What Is the Digital Athlete: How AI Can Improve Safety in NFL

In the past couple of years, we’ve seen some huge advancements in the tech space offering new solutions to our everyday problems. NFL is no exception, and the game we love has seen the introduction of many new technologies that allow fans to find live stats of players and track their performance on and off the field.

A football player in computer simulation.
Picture from NFL's digital athlete article

Since Tom Brady’s first Super Bowl win, in 2002, to the present day, we have seen many changes to the NFL in 20 years.

One of the most talked-about technologies is AI, and it can revolutionize our world to a point that we are not aware of yet.

Nowadays, AI is used in some industries, but we still haven’t scratched the surface of its potential. Artificial intelligence means a lot more than just talking robots, and self-driving cars, and some industries have already started adapting to this new tech trend.

If we apply the super-human knowledge of AI to football, we can see many possibilities where players and teams would benefit from such technology. One of the most important things in sports is player health and safety.

This is why the National Football League has already started focusing on how to use the potential of AI to deploy new health and safety measures that will make the sport even safer for athletes.

NFL Partnered With Amazon Web Services

A couple of years ago, the National Football League started to open up its doors for new tech solutions by partnering up with Amazon Web Services. Their goal was to use artificial intelligence to create a Digital Athlete that shares the same characteristics as an NFL player.

Running a simulation that heavily relies on data can help teams deploy new safety measures that could prevent athletes from acquiring injuries.

With the unmatched portfolio of services and expertise of AWS, NFL wants to shape the future of football and build and Health and Safety is the first thing that is up for remodeling. Through artificial intelligence and machine learning, this partnership aims to build a more profound and deeper understanding of the game than ever before.

They plan to deploy new tools that can generate deeper and more accurate insights into player injuries, as well as game rules, rehabilitation, recovery stages, and improved equipment.

What Is the Digital Athlete?

With the use of AWS’s technologies, the NFL collects much more data than ever before which can later be applied in a simulation with a strong connection with real-world athletes. AWS is using new technologies that are embedded into the athlete's gear just to collect all the data needed for developing a virtual athlete with the same characteristics as a real player in the league.

They’ve also built a system that by watching NFL games it constantly learns about the sport and collects data that can be very helpful in the future.

With all the data produced by each NFL game, the Digital Athlete algorithm can run infinite simulations of in-game scenarios, just to have a better understanding of how each play impacts player health and safety.

This technology looks for a possible pattern in every game and by collecting the data over a long period of time, the algorithm can generate accurate insights about player health and safety. For example, by analyzing in-game injuries, the AWS algorithm can come up with accurate information about the safety of the gear used in the sport which will open up new paths for improvement.

The Digital Athlete can also help NFL teams to leverage sports science and develop individualized training, unique recovery regimens based on athlete’s characteristics, and even conduct a real-time risk analysis for injury during games just so players can be substituted before getting an injury.

This technology heavily relies on data, which means as time passes, the algorithm will be even more accurate.

Even though health and safety are the primary focus of the Digital Athlete, this technology has a huge and unexplored potential that can revolutionize football forever.

The NFL is one of the first leagues in the world that started using next-gen technologies just to improve the sport even more. We hope that in the future other leagues will join the same quest of making the sport safer and more entertaining to watch by using AI and machine learning.