When talking about technology application within a professional team sport environment, I often get asked about the timing in testing administration, as well as the type of tests to be used.
This isn’t an easy question to answer as there isn’t an ideal solution. Especially in a professional team in which you have to connect the dots between players, coaching staff, medical staff and the available time.
Every organization should tailor technology application based on their purposes and specific internal environment. Knowledge in proper data management and an efficient decision-making process play a major role in this.
Force plate technology use in team sport is growing, thanks largely to the new ForceDecks system. This platform is rapidly becoming the gold-standard because of some exciting, innovative functions both in terms of data output (metrics and bio-mechanical parameters) and software visualization and calculation.
Based on science and my personal experience working and consulting with professional teams, I’ll try to summarize what to take into account when designing the right monitoring and timing strategies for implementing the ForceDecks system into a team environment.
Planning and data overuse
Like training, the amount of testing has to be properly planned and periodised to be effective, without risking what I term “data overuse”. This is a widespread phenomenon in professional sport.
I coined the expression “data overuse” because of a tendency, in certain environments, to collect data and perform multiple tests without a clear understanding of how to properly conduct them or how to transform those metrics into actionable data.
Being able to transform data into information and then into knowledge is key to greater effectiveness and enabling you to reach the two main goals at the core of every testing program: improving performance and preventing injuries.
Planning the monitoring process in advance, by adjusting variables based on the various time frames of the season, is the first step to ensuring an effective use of force plates in team sports.
Players’ education, adherence and functional integration
Having your players well-educated about the testing process is crucial to ensuring good practice and the collection of reliable, quality data.
Standardisation and good execution technique (i.e. like how to properly execute a jump, how to land etc) can also improve player participation and minimize the risk of poor engagement, which is widespread in team sports.
Professional teams, as complex biological systems, need to reach the optimal balance between functional specialization and functional integration1 which is essential in order to act and perform like a Superorganism:2 the high levels of interindividual variability between players allow teammates to cooperate together and perform as a single entity to reach a common goal.3
In this socio-biological model of team performance, the process of testing as an interindividual competitive moment can successfully help in building this functional integration and system of communication4 between teammates.
The “Leaderboard” is a great feature of the ForceDecks software as it allows you to monitor large groups of players and create the competitive environment required to build the sociobiological foundation of players’ functional integration.
Creating a highly automated environment within the team lab/facility is a game-changer. It allows you to improve the efficiency of the force plate monitoring process by managing the following variables:
Time allocation for monitoring players with force plates is a question of being able to extract as much valuable info as possible with minimum effort. There’s always the risk that sudden changes in the weekly schedule or limited time availability could result in monitoring being given lower priority than is necessary.
The constant pressure to which staff members are subjected during the entire competitive season can negatively impact monitoring quality.: Some research has already been done on the implications of pressure in professional sport5 and we can clearly hypothesize by on-field experience that this type of pressure can affect clinical practice significantly. Having an automated workstation can highly reduce the risk of low-quality work. Fortunately, ForceDecks platforms can be perfectly integrated in every lab very easily thanks to their design and dimensions.
3) Data visualization
Software architecture and the amount of time it takes for systems to analyze data have always been a limiting factor in the implementation of force plate monitoring in team sport.ForceDecks have solved this problem by developing a software with both structure and data visualization properties that are perfect for fast collection and data analysis.
Timing and monitoring purposes
Timing in testing administration depends on the purposes of the monitoring and the period of the season. It’s crucial that clear measurement protocols are established right at the start of the pre-season.The ForceDecks software has a set of pre-defined tests, as well as a series of novel biomechanics metrics, that make protocols creation and data output and reporting customization easier than ever.
For the sake of practicality and simplicity, I have created a summary table with some suggestions regarding the implementation of the ForceDecks monitoring system in team sports:
During pre-season, ForceDecks can be used initially to create an initial individual baseline for each player to establish performance and neuromuscular profiling as well as injury risk screening. Once a baseline has been established for each player, ForceDecks can be used daily (especially in pre-season camps) for monitoring both performance (short-term adaptations) and fatigue (acute response to training load).
During preparation in pre-season, force-plate monitoring can be used as a feedback tool to check the effectiveness of training interventions on short-term biological adaptations such as RFD, explosive strength and MTU stiffness6 as well as keeping fatigue accumulation under strict control.7
During the season, the frequency of use can be reduced to weekly: by testing twice a week you can collect information about neuromuscular fatigue and recovery after a game and check readiness status the day before a game.
From a purely performance standpoint, it is also useful to check the effect of training on long-term biological adaptations, especially in terms of strength and power maintenance: neural adaptations to strength training need a continuous stimulus application to be maintained in the long-term.8
Staff cohesion, discussion and decision-making (intervention plan)
Ultimately, the presence of a close-knit team of coaches and staff is paramount for an effective monitoring process: an adequate level of team cohesion and intra-team communication has been shown to positively impact on team member satisfaction.9 This is essential for ensuring the optimum use of the data obtained from force plates monitoring: strong cooperation and cohesion between all the members of coaching and medical staff is essential to reach balance between analytical skills and on-field practical applications.
- Edelman GM, Gally JA. Degeneracy and complexity in biological systems. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2001; 98: 13763-8.
- Duarte R, Araùjo D, Correia V, Davids K. Sports teams as superorganisms. Implications of sociobiological models of behaviour for research and practice in team sports performance analysis. Sports Med 2012; 42 (8): 633-642.
- Wilson DS, Wilson EO. Rethinking the theoretical foundation of sociobiology. Q Rev Biol 2007; 82: 327-48.
- Holldobler B, Wilson EO. The superorganism: the beauty, elegance, and strangeness of insect societies. London: W. W. Norton, 2009.
- Kroshus E, Baugh CM, Daneshvar DH, Stamm JM, Laursen RM, Austin SB. Pressure on sports medicine clinicians to prematurely return collegiate athletes to play after concussion. J Athl Train. 2015 Sep; 50(9): 944-951.
- Tillin NA, Pain MTG, Folland JP (2012), Short-term training for explosive strength causes neural and mechanical adaptations. Experimental Physiology, 97: 630-641.
- Gathercole RJ, Stellingwerff T, Sporer BC. Effect of acute fatigue and training adaptation on countermovement jump performance in elite snowboard cross athletes. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Jan;29(1):37-46.
- Moritani T, deVries HA. Neural factors versus hypertrophy in the time course of muscle strength gain. Am J Phys Med. 1979 Jun;58(3):115-30.
- Onag Z, Tepeci M. Team effectiveness in sport teams: the effects of team cohesion, intra team communication and team norms on team member satisfaction and intent to remain. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 150 (2014) 420-428.