Sports technology company aims to prevent knee injuries

Application provides data in a controlled environment on how joint is performing

Chris Duke and Micheál Newell are co-founders of Edge Performance Analytics.

Chris Duke and Micheál Newell are co-founders of Edge Performance Analytics.

 

Dr Chris Duke and Dr Micheál Newell are the co-founders of Edge Performance Analytics, a sports technology company focused on athlete limb and specifically knee joint function. This may sound like a niche market, but it’s a potentially lucrative one. In the UK alone knee injuries cost Premier League clubs many millions of pounds during the 2018/2019 season.

“On-pitch functional performance data for the knee has been identified as a key requirement by leading sports physicians and our platform provides it,” says Duke. “Our software technology and proprietary algorithms give a previously unavailable level of data to performance coaches and rehabilitation specialists that can help them make more informed decisions.”

The Edge Performance Analytics platform provides an objective picture in real time of how athletes’ knees function during training or play. Having access to this information makes it easier to monitor, protect and reduce the cost associated with knee injuries says Duke whose company will soft launch its product in the first quarter with a team from the English Premier League.

“At present, the only way coaches can gather data on joint function is to take athletes to an expensive biomechanics lab and run them on a treadmill in front of a high-end motion capture system,” he says. “This provides data on how the knee is performing in a controlled environment but not at the training ground or on the pitch.”

Duke had his Eureka moment for the business when he was learning to play the drums. He wanted to use wearable sensors to measure how his arms and knees were performing to measure his progress, but in conversation with Micheál Newell he realised it wasn’t possible to monitor joint function in real world settings. It dawned on Duke that being able to do so could be of significant value in rehabilitative orthopaedics and having talked it through with medical professionals he began developing the Edge Performance Analytics platform on a part-time basis five years ago.

Originally, the focus was knee rehabilitation following replacement surgery. However, on advice received during participation in the NUIG-based BioExel MedTech Accelerator, the company pivoted towards a sports application as it’s a quicker route to market. But the plan is to develop the system into a full medical device. At present, its function is information gathering rather than diagnostic.

Duke has a PhD in physical anthropology and geographical information systems and a technical background in systems development, particularly in healthcare settings. Newell is a sports and exercise scientist with 15 years’ experience in lifestyle medicine and is also director of postgraduate programmes in Medical Science at NUI Galway.

The company’s technology comprises two unobtrusive sensors worn above and below the knee on each leg. They are Bluetooth connected to an arm hub that relays data to a dashboard via the cloud. This allows coaching staff to monitor a player’s range of movement and acceleration compared with their normal profile and adjust their training or playing load as needed. If an anomaly is detected, the system automatically sends an alert. For example, a player holding back or hyperextending.

The sensors are easily attached with tape, do not require precise anatomical positioning and will work across a range of sports. However, the company’s initial target market will be elite soccer teams who will pay an annual subscription to use the system.

Total investment to date in hard cash is about €160,000 (five years’ sweat equity is unquantifiable, says Duke) including support from Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund and BioExel and the company will be moving into fundraising mode later this year to build the business.

“Our solution overlaps two very buoyant markets – wearable sensors and performance analytics,” says Duke. “Our technology will be pivotal to the next generation of sports performance analytics, particularly in the quantified athlete and quantified health markets.”

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