The NFL Will Use AI to Reduce Head Injuries

The most valuable league in the world is enlisting AWS technology to better predict head trauma ways to prevent it.

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Need to Know

  • The National Football League has partnered with cloud provider AWS to implement AI practices into injury-prevention tactics.
  • Using machine learning, the NFL hopes that AWS will be able to better equip the league to implement change in the helmet industry.
  • Despite the high number of head injuries reported in the sport, knee injuries take the prize as the most common American football injury.
  • The NFL is the most popular spectator sport in the US.

Analysis

Combining science with decades of learning, the NFL hopes that its new AWS partnership will help reduce major head injuries commonly suffered in the NFL. 

“We’re excited to announce a new strategic partnership together, which is going to combine cloud computing, machine learning and data science to work on transforming player health and safety,” said AWS CEO Andy Jassy at the recent re:Invent conference. 

As a full-contact sport, the NFL is not without its share of injuries. A 2017 study found that 100 out of 111 deceased NFL players had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease caused by repeated head injuries. Despite this number, the NFL claims reported player concussions dropped by 29 percent in the 2018 regular playing season, a statistic that can always stand to be lower. 

Jeff Miller, executive VP for health and safety innovation for the NFL, said the partnership is just part of the initiative the NFL has taken to find ways to reduce head injuries that occur during play.

“About three and a half years ago the NFL started a project called ‘The Engineering Roadmap’, which was a multibillion-dollar effort supported by our owners to better understand the impact of concussions on the field, then design ways to mitigate those injuries and move the helmet industry forward,” Miller said at the press conference. 

The NFL will use AWS’ platforms to analyze the vast amount of data the league has collected. Decades of video and player medical records will allow AWS, and its SageMaker toolset to create simulations and understand who is getting injured and why. Making sense of the data and producing safer outcomes with data learning is just the first step. Next, that data and helmet improvement recommendations are shared with the helmet industry to help them build better helmets.

To incentivize better protection, the NFL created a $3 million helmet challenge, where winning helmet designs have a crack at prize and grant money.

“I think what’s most exciting to me is that there are very few relationships that we get involved with where the partner and the NFL can change the game,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

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