Athletic Aperture-HRV and GPS


Chelsea Football Club have used GPSports SPI technology extensively for the past 3 years. The SPI has reliably provided our key performance staff with insight into the player training demands of Premier League Football. SPI information forms the foundation of our conditioning and rehabilitation programs.

– Nick Broad, Former High Performance Manager, Chelsea

For some reason tracking and activity systems are getting popular for those wishing to monitor chaos of team based sports. In track and field we have the luxury to program specific volumes and intensities, and those relationships and sequences are clear. Now that chaos is tracked and measured better, what are we seeing? I have been reading over the older posts of Mladen Jovanovic and have come to the same conclusions that we need to learn to get a better frame of reference, and learn to zoom in and zoom out for perspective. With HRV we are looking at fractions of a second of someone’s heart beat and extrapolating that information to fatigue. With GPS, we are taking entire days worth of data and trying to summarize it with chunky bar graphs on an iPod. What we can extrapolate and distill is still too early for predictive analytics. I have currently have access the most powerful athletic tracking system in the world, but it’s not much more effective than RPE and that frightens people. The truth is we are not getting much more than Pedometers or TRIMPS, something organizations are struggling to deal with.

HRV needs to be clear, rapid, and general. I have used continuous data, save a shower, for weeks at a time and daily load is the only meaningful information I can get. Parasympathetic reactivation after therapy is nice, as well as the rate after intense bouts, but volumes are dictated by observation and electronic timing. HRV is objective RPE on the previous day when done in the morning, and those data points longitudinally are more valuable than spending hours looking at one training session trying to unlock doors to nowhere.

Positional tracking is nice, but after video what data are we getting? We are getting a rough estimation of the velocities and distances traveled period. Volume with distribution. How do we make benchmarks, thresholds, and most importantly interventions and adjustments based on those data sets. Is the football club going to mix up practice and go in pseudo slow motion? How do I kick a ball 85% effort or make cuts at partial efforts? I can reduce volume but scrimmaging and short sided games are still bursts of power done between games. Usually most monitoring systems tell people to rest more but if one key offensive player who distributes the ball is out resting how does the backup create the chemistry needed? I have my one charts for a club and they found that the simple stacked bar is enough for GPS. Remember the GPS system tracks the center of mass, not the intricate and unique foot mechanics and body positions lost by the technology. Regardless of prozone and emerging data sets of motion analysis of high resolution video, no system has the statistical engine to find precursor warning signs of muscle groups in concert with gait and locomotive dysfunctions.

Edit: So when an athlete does pull or injure a joint, what failed GPS wise? If the predictive analytics was working the beep would have gone off right away or the risk percentage gage on the iPhone should have been in the red zone. He was moving at 8 meters per second during minute 20 of the world cup, so what? It was likely that a he was not prepared or something was problematic in mechanics, and fatigue only exacerbates the problem, not directly causes it. If fatigue is the problem, why are people still getting hurt in practices in professional soccer? Games are more chaotic and injury rates will increase, but GPS is only crude summaries of volumes, and limb velocities and arthrokinetic details like tib/fib motions are not logged by the card sized hardware. GPS and HR is just volume and general workload.

Activity tracking such as gyros and accelerometers are nice, but again they are placed into athletes like pez candy on the torso, and are not sensitive to measure neural fatigue and vibration of fascia. While the Panther Skin can measure full body EMG without wires or sensors because of the fabric, reading and calculating a moving target of numbers is something that coaches can pick up through an iPad. Next year, one team will be adding the sensor system to detect gross asymmetry between foot strikes during the recovery runs after football weekly games. This may not find the core issue but at least it will flag the medical staff and give them a week to fix things.

Gait Tracking is emerging and now at the point to look at biomechanics drilled down to the point of seeing foot issues as well as weaknesses and restrictions. Instead of talking about movement quality and other junk terms coaches and therapists will be seeing brain wave activities and muscle fatigue patterns with wireless NMEMG. Again more data, but better organization and classification. More data without limits and perimeters means drowning in a flood of numbers. Without clear standards and risk scores it becomes close to playing lotto, picking numbers and false hope of something going right.

Medical imaging and new sensors are now including software to better assist the staff with MSK Ultrasound (and physiological monitoring) so better return methods can integrated to rehab planning. How do we know that the graston scrapping created a change? How do we know that the ART broke down scar tissue? How do we know that the therapist is raising the dead and is truly a nervous system whisperer. Exciting times with technology, but logic and reasoning will rule the roost.
Discuss entry

Carl Valle

Carl Valle

Track & Field Coach
Carl is an expert coach who has produced champions in swimming, track and numerous other sports. He is one of the foremost experts in the fields of nutrition and restoration.
Carl Valle

Latest posts by Carl Valle (see all)