The Newry-based company behind the 'Player Proximity' white paper that provided detail of contact between Premier League players ahead of a return to training this week hopes to be soon in a position to provide similar information to its GAA clients.
Statsports, which numbers All-Ireland football and hurling champions Dublin and Tipperary among the counties they provide GPS software to, enabling them to track player movement and output, were able to establish from training data in the lead-up to suspension of activity in March how many average contacts there were in practice sessions and how long they lasted.
By creating two-metre zones around players they were monitoring they could gauge the number of 'incursions' made by other players into those circles and time them, establishing that the average 'incursion' was 3.3 seconds, less than what the perception around it would have been.
The research was led by former Cavan senior footballer Barry Watters, a graduate of DCU who is now head of sports science with Statsports. Watters said the company have been in contact with some GAA teams they work with in an effort to build a contact picture.
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Statsports provide software for 15 Premier League clubs and also have European soccer, rugby and US sports clientele. The information they provided to clubs was also presented to the Premier League.
The 3.3 second average in soccer is well outside the length of proximity experts say is required to contract Covid-19. In many cases, the incursion in to the circles were below a second.
But the company say their information is only a guide that may help in putting training drills together.
"By no means are we, as a company, trying to give health advice," added Watters. "We are trying to give an insight into what normally happens - and if there is any way at all that can be modified.
"We are trying to analyse league games where the two teams have both been wearing our devices. Then we can compare every player to every other player on their team, and on the other team as well, just to see how that looks," said Watters, adding that it helped that most teams played 15 versus 15 in training games.
Gaelic games and soccer are fundamentally different where player engagement is concerned, with man-marking much more prevalent in Gaelic games.
Statsports were able to use tools that allowed them to create these virtual perimeters around players for its white paper on soccer, taking data from 11 training sessions at four clubs between February 25 and March 12.
"We have a GPS sensor, an accelerometer sensor, gyroscope sensor and a magnetometer but what we were looking to use in this case was the GPS sensor - because that gives us longitude and latitude 10 times a second, sampled at 10 hertz," explained Watters.
"So every tenth of a second you get that reading.
"Our chief technical officer Arthur McMahon then pulled together a tool built in Python pandas, just for data analysis and really good with time-series data.
"All the data that is coming in for the latitude and longitude is in time series, so what we wanted to do was feed every player that trained into it and then create a two-metre radius around that player for the whole session and count was how many times did another player make an incursion into that two-metre circle and how long did it last for."
With set pieces the circle incursions lasted longer, driving up the averages considerably.
"In our incursions, there may nor may not be actual contact. They may just be the two circles intersecting or they may actually be two players making contact with each other," added Watters.
"We probably could go a step further and distinguish that, based off the accelerometer information, to see impacts as they come into contact. We can't account for (transmission of) sweat or saliva, obviously."
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