High-spending football clubs are set to save millions on injury-prone players with biomedical software from Computer Associates (CA), if a successful trial at Serie A giant AC Milan is taken up by other clubs.
The software collects data during workouts over a period of time, which it then translates into predictions on how likely players are to pick up injuries.
With transfer fees hitting millions of pounds for even average players, clubs want to be sure that their expensive assets are fit before breaking the bank to sign them.
The software will also help prevent footballers suffering long-term injuries by spotting problems early.
Peter Mathews, vice president of field services group at CA, said: "Football is a massive business and the biggest clubs spend about half of their revenue on players. They want to look after these high-value assets.
"When players do physicals, the examiners are faced with long lists of metrics, such as pulse, breadth and recovery rate, but translating them into information about present and future fitness is difficult."
CA is using its CleverPath predictive analysis technology, which performs neural analysis and uses artificial intelligence to transform vast amounts of numeric medical statistics into meaningful predictions.
"Previously a lot of this was done on gut feel and clubs just want something simple that can tell them that a player will be okay," said Mathews.
The trial at AC Milan was born out of frustration caused by the injury to Argentine midfielder Fernando Redondo.
An $11m signing from Real Madrid in 2000, he has yet to play a game after picking up a pre-season knee injury. The Champions League player of the year in 2000 - now aged 33 - is set to make his long-awaited debut in the next few weeks.
CA is claiming an accuracy rate of over 70 per cent for the technology. "The club gave us unseen test data from the previous season to see if we would predict the injuries that had already happened and our success rate was in the high 70s."
CA is currently in discussions with several European interested in the software, and even received a product enquiry from a national team competing in the World Cup. "An Asian team in the World Cup said to us 'get us this technology now'," he said.
John McCarthy, West Ham United's sports scientist and fitness coach, said that his club already carried out a "melting pot" of tests on players.
"If the software does what it says it does then we would consider it. But football is so complicated you have to take a holistic approach when using predictive techniques," he added.
Mathews said the software could also produce psychological reports on players to give the club more information on how they might react in certain circumstances.
But this should be dealt with on a one-on-one basis with football experience the main tool, cautioned McCarthy.
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