As the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers gear up for this weekend’s 58th Super Bowl, it’s a great time to review the partnership between the NFL and AWS; the league and the Cloud Wars Top 10 firm have been working together since 2017 on the Next Generation Stats System. The NFL has also applied AWS tools to develop the Digital Athlete, which is designed to address player injury issues. The collaboration leverages artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) while advancing analytics in sports.
Next Gen Stats
Next Gen Stats (NGS) uses advanced player-tracking data to provide strategic analytics for transforming raw data into actionable insights. AWS explains that NGS uses “sophisticated tracking technology collected via RFID devices in the shoulder pads of every player and embedded at each of its stadiums.”
This technology captures patterns of player movements, actions, and interactions to improve player performance. It gathers real-time location, speed, and acceleration data from each individual athlete on the field. Another element of NGS is the Pressure Probability model, which was recently developed to quantify the impact of pressure on quarterbacks’ performance on the field.
This stat-tracking program also enhances the fan experience by providing stats in real time so fans and viewers can better understand plays and the game itself.
The NFL continues its work with AWS to build out its Digital Athlete program. The Digital Athlete is “a virtual representation of an NFL player that can be used to better predict and eventually prevent player injury.” By applying the data it gathers, teams can use the Digital Athlete to run a range of in-game scenarios via simulations to understand the impact of those plays on player health and safety.
Backed by AI and ML algorithms, the Digital Athlete will provide a couple of key outcomes:
- Enhance Player Health and Safety: The tools have improved the process of how NFL teams collect information about and analyze injuries. By having a greater understanding of how players get injured, teams can adjust training and performance for injury prevention as well as determine the best recovery programs, increasing players’ longevity in the sport.
- Deliver Accurate Player Data: The Digital Athlete pulls data from NGS, video footage from games and practices, and sensors around the stadium. This enables teams to have a “top-down picture of the player experience throughout the game.”
AWS trained the AI to develop the Digital Athlete using computer vision to pull visual information from game footage. With more data to contextualize game footage and build datasets, the Digital Athlete is able to process scenarios faster, more accurately, and more reliably than humans.
“The Digital Athlete will empower NFL teams to develop individualized training and recovery regimens and conduct real-time risk analysis for player injury during games,” reports Jennifer Langton, NFL senior vice president of health and safety innovation.
AI Adds Value
Acceleration Economy practitioner analyst and AI Index Report host Toni Witt notes that having more data and a better understanding of that data adds value in almost every context, including professional football.
“The partnership between the NFL and Amazon to gather more advanced data and analyze it using AI through AWS and the SageMaker ML platform is a landmark example of how data can improve the fan experience, help media understand the game, prevent player injuries, and refine team management,” he says.
“Gathering more data and deeper insights as brought by advanced machine learning, the NFL’s Next Gen Stats program and the Digital Athlete program is a win-win for all stakeholders in the game,” he concludes.