Israeli start-up keeps West Point cadets in shape

Phyismax’s movement analysis system is being used by the US army, sports organizations, universities to avoid injuries

A Maccabi Tel Aviv player is evaluated using the PhysiMax system (Courtsy)
A Maccabi Tel Aviv player is evaluated using the PhysiMax system (Courtsy)

For sports organizations, a twisted ankle or sprained wrist in a star player can cost millions. One way to prevent those injuries is to pay strict attention to how a player performs in real time. To accomplish that, sports organizations throughout the US are turning to Israeli start-up PhysiMax, which, using 3D cameras, provides cloud-based analytics of how players are performing – and whether their favorite pivot-shot move or tackling style is likely to get them sidelined.

Among the professional organizations that are already using the PhysiMax system – or are strongly considering it – are numerous NBA teams, college basketball teams, the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball franchise and the West Point Military Academy in the US, among others, said Ram Shalev, PhysiMax CEO and a co-founder of the company.

“Our vision is to take top scientific research in injury prevention and bring it to the field, allowing professional players and, eventually, many others, to benefit from technology that can help them avoid injuries,” Shaleve said.

PhysiMax’s technology has been validated by leading US military and academic experts, who themselves developed the original protocols used in the athletics world.

“Until now, these protocols were only available to the athletic elite,” he added. “PhysiMax makes these protocols available to all athletes, in real time, scoring injury potential during games or other intensive efforts.”

While many harbor little sympathy for high-salary professional players – who get paid for sitting on the sidelines if they get injured – industry analysts blame at least part of the sky-high prices sports franchises charge to view games on the money they have to lay out in insurance and in salary payments to injured players.

In the 2013-14 season, for example, the average NBA player earned $4.9 million, which means that for every game a player misses due to injury, their team was out about $60,000. But that’s just for an average player; when a star like Chris Paul missed 20 games during that season, it cost the LA Clippers $4,550,000 out of his $18,668,431 contract.

Most professional players trust their coaches to guide them in the finer points of a sport, helping them to play to their maximum capabilities while avoiding injury. But coaches are people, too – and as people, they can miss important cues that should alert them, and players themselves, to an impending injury.

“Until today, the analysis of movement was carried out visually and subjectively, by an expert,” said Shalev. “This required time, professional expertise and money, and wasn’t always effective.”

It turns out that there are specific, scientifically validated methods for players to follow in order to avoid injury. Among the methods are those prescribed by the Landing Error Scoring System (LESS), developed to identify individuals at risk for lower extremity injuries. With LESS, movements can be analyzed to determine whether they are more likely to cause injuries like anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a type of injury that is caused by athletes moving, cutting, pivoting, accelerating, decelerating or landing from a jump in an inefficient manner.

Research has shown that it is possible to identify those at risk for injury and to intervene with corrective exercise to assist in decreasing the risk of non-contact injury.

To enable that assessment, Physimax provides a real-time assessment system that used 3D cameras to measure the effectiveness – or injury potential – of their playing style. The video is uploaded to Physimax’s servers, where the cloud-based analysis system follows body movement to define lack of balance, symmetry, weakness or limitations in range of motion, or too much range of motion.

The system utilizes validated functional assessment protocols and elements which repeat hundreds of times in a game such as jumping, landing and change of direction on a single leg, analyzing the video with computerized measurements to learn the body’s movements and give a score for the performance and level of injury potential through a detailed report on muscle groups and joints.

Among the sports Physimax is developing its system for sports like soccer, football, lacrosse, tennis and others that “require fast, explosive power and shifts of direction, and that have a high rate of maneuvers that provide more opportunities for injuries,” said Shalev.

Physimax recently completed a major study of its methodology with the West Point Military Academy, evaluating dozens of healthy freshmen cadets with no pre-existing injuries or limitations in order to predict injury risk and evaluate biomechanical efficiency according to the LESS protocols, using a 3D video camera.

The results were so positive, said Shalev, that West Point “is now using our system exclusively to assess 1,000 cadets, replacing the expert assessors who until now have been doing the analysis.” Other organizations using the system are the University of North Carolina and the University of Connecticut, which have both participated in Physimax tests.

Now ready to address the wider professional athletics and sports markets, Physimax is refining its technology, and eventually plans on a version for “weekend warriors,” non-professional athletes who want to improve their game.

“As devices become more powerful and begin sporting advanced 3D hi-definition cameras, this technology is going to become available for anyone,” said Shalev.

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