Seattle Reign puts data into play to prevent injuries

The Seattle Reign FC is using Microsoft's Sports Performance Platform to gain insights on athletes' performance, readiness, and recovery — and ultimately, to gain a competitive edge.

2015 was a big year for Seattle Reign F.C., as they fought their way on the field to the National Women’s Soccer League championship game. Though they didn’t win, their hope was to come back the next year, stronger and ready to clinch the title. But 2016 took them by surprise with a spate of injuries. Forward Manon Melis and midfielder Jessica Fishlock both suffered fractured tibias that took them out for weeks. And midfielder Megan Rapinoe missed half the season due to a torn ACL. After a tough year, the Reign set their sights on a healthier 2017.

The Reign turned to two valuable resources to help prevent injuries going forward — its staff and its data. Nick Leman joined the Reign in 2016 as Director of High Performance and Head of Strength & Conditioning. He used Microsoft’s Sports Performance Platform to aggregate data from a variety of sources and analyze insights on the players. This allowed him to make decisions in real-time around player readiness and recovery. It is a major success that in 2017, there was only one injury during the regular season that caused a player to miss a game.

The Sports Performance Platform stems from Microsoft’s belief that technology can transform how athletes and teams push limits and gain a competitive edge. The goal is to help coaches to make decisions based on insight, rather than gut, and use data to prevent injuries by making adjustments to a player’s technique or training program.

In particular, Microsoft’s predictive outcome modeling and analytics capabilities have been able to help the Reign tackle a set of challenges unique to women’s soccer. Players are more prone to knee and ACL injuries, for starters, and the five-year-old league is still establishing itself in terms of consistent staff and resources.

But Leman also notes that women’s soccer is making major strides, and setting new standards is partly what attracted him to the job with the Reign.  He looks extensively at injury history in developing his program, which is where the Sports Performance Platform shines in its efficiency and specificity.

Sports Performance Platform training dashboard screen

The Seattle Reign uses Microsoft’s Sports Performance Platform to track player fitness and match readiness.

“Everyday, we have to make decisions about which players will practice — how hard, and how long — and also plan forward in terms of how hard we train each week,” he says. “The data helps us maximize how much we train on the field.”

Using the platform, coaching staff can aggregate data on an athlete’s performance and recovery, enabling them to run predictive modeling for injury prevention. This guides game-day decisions around player readiness, as well as practice regimens designed to keep each athlete playing at the optimum level all season long.

Of course, even with data, the question of how much to train is a constant balancing act. With a well-conditioned team in place, the Reign is now focused on pushing harder to find their way back to the championships.

“It’s the million-dollar question: How hard do you train? How much risk do you take with injury?” says Leman. “Because ultimately, the goal is to win.”

Learn more about how Microsoft’s Sports Performance Platform is giving teams a competitive edge through data.

The data helps us maximize how much we train on the field.

- Nick Leman, Director of High Performance and Head of Strength & Conditioning