Australia-based Catapult Sports has engineered an innovative wearable inertial motion tracking technology that monitors and assesses players’ training loads. Ultimately the analytical data output from this system provides contextual analytics by using training volumes to assess athlete injury risk, performance readiness, and rehab return to play time frames. Regarding their system, their website states, “It’s precision engineering at the intersection of sport science and analytics.”
Presently, the primary goal of their technology is to limit soft tissue injuries (muscle, ligaments, and tendons) too common in elite sports performance. It is well known in biomechanics research that athletes are most often injured when they are fatigued as this compromises their neuromuscular control capabilities and overcompensation often results in soft tissue injuries. Catapult systems estimate biomechanical fatigue using their advanced sensor technologies that can infer micro-level force outputs. This mechanical performance output capability is what separates Catapult from other athlete GPS-based monitoring systems.
Catapult Sports refers to their inertial motion tracking technology as Inertial Movement Analysis (IMA). Their IMA technology combines advanced electronic inertial motion tracking technologies with complex mathematical Kalman filtering algorithms traditionally used in sports science laboratories. From the Catapult Sports website, “IMA is what separates Catapult from every other form of athlete tracking.” Their IMA provides much more detail than a GPS-based sensor system or an optical tracking system which can only directly measure positional data. The Catapult athlete tracking system provides quantifiable performance data for athlete workload including heart rate, speed, distance traveled, accelerations, decelerations, changes of direction, collisions, and jumps (height and frequency). The Catapult system also provides real-time output including graphs and charts and compiles it in a powerful graphical user interface (GUI) that teams, trainers, and athletes can use to help monitor player workloads and performance metrics.
The analytics revolution has reached just about every major sports league in some capacity. Professional teams are constantly looking for an edge up on their competition, and the rise of the sports analytics industry is showing no signs of stopping. Sports science has become more accepted by professional and collegiate teams and data acquisition is viewed as necessary for finding a winning equation. One of the biggest issues with analytics is the vast amount of data that is collected and how to make sense of it. Collecting data is no longer a problem, but making sense of big data in a timely manner with measurable performance improvements to guide decision-making is the focus of performance analysts. Catapult is at the forefront of the player performance improvement wave and has built a bio-analytics platform that allows teams to monitor daily and weekly leg loads and to adjust workouts accordingly. Catapult sensor data also helps quantify the progress of players that are rehabbing from injuries.
Catapult currently has over 400 clients worldwide in professional and collegiate athletics. That number will continue to grow, and most likely exponentially, as their athletic performance tools are just beginning to make strong inroads in the US. Recently, Dallas Mavericks billionaire owner Mark Cuban bought a stake in Catapult Sports estimated to be worth a few million dollars or just under 5% of the company. Cuban’s Mavericks team was the first NBA team to use Catapult’s injury prevention analytics platform. Cuban said Catapult’s technology “…will make teams smarter and keep players on the court more. It also may save a career or even a life on the way.” Catapult has expanded even further into the NBA as teams have bought into their demonstrated platform for injury prevention, which has become the new wave of advanced NBA analytics.
Cuban talked with ESPN’s Colin Cowherd on August 27th about where he believes technology is headed. Cuban stated in that interview that personalized medicine is the biggest technology paradigm that will come to NBA teams. His quotes extended beyond sports and applied to personalized medicine and getting individual blood level baselines. Nonetheless, that philosophy is what led him to using Catapult systems for performing baseline evaluations on his players’ athletic performance. In the Dallas Morning News Cuban said, “Anything that makes us smarter about our players’ health is a win for us.” He added, “Data acquisition is critical to being proactive with every element of player health and performance, and Catapult is a key product for us in that area.” Michael Regan, Catapult’s head of sport science, echoes that philosophy, “What we want to do is first find a fingerprint for the athlete,” Regan says, “Think of it like a dashboard. Then we build a baseline off of that and monitor their exertion levels to make sure they stay on the playing field as much as possible.”
Cuban expanded upon his comments to Cowherd in this ESPN Insider article by Tom Haberstroh, “We are doing as many things as possible to create baselines for our players,” Cuban says. “One of the problems we all have, not just in sports, is that we wait until we are sick or have a health problem to get data about ourselves. Then our doctors compare us to the general population. But that’s a worthless comparison. I think the smartest thing I do for my health and we try to do at the Mavs, is to take ongoing assessments so we have a baseline for each individual that we can monitor for any abnormalities.”
Catapult has received a lot of positive media reports on professional and collegiate teams using their technology as an analytical tool that allows teams to be proactive with injury prevention. Almost all of these articles talk about Catapult as a GPS-based technology system. While this is true as Catapult initially started as a GPS tracking device and still incorporates that technology, it has become so much more than that. The reason for their very high growth rate is because their inertial motion tracking technology offers so much more than competitive GPS systems. Following is a list of the tech specs for the Optimeye S5 system:
• Extremely precise 10Hz GPS engine with refined accuracy for positional, velocity
and acceleration data and with significant advancements for use in stadiums and
• 3 axis configurable100Hz 2-16g accelerometers to measure linear motion, impact
forces, acceleration, deceleration and more
• 3 axis configurable 200-2000 degrees per second gyroscopes to measure angular
motion and rotation allowing accurate classification of specific movement patterns.
• 3 axis 100Hz magnetometers to measure direction and orientation
• Heart rate logging from Polar heart rate belts plus optional ANT connectivity for
connection with peripheral devices. Heart rate data can be exported to FirstBeat
• Monolithic electronics for greatly improved durability in contact sports
• Powerful internal computer for sophisticated processing to allow all parameters
including sophisticated and validated variables such as RHIE, Tackles and IMA all
produced within live reporting
• Ultrafast wireless reporting with no downloading of units required
That is much more than a GPS system. It is an extremely powerful inertial motion tracking system that offers almost limitless growth capabilities in the sports performance market. Catapult has demonstrated an ability to provide innovative solutions to the performance management technology marketplace as demonstrated with industry first innovations in the picture below.
Catapult has already seen a big jump in US Sales after the rather public endorsement of the company’s technology by tech savvy Mark Cuban’s investment backing. Catapult currently has 7 US employees but has plans to expand to 21 by year’s end. Catapult has already been part of the impending consolidation in the wearable technology industry with their purchase of GPSports. There are also rumors of potential public offerings in Australia and possibly the US as well. Adir Shiffman, Chairman of Catapult Sports had this to say about Catapult’s future, “We’re working through a number of options that have been attractive and within a few months we’ll have more to say about the capital structure of the company.”
The Catapult website claims their systems are “The most used secret in sport.” Catapult’s client list shows 12 NFL teams, 8 NBA teams, and 18 NCAA programs as clients. However some teams are working under non-disclosure agreements as they don’t want their competitors to know they are using Catapult technology. A recent Dallas Morning Morning news article on Catapult claims that about one-third of NBA teams, half of the NFL, and roughly 25 NCAA college football teams are clients.
The biggest evidence that the technology works? With Catapult’s recent acquisition of GPSports, Catapult currently has the Seattle Seahawks – 2014 Super Bowl Champions, San Antonio Spurs – 2014 NBA Champions, and the Florida State Seminoles – 2014 BCS National Champions as clients. Three of the biggest turnarounds in NCAA football so far this year have been the Kentucky Wildcats, Cal-Berkeley Golden Bears, and the Minnesota Gophers, all programs using Catapult systems. Potential 2015 NCAA Football Championships teams Oregon, Baylor, Alabama, Notre Dame, and LSU are all clients as well.
The following interview with Shiffman provides a great detailed background on the Catapult Sports system.