Elite athletes rarely suffer for a lack of data these days, but the inputs and insights are either available in disparate sources or stored away in a team-operated athlete management system —meaning the intel may or may not be readily accessible to an athlete, especially after he or she moves to another franchise.
Orreco, whose heritage as a sport science company is in analyzing blood biomarkers, has expanded its scope in recent years and this week launched @thlete, a data and content app designed to empower the athlete. By pulling in a wide array of data sources—everything from wearable devices to practice, game and travel schedules—@thlete centralizes all of that information and provides AI-powered recommendations.
“It’s a one–stop shop for elite athletes, helping them to make the decision about the next best action for them to optimize the performance for today,” Orreco CEO and co-founder Dr. Brian Moore said during a SportTechie Live panel to launch the product. He added, “If your team has an AMS, then we’re the next step in terms of making that actionable and, equally, as an athlete, we’re also here to help you curate your own data set.”
That helps the athlete to monitor progress, improve results and also keep a data record both for general health and as a potential commercial asset. Todd Ramasar, the founder and CEO of Life Sports Agency, discussed the need for this longitudinal tracking of an athlete’s data.
“It’s not just performance optimization, it’s overall wellbeing,” said Ramasar, who has dozens of pro basketball clients including Toronto Raptors star Pascal Siakam, Golden State Warriors center Kevon Looney and retired All-Star Baron Davis. “Every organization is a different company—the way they collect data, or the systems they use are different from one organization to the next.”
While the functionality centers on maximizing an athlete’s performance, there are additional integrations to send food orders to a chef (and, in the NBA Bubble, to order delivery from a local restaurant) to meet certain nutritional needs and to tokenize data on the blockchain for participation in the web3 economy. Moore has joked that it’s the only in which the user can analyze a blood sample, order a salad and mint an NFT.
“The only real limit,” he said, “is the questions that you want to ask.”
The app tries to address what Moore referred to as the four T’s: training, tactics, transfers (i.e. player value for trades)
The @thlete app focuses on athlete wellbeing.
and tokens. In other words, it’s not limited to information just about the athlete’s own work, but it can pull in player tracking data (such as from Second Spectrum) to give analysis about an upcoming opponent the athlete will match up against. Natural language processing in @thlete can help glean insight from text or other unstructured data.
Moore said he distrusts experts who claim to have all the answers. Orreco’s ethos is reflective of a scientist—his staff includes 17 Ph.D.’s who have authored 300 academic papers—that is skeptical by nature. The goal is to personalize training plans based on the athlete’s data and only offer suggestions when there’s a reason for them.
“As a sports scientist at the start of my career, if you want to tell a pro athlete, ‘Go to bed earlier, eat more vegetables and don’t drink beer’—that gets old quickly,” Moore said. “So if you’re going to give an athlete a suggestion, there needs to be evidence behind it.”
Modern pro athletes tend to have large support staffs around them. Those that play team sports will have receive treatment and advice from the coaching staff, a sport scientist, an athletic trainer, a physiotherapist, a nutritionist and more—all while most employ their own fitness trainer, skills coach and others for their offseason work and for third-party guidance throughout the year. Keeping everyone working toward the athlete’s best interest was a challenge to manage.
“You had all these independent, autonomous parts that were servicing the client in the middle, but no one was communicating to each other,” Ramasar said, repeating his old adage, “An offseason dictates the in–season for an athlete.”
With @thlete, users can share data how they wish, and Moore said Orreco is planning a team-facing app later in the year.
The immediacy of feedback is important. Ramasar bemoaned the idea of annual assessments to drive decisions. After all, every athlete can evolve in a year, especially his younger clients who are still teenagers. Their maturation is acute; aging from 19 to 20 represents 5% of his life.
As a sports scientist at the start of my career, if you want to tell a pro athlete, ‘Go to bed earlier, eat more vegetables and don’t drink beer’—that gets old quickly. So if you’re going to give an athlete a suggestion, there needs to be evidence behind it.
— Orreco CEO & founder Dr. Brian Moore
Orreco’s bedrock remains its blood analysis, with many of its pros in the English Premier League receiving finger pricks once or twice a week with larger blood draws once a quarter. Results are available in minutes.
“It had to be as close as we could to real-time,” Moore said. “If you’re looking at blood test results from three or four days ago, it’s a different athlete in front of you.”
Ramasar likens the @thlete app to a car dashboard that lets drivers know if everything is running smoothly or alerts them if there’s an issue. Moore furthered the analogy by saying the granular data enables users to ask not just, “How many miles have you traveled?” but “How have you driven to get to that point?”
“Sometimes athletes can get hurt early in their return to training into the season,” Moore said. “It’s often because they have put themselves through huge loads because the athletes are so wired to overreach. We can teach them or help them with data to show them when to back off. Or other times just say, ‘Go absolutely smash it.’ You don’t want the data to be holding you back either.”