Since the popular movie Moneyball (in which Pitt is the protagonist), the use of statistical models to optimise sporting performance has become common place to a variety of sports, including Rugby Union. The successful Leicester Tigers (UK) have been “Moneyballing” for some time: http://www.techweekeurope.co.uk/news/ibm-helps-leicester-tigers-predict-their-game-75406.
Through this statistical model, a team can establish which factors – for example a good night’s sleep or tackles made, are critical to optimal team performance. However, as Dr John Orchard, Australian sports physician to a numerous successful teams, says 1 – there is a vital factor missing from the original Hollywood Moneyball statistical model: player availability. The best player in the world is useless to a team’s performance is he/she is unavailable through injury. And the teams that perform best in a competition have the least injuries – scientific evidence to support this statement is mounting:
- For the 2007 Rugby World Cup campaign, Prof Tim Noakes was asked by coach Jake White to guarantee the availability of his best 22 players in the World Cup final. Prof Noakes was able to provide 21 out of those 22 players – the Springboks won this tournament.
- In AFL, the teams with the most injuries are also at the bottom of the table (http://www.afl.com.au/news/2013-05-21/injuries-take-toll-on-strugglers)
- In the 2008/2009 Qatari soccer (football) season, the best teams had the lowest injury rates 2
So for those coaches and managers who see injury prevention as unnecessary or a waste of time, the message is clear: your team will not perform optimally unless you are considering injury prevention as a vital cog to your team’s performance!
1. Orchard JW. On the value of team medical staff: can the “Moneyball” approach be applied to injuries in professional football? British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2009 Nov 27;43(13):963–5.
2. Eirale C, Tol JL, Farooq A, Smiley F, Chalabi H. Low injury rate strongly correlates with team success in Qatari professional football. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2012 Sep 15:1–5.