Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Cricketers Adopt Guided Missile Maths

Sports scientists have developed an algorithm that borrows from submarine and guided missile technology to reduce injury and improve the performance of fast bowlers playing cricket.

The technology is being used by the Australian Test team as it prepares for the upcoming Sri Lanka tour. It is replacing manual reports of cricketers’ workloads, which only record how many balls a bowler delivers and not the intensity of the effort.

The scientists from the Australian Catholic University have recommended in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (http://tinyurl.com/zlm8ske) that coaches should instead use missile-guiding microtechnology implanted in newly developed wearable devices that would run the algorithms. “These smart algorithms rely on the interaction of the accelero­meters, magneto­meters and gyroscopes housed within the wearable unit – the same technology used to navigate submarines, guided missiles and spacecraft,” says Dr Tim Gabbett.

Co-author Dean McNamara explains that when the algorithm detects a delivery, a measure of bowling intensity could be attached to that individual delivery via the accelerometer and gyroscope technology. “Tagging individual balls with an intensity measure provides both immediate analysis such as identifying effort balls, or potentially a drop in performance due to fatigue, or longer-term workload analysis,” he says.

The sports scientists claim that the system offers a stable measure of bowling load across repeated bowling spells. “Measuring bowling intensity for individual balls or sessions provides context for the acute and chronic workload of the individual bowler, and ultimately the preparedness of the bowler for the maximal workload of the immediate competition,” McNamara says. “Automated measures of bowling workload and intensity provide opportunity to enhance the monitoring of fast bowling preparation for both injury prevention and performance outcomes.”

While the high-tech algorithm-enhanced wearables could be used in professional baseball, rugby union and league, tennis, football and many other sports, cricket’s need for a better measure of athlete workload was pressing due to the sudden popularity of new forms of the game, with elite bowlers required to back up year-on-year without respite. “Arguably, no other professional sport has experienced greater changes in competitive workload demands than cricket over the past 10 years,” Gabbett says.