“WHOOP and MLB Announce Findings of Largest Performance Study Ever Conducted in Professional Sports.”
On my first day at WHOOP, in the midst of filling out HR paperwork and getting my new computer set up, my boss grabbed me on his way into a meeting and said “Hey, I think you might enjoy sitting in on this.”
Before it even began, the lifelong baseball fan in me was already taken aback by the office board room overlooking Fenway Park. What followed captivated my mind and piqued my excitement about the possibilities of working for WHOOP. In the meeting, our data scientists revealed their recent discoveries from a study conducted with Major League Baseball to a team of public relations professionals.
This past season, 230 athletes spanning 28 minor league clubs from 9 different organizations took part in the WHOOP MLB Performance Study in what would be the largest performance study ever conducted by a professional sports league. Players who participated wore the WHOOP Strap for all activities (including sleep) except for games. As the WHOOP homepage states, “You’re not an athlete 3 hours a day. You’re an athlete 24/7.” By monitoring players during those other 21 hours per day, WHOOP acquired massive amounts of quantifiable data regarding their Strain, Sleep and Recovery.
Among other things, teams were able to assess the sleep efficiency of their players, analyze their pre-game Recovery, understand the effects of travel, and even compare WHOOP data with reported injuries.
The future implications as to what WHOOP can do for MLB teams and players are eye-opening. Here are just a few of the highlights extrapolated from the data collected:
On average, starting pitchers body’s require 3 full days to completely recover. Traditionally, pitchers are given 4 days off between starts to ensure that their throwing arms are well rested. Could WHOOP help managers determine which pitchers are more capable of performing on short rest in key situations?
Even though it’s a limited sample size, there looks to be a distinct relationship between WHOOP Recovery and reported injuries:
As can be seen in the above chart, injuries occurred when recoveries were lower.
MLB players are often given days off to rest over the course of a season. WHOOP Recovery can be a useful tool for managers in determining when to sit their guys as a method of injury prevention. Aging veterans might benefit from WHOOP in this manner to stay healthy and extend their careers.
Data also showed that it takes players roughly 2 days to return to their Recovery baselines after traveling, when they often get less sleep. Maybe sending upcoming starting pitchers home early from road trips (or away in advance of the team) is a wise move?
One player using WHOOP decided to quit drinking alcohol altogether after gaining a deeper understanding of its effect on his body. Many others noted significant improvements in cardiovascular fitness as well.
And how about this: The study indicates that with further research, there’s a good chance WHOOP Recovery can be directly linked to a pitcher’s potential fastball speed, as well as the velocity of the ball when it comes of a hitter’s bat.
This is just the beginning of what WHOOP can tell us.
The introductory quote at the top of the page is the headline of a press release that went out this morning from National Harbor, MD, home of the 2016 MLB Winter Meetings. Last Friday, WHOOP presented the results of the study at the meetings, speaking specifically to the medical staffs and strength and conditioning coaches from all 32 teams.
“I’m impressed with Major League Baseball’s commitment to innovation and their data-driven approach to understanding the rigors of the professional season. The initial findings of this study confirm the need for continuous physiological monitoring in professional sports, including in-game monitoring to improve player health and safety,” said Will Ahmed, WHOOP Founder and CEO. “By conducting the largest performance study ever in any U.S. professional sports league, WHOOP has set the foundation for future research that will empower baseball organizations to think differently about the traditional constructs of the game related to managing rosters, lineups and pitching rotations. The teams that embrace this culture of performance-enhancing data will have a distinct advantage.”
Over the next several days, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at many of the specific findings from the study in a Special Report here on The Locker. Stay tuned.
Part 1: Effects of Travel
Part 2: Athletes in the Outfield