health can help expedite the rehabilitation process to get injured players back to full availability as soon as possible, without rushing them and increasing their chances of getting hurt again. Medical practitioners and performance staff use the Rehab Tracker workflow in a Smartabase site that’s purpose built for professional football to oversee and inform every stage of this return to play (RTP) process.  

Data Inputs

Understanding where a football player is at in their rehab process, how their output compares to pre-injury values, and how they are being treated are all vital elements of a successful RTP process. Data related to player rehabilitation can be complex and siloed between different practitioners and departments. Smartabase overcomes this by automatically capturing and aggregating all objective and subjective data points and presenting current and complete information in an actionable way to all relevant staff members.

The Rehab Tracker pulls in data from various sources to help practitioners understand what the player is completing and how they are progressing. This typically includes GPS, testing, screening, and force plate data. These are just a few examples of the 70+ systems that Smartabase integrates with, enabling you to capture information from every system your club uses that’s relevant to players’ RTP process.

Catapult GPS   

When rehabilitating an injury, a football player needs to build their load tolerance back so they can eventually handle the demands of full practices and matches. But it’s crucial for the club to find the sweet spot between developing their fitness and overloading them, which can stall or reverse their rehab or contribute to reinjury. Capturing data from a Catapult GPS system can help with this workload management. GPS metrics such as total daily and weekly distance, high-speed running, and maximum velocity offer insights into how much a player is doing and can be limited and flagged to ensure they’re not overtraining or skipping necessary steps at any stage of the RTP protocol.

VALD ForceDecks, ForceFrame, and NordBord

Incorporating data from systems that assess strength and imbalance into Smartabase can help a football club’s performance staff augment the results of manual tests, such as sit and reach and knees to wall and more thorough assessments like the Functional Movement Screen (FMS). Countermovement jump height and output from Nordic hamstring curl and adductor squeeze tests are three common examples that demonstrate neuromuscular readiness and allow practitioners to see if left-right asymmetries have significantly increased.

 

Metrics and Analysis

To get an accurate appraisal of where a player is in their injury rehab, you need to know how their current capabilities compare to what they were doing before getting hurt. For example, data from VALD NordBord, ForceFrame, and ForceDecks can be formatted to be relative to a player’s pre-season values. If a value is under 50 percent of the pre-season performance, it will show red, if it’s under 75 percent, orange, and if it’s above 75 percent, it will show green. These are just examples, as metrics can be displayed and highlighted in many different ways to alert staff about significant changes in player status. Quantitative data can be supplemented with qualitative input from medical practitioners during treatment and performance staff after individual or group training sessions.

Another way to conditionally format data is to set manual thresholds for inputs like GPS. In the Rehab Phases form, you can easily set the GPS targets you want a player to hit for a given session across the phase. This then automatically colors the GPS blocks as the data is pushed into the system according to pre-determined ranges. Again, this flagging process is completely customizable to represent if a player is progressing, regressing, or staying at the same level relative to a given threshold or normative value. There are multiple ways of doing this in the Smartabase Rehab Tracker, such as by comparing current data to historical averages or maxes, match values, or manually entered thresholds.

 

Reporting

For football player data to become usable and actionable in an RTP workflow, it needs to be viewed in context. This is why the versatile visualization options in Smartabase are so potent. A Rehab Tracker dashboard provides an at-a-glance overview of the injured player’s current status. This shows what the incident was and when it occurred. Clicking through allows any staff member to see the details that the team doctor or physio entered when the injury occurred and any other additional information that’s included in the more in-depth Injury Record.

A convenient timeline shows when the status changed for this player, and a running count of days post-injury. Once a player has received acute treatment and been diagnosed as required, the first step in the RTP process may be set within the phases and milestones feature. This visually represents the progressive stages of rehab along with corresponding milestones, such as return to gym, return to pitch, return to training, and return to play. These milestones can be configured to match your own protocols.

Another helpful feature is the daily rehab plan. This allows practitioners to record a plan for a day, specify the focus for the player, outline the exercises, treatment, or training that they will do, note if it was completed or not, and comment on any issues. A weekly view provides a seven-day summary of the player’s treatment and training so you can see what the injured athlete has been doing each day and whether there has been progress or setbacks.

Once a player has completed a rehab phase, such as returning to team training, it’s easy to set up the next one, add start and end dates, enter notes, and establish milestones. The Rehab Planner function then makes it simple to set up daily activities for the injured player. You can record how the player got on in each of these and check off milestones as they’re completed. Templates increase input speed so that practitioners can spend more time with their players and less time entering data.

Action

The RTP process is critical in football. Done right, it can mean that a player is back making an impact on the pitch sooner, but done wrong, it can lead to delays and even the reoccurrence of injuries. With Smartabase, the right data is presented to the right people at the right time to make sound decisions at every stage of a player’s rehabilitation. This facilitates better, more proactive care that returns players to full readiness quickly while prioritizing their health. If a player progresses and is meeting their milestones, practitioners can advance them along the continuum of care. Whereas if they regress or can’t complete certain activities, then practitioners can keep them in the current phase for longer to ensure they’re healing and don’t get reinjured.

With current information at your fingertips in Smartabase, it’s easier to keep coaches, members of the medical and performance staff, and the players themselves in the loop so that they’re all active participants in the rehab process. Football clubs using the Rehab Tracker achieve increased accountability and collaboration among practitioners and a more streamlined and visible RTP process, which means players can get back to the pitch sooner.

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