A few weeks ago we caught up with William Sands, Sports Technologist at US Ski and Snowboard Association, in advance of his speaker role at the 200 speaker Sports Performance Data & Fan Engagement Summit in San Francisco (brochure) to talk a little more about the discussion points of his talk:
If we look at the testing of athlete's physical abilities, in terms of strength and power, how can we direct training and determine overall fitness?
Strength and power are obvious requirements for most athletes. We use paired (bilateral) force platforms regularly to assess several aspects of performance within jumps such as forces, rates of force development, timings, durations, and so forth. We also compare across jumps using a static, countermovement, and drop jumps as indicators of different aspects of performance such as contractile capacity, contractile recruitment, elasticity, reactivity, and eccentric to concentric transition. Of course, we also obtain forces, powers, COM displacements, 7 eccentric and concentric rates of force development, impulses, flight times, and various durations. We have incorporated EMG as needed, particularly when evaluating aspects of return-to-play.
How has thermal imaging allowed you to identify potential injury problems and use that information to return athletes to train/competition?
I have been using thermal imaging for about 20 years. The most important use has been that of identifying unusual patterns of inflammation following injury and during rehabilitation. Nearly all athletes and coaches want to return to play before they should and such decisions are usually reliant on vague and imprecise notions. Thermal imaging has helped determine if there is lingering inflammation that helps sports medicine, coaches, and the athlete see if active inflammation is still present, indicating incomplete healing. I've used thermal imaging with USA Men's and Women's Gymnastics, Synchronized Swimming, Weightlifting, Beach Volleyball, Track and Field, and other teams such as soccer and baseball. Thermal imaging has also helped in identifying the tracks of runners in sliding sports, microcirculation in runners, and other aspects of performance.
How do we link preparation to performance to monitor elite athletes?
I was monitoring my own gymnasts, University of Utah gymnasts, and USA national team gymnasts using computers as early as 1978. In the years since I have developed long-term assessment techniques involving expert systems, statistical process control, data analytics, and others. The methods have relied heavily on single-subject research design methods, artificial intelligence techniques, and decision algorithms.
For more information on the summit visit