LAFC Partners With AI Startup to Prevent Injuries

LAFC Partners With AI Startup to Prevent Injuries
LAFC Performance Director Gavin Benjafield (right) with one of the team's players.

In professional sports, an injury can change the direction of an entire season for players and teams alike.

That’s why Los Angeles Football Club is turning to artificial intelligence technology to take some of the chance out of injuries with the aim of preventing players from getting hurt in the first place.

The downtown-based club soccer team is partnering with Palo Alto-based startup Zone7 Technologies Inc., the developer of an A.I.-based platform used to analyze and identify specific injury risk factors in professional athletes.

LAFC Performance Director Gavin Benjafield said the technology could be particularly useful in preventing noncontact injuries, which are less random and can be the result of gaps in strength and conditioning training or insufficient player recovery time following games and practices.

The platform will be integrated with technological tools the team already uses to collect and analyze data on player health, training and conditioning. Once active, it will provide insight into how players respond to varying levels of physical and emotional stress, as well as where they may be more vulnerable to injury due to an array of physical and situational factors.

“There is no shortage of data that we can gather on players,” said Benjafield. “The challenge is how do we combine the data into a holistic picture of what is happening with the player in the moment?”

Zone7 Chief Executive Tal Brown said the company’s platform “ingests and aligns” the performance and medical data teams already collect in order to “uncover specific risk patterns invisible to the human eye.”

Using the technology, said Brown, a team might recognize that a certain player’s training habits have left them vulnerable to, say, a hamstring injury. Tweaking that player’s conditioning routine could cut down on the chance they’ll be hurt during a game or in practice, and thus maximize their time on the field.

Zone7 said its platform has already been adopted by a number of professional sports organizations, including teams in the National Football League and the English Premier League.

Benjafield said the platform can also be used to determine which players may require more rest or recovery time at practice or in-game.

“Zone7 technology will help guide LAFC in evaluating a players’ ability to adapt to physical and mental stress during the course of the season,” said Benjafield. “The guidance could be to push certain players harder while for other players, we should slow down a little and allow for adaptation and sufficient recovery.”

LAFC did not specify financial details of its multiyear partnership with Zone7 but said the platform would be employed in time for the upcoming 2022 MLS season.

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