A new tool from a Silicon Valley-based athletic technology company will allow sports teams, coaches, and scouts the opportunity to measure statistics never before considered when drafting and conditioning young players, according to a report from the Silicon Valley News.
Sparta Performance Science, headquartered in Menlo Park, has developed data technology based on the “force plate,” a device that measures how much force an athlete exerts on the ground when running, jumping, or standing.
“It’s very similar to what we see with ‘Moneyball,'” employee Dr. Phil Wagner told CBS San Francisco. “We’re analyzing things that nobody’s looked at before. And teams see that as a huge advantage.”
Two NFL teams have already jumped on the opportunity: according to Silicon Valley News, Sparta has exclusive deals with the NFC’s Atlanta Falcons and the AFC’s Jacksonville Jaguars. The company also just signed a deal with its first NBA team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Traditional football metrics have focused on a player’s 40-yard dash time, jump height, arm length/span, and other physical variables, and Sparta’s high-tech tools definitely supplement this data. But perhaps even more critically, the data can be used to predict an athlete’s susceptibility to injury.
“The whole thing is based off medicine,” Wagner explained to SV News. “So we find the disease, so-to-speak, and the disease can be that an athlete doesn’t start a movement well. What are the best medicines in order to change that? Sometimes, squats are the best medicine.”
Sparta’s innovative approach has already helped at least one NBA player transform into a superstar. In 2011, then-undrafted point guard Jeremy Lin came to Sparta and bounced off the force plate. The data showed his lower leg muscles to be particularly weak, so coaches at Sparta helped him maximize his workouts to reflect his weakness. By summer 2012, Lin had signed with the New York Knicks and became a global basketball superstar.
Some of Sparta’s other successful clients include St. Louis Cardinals infielder Daniel Descalso, Houston Astros catcher Jason Castro, and the entire Colorado Rockies baseball team, who signed exclusive NL West rights with the company, according to the report.
Sparta Performance Science will also reportedly be involved in this year’s NFL draft selection evaluation process, although for his part, Dr. Wagner likes the slow approach the company has taken to expanding. “The significance and the power is that obviously we don’t do much direct marketing,” he told SV News. “That’s how Jacksonville got involved. They saw what we were doing with Atlanta and said, ‘Yeah, we want that too. And we want that exclusivity too.'”
The NFL draft began on May 8th and continues through the weekend.