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NBA, NBPA Use Wearables To Study Player Health & Wellness
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NBA, NBPA Use Wearables To Study Player Health & Wellness

Major players in the sports and medical worlds, including GE HealthCare and Springbok Analytics, are working to better understand the interplay between player workload, rest and injuries

The basketball powers that be are all beginning to bear down on the injury bug – in the name of player health and wellness.

The NBA, National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) and the NGBPU, the players’ union for the NBA G League, have collaborated with GE HealthCare, MedStar Health and Springbok Analytics to study musculoskeletal and joint health throughout the 2023-24 season. 

A select number of G-League players from four teams were monitored during the developmental league’s 50-game season, focusing on elements such as playing time, training and rest. This made it the largest assessment of training and game load on athletic performance across a full professional basketball season ever, according to the organizations.

“We are excited to announce this first-of-its-kind study on workload,” said Asheesh Bedi, MD and chief medical officer of the NBPA. “This has been an area of great interest, and there has yet to be a comprehensive data set on professional athletes to assess the impact of workload on musculoskeletal and joint health. This study is invaluable in bringing together medical professionals and key opinion leaders in the scientific community to advance the health and wellness of our athletes.”

Wellness Makes Its Way to the Pros

The wellness boom isn’t just limited to everyday consumers and biohackers. The topic of NBA player health and safety reached a boiling point this year with the league instituting a 65-game requirement for players to qualify for end-of-season awards — and by extension — max-value contracts. This came amid outrage from fans, many of whom have complained about teams resting their top players during some games in order to preserve their long-term health. The concept is frequently referred to as “load management.” 

After instituting this rule but still taking an interest in protecting its players, it seems natural that the league has agreed to partake in a study that monitors player health. The study also reflects NBA players’ growing desire to look after their health and prevent injury – G League players who participated in the study did so voluntarily.

credit: GE HealthCare

Inside the Study

The investigation concentrated mainly on the structure and function of the knee joint – especially the patellar tendon. The most common chronic basketball injury is anterior knee pain, primarily patellar tendonitis, according to a study from the Idaho Sports Medicine Institute. To assemble the data, players wore “wearable technologies” daily to provide consistent measures of game and training loads with serial biomechanical, kinematic, and force-producing assessments. 

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Those findings were compiled based on results from advanced imaging techniques such as an artificial intelligence-powered, 3D muscle analysis by Springbok Analytics, an MRI equipped with deep learning reconstruction and ultrasound shear wave elastography. The latter two insights were provided by devices from GE HealthCare including the Signa Premier 3.0T wide-bore MRI scanner and Logic E10 Series Ultrasound.

credit: GE HealthCare

The joint NBA effort also marks the first time a research study on elite professional basketball plates featured ultrasound shear wave elastography. The technique is a quantitative method for analyzing functional changes in the patellar tendon. When used to measure the stiffness of tissue in the patellar tendon it has the potential to identify risk factors or indicators of tendinopathy onset.  

“For professional athletes, injuries can take a huge toll on their career success, so it has long been one of the goals of the NBA’s Research Committee to promote player health and wellness in the interest of reducing injuries and lengthening careers,” said Wiemi Douoguih, MD, medical director of MedStar Sports Medicine and chair of the NBA Research Committee. “This research lays the foundation to help us better understand the balance between playing, training, and rest so that players can remain as healthy as possible, coaches and teams can have their best season, and fans can see their favorite stars play the game.”

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