Liverpool have ingeniously been getting ahead of the game with injury prevention methods this season by using cutting-edge technology to aid Jurgen Klopp and his staff in their rest and rotation of players.
The Reds – who are still striving for an unprecedented Quadruple – were riddled with injuries which derailed their 2020-21 campaign but are now taking advantage of computer algorithms from a Silicon Valley company.
Artificial intelligence organization Zone7 have created the tool which allows staff to detect injury risk throughout the season and then recommend appropriate responses to the physical condition of a particular player.
Jurgen Klopp and his staff are using artificial intelligence to help with their rotation policy
The Reds have won two out of two this season as they strive for an unprecedented Quadruple
As detailed by The Telegraphthe Reds have cut their number of lost days to injury by more than a third despite playing a maximum of 63 matches in what could still prove to be a historic campaign.
HOW LIVERPOOL HAVE TURNED AROUND INJURY FORTUNES
Total days lost to injury
- 2020-21 – 1,531
- 2021-22 – 1,008
A decrease by 33 per cent
Days lost from substantial injury
- 2020-21 – 1,409
- 2021-22 – 841
A decrease by 40 per cent
NOTE: Substantial injury is one which keeps a player out of action for longer than nine days
Source: PREMIER INJURIES, via The Telegraph
It goes further, saying that Liverpool will continue to use the tool for another two seasons, with the Under-23s and women’s sides also reaping the benefits.
Chief executive and founder of Zone7 Tal Brown told The Telegraph: ‘Football has become very data rich and, if you can extract deep value from the data, then you can have a competitive advantage.
‘This is already very well established in the area of talent identification, and it is now starting to happen in measuring and trying to optimize player wellbeing and performance.
The software can simulate optimal scenarios on a day-by-day basis so that the players are trending towards their peak and injury risk is minimized.
‘Sometimes risk may mean a reduction in workload – less running of a specific type like sprinting. Sometimes a player can be undertrained and additional work may be required.’
The AI tool evaluates various factors relating to player performance, such as strength, sleep, flexibility and stress signals.
This, combined with numerical information on minutes played, creates ‘risk signals’, with the intention of lowering injury rates by anticipating a potential knock before it happens.
Brown explains further: ‘The software can simulate optimal scenarios on a day-by-day basis so that the players are trending towards their peak and injury risk is minimized.
Virgil van Dijk suffered a season-ending injury in a collision with Jordan Pickford in 2020
The likes of Fabinho also picked up injuries as Klopp’s squad was stretched thin in 2020-21
LIVERPOOL’S SEASON BREAKDOWN
Premier League – 37 games (1 to come)
Champions League – 12 games (1 to come)
FA Cup – 6 games
Carabao Cup – 6 games
TOTAL – 61 games (2 to come)
‘Sometimes risk may mean a reduction in workload – less running of a specific type like sprinting.
‘Sometimes a player can be undertrained and additional work may be required.’
Liverpool’s defense of their first Premier League title last season was curtailed by injuries, particularly in central defence.
Whilst Virgil van Dijk suffered a season-ending injury in a collision with Jordan Pickford in October 2020, the likes of Joel Matip, Joe Gomez, Fabinho and Thiago all struggled with muscle injuries throughout the course of the season, leaving Klopp’s options in the back -line thin.
Two center backs were brought in in January – Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies – whilst Under-23 center back Rhys Williams was also drafted into the first-team picture.
Yet this season, the Reds have been bolstered in their pursuit of a perfect campaign by a near-fully fit squad capable of competing over nine months.
Zone7’s technology – as of March 2020 – can detect, they believe, 70 per cent of injuries up to seven days before they occur, pinpointing factors such as game load and injury.
Despite the obvious correlation between a heavy match load, analysis also shows the risk of injuries with too much rest or time off the pitch.
Stars Trent Alexander-Arnold and Sadio Mane have been rested when necessary this season
Klopp has had a big squad to call upon, with Thiago and Diogo Jota among those to flourish
And the Reds medical and sports science department have communicated these findings back to Klopp and assistant Pep Lijnders, who are then able to make more informed decisions regarding team selection.
The Reds’ dependence on their squad has been key to their campaign. For example, Klopp made nine changes from the FA Cup triumph against Chelsea for the 2-1 win against Southampton on Tuesday, in a match the Reds dominated even with a second-string squad.
Hailing a line-up comprised predominantly of fringe players, Klopp said: ‘I’m so happy with the performance, it’s quite touching. It’s like, wow, these boys – it’s like having Ferraris in the garage.
Klopp lauded his ‘Ferraris in the garage’ after Liverpool’s 2-1 win away at Southampton
A much-changed Reds side ensured the title race will go down to the wire by beating Saints
‘You let them out and they do it like this. Harvey [Elliott]I’m not sure the last time he played, Curtis [Jones] no rhythm, he has only played from time to time, Takumi Minamino, it is a crime he is not playing more often. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain did not even play and he is in outstanding shape.
‘It is really tough for the boys sometimes. Whatever happens this year happens because of this group. They are exceptional and they have showed that again.
“Incredible performance. Making nine changes, if it didn’t work out it was my responsibility, but now it did, it’s 1000 per cent the boys’ responsibility.’
With at least two more seasons of using Zone7 throughout the entire club, who knows how much longer Liverpool’s period of dominance can last as they look to unearth the very best modern technology can offer for professional sports teams.