Indianapolis Colts RB Jonathan Taylor uses technology to try to avoid injuries
Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor enters the 2022 NFL season as one of the best players in his position if he can stay healthy.
“You understand the risk-reward in the sport that we play,” said Taylor, who had a proven track record early in his career but is well aware of the risks. “It’s a very violent game.”
Taylor has taken a proactive approach to the types of injuries that can derail a season or a career – soft tissue injuries to muscles, ligaments and tendons. He studied the physiological impact of his physical preparation.
And this year he decided to put his money into it too, investing in a tech company called Strive, which focuses on quantifying muscle performance to gauge optimal workload, fatigue levels and other factors. faced by today’s NFL players.
“You have to really trust your preparation,” Taylor said. “… Everything you did before the season and also during the season. Do everything you can to mitigate as many of the factors as possible that will lead to these soft tissue injuries.”
Understanding muscle performance is essential for running backs like Taylor, as they depend on their legs for explosion, power, agility and acceleration. Lower limb muscle strains are the No. 1 injury burden in the NFL, hamstring strains are leading the way.
These types of injuries aren’t new, but they’ve become so prevalent and costly, both in terms of staff absences and dollars spent, that the NFL formed a committee to study the problem, while awarding a grant. $4 million research project at the University of Wisconsin. — where Taylor attended college — to prospectively study hamstring injuries in soccer players.
The study aims to identify risk factors for injury and hamstring injury in order to better understand and implement strategies to mitigate this risk.
Players know that lower extremity strains (injury to a muscle or tendon from the hip to the ankle) suffered during the season are particularly devastating. Hamstring strains are time-wasting for approximately 75% of players, and the variability between them (from severity to location), combined with their often nebulous symptoms (such as tightness/stiffness/pain), makes it particularly difficult to treat effectively. In addition, there is a 30% chance of recurrence after returning to play.
Taylor sought to figure out how he can avoid being another statistic. He met Nikola Mrvaljevic, CEO and co-founder of Strive. The company uses sensors built into compression garments to capture muscle output during various activities and translate the data into graphical displays in real time.
Mrvaljevic is a former European professional basketball player whose initial inspiration for a product came from seeing an eruption of injuries among his teammates after a spike in workload during mountain training sessions. Given the lack of data available to athletes when training on the field, Mrvaljevic sought to quantify an athlete’s muscle performance in a real environment, as opposed to a lab or clinic.
He said it was particularly difficult to replicate deceleration, followed by rapid lateral acceleration — movements common in sport-specific training and in real-life games — in the lab.
“This is where our bodies really push to the limit,” Mrvaljevic said.
According to Mrvaljevic, the sticker-like sensors capture electrical signals generated by muscle activity in the lower limbs (quads, hamstrings, glutes) as well as movement data generated by the accelerometer. The combination of the two sets of data then provides information (such as muscle performance, symmetry, and fatigue) delivered to the user’s electronic device to inform training and recovery. [The company has partnered with several universities to conduct third party validation comparisons with other medical devices.]
The main consideration for the athlete, says Mrvaljevic, should be “How do you move? Are you more efficient today than yesterday? Are there any red flags?”
For Taylor, the ability to see his data aggregated throughout the various phases of training – both off-season and during competition – allows him to make adjustments based on the type of work he was doing and any deficits. associated.
“If the first part of the month was part of my high speed training and the second half was a power part, when I look at my information, do I see a difference?” he said. “Am I noticing changes between my glutes, hamstrings, quads? Is there something wrong on speed days? When I switch to power does my power come from more of my hamstrings for those specific exercises or more of my quads?”
Taylor noted that he worked on integrating this technology with a soccer-specific activity as part of his training camp preparations.
“There’s nothing that can really prepare you for football like playing football,” Taylor said. “But if I can simulate what we’re doing in training camp, these running back drills, these moves that I’m going to do throughout camp, can I look at that data and see where I’m missing? Then I can communicate with my coaching staff to say, ‘Hey, these are things I really need to work on to prepare for camp.'”
Taylor said he believes the information generated by Strive that he uses to track his performance and recovery is his best weapon against physical breakdowns.
“Availability is a huge issue in this sport,” he said. “We know the risk-reward factor. But if we’re able to have everyone on the pitch, everyone available for the most part, the fans are going to have a lot of good football throughout the fall and the guys will feel better. Nobody wants to get hurt. Nobody wants to go through that at all.”