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Articles | 15.2.2021

Jyväskylä and Bilbao explore human performance side by side

Athletic Club, the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Jyväskylä and Business Jyväskylä are working towards a common ecosystem for developing performance of athletes. Initially, the collaboration will be based on research, sharing knowledge, and data related to physical performance. The goal is to create new innovations and commercial opportunities for companies in the future.

– Athletic Club is as important player in the Spanish ecosystem as the Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences here in Finland. We have already met the key people in the local start-up community, says the project manager at Business Jyväskylä, Nina Rautiainen.
– Of course, we are both interested in optimizing human performance – they have a stellar football team and a vibrant club, while we have some of the best human performance research and expertise in the world, continues Rautiainen.

Knowledge and technology produce a competitive advantage in performance

Aitor Jiménez, Chief Innovation Officer of Athletic Club, emphasizes that the collaboration will begin with clear and targeted projects with concrete, mutually beneficial goals.

– Our main objective is to combine science, innovation and the action on the playing field. We don’t just want to make players play better. We want to raise the excellence level of the whole game; understanding and sharing how things can be researched and developed: what technology is used, how data is analyzed, how, for example, we can take advantage of GPS trackers or cameras, Jiménez lists.

In the long run, research and innovation collaboration will sustain the success of Athletic Club, both in sports and developing new revenue streams for the club.

World-class injury prevention and treatment from Finland…

Starting out, the practical projects will be related to injury prevention and rehabilitation, the research of which is world-class in Jyväskylä.
– Research collaboration with the University of Jyväskylä is a great opportunity for our club and our medical team to be in contact with one of the best innovation’s hubs in Europe, Jiménez acknowledges.
– In addition to research, we will focus on managing the risk factors that cause injuries to both male and female footballers.

Johanna Ihalainen, Senior Researcher and Doctor of Sports Science at the University of Jyväskylä, is also interested in issues related to the performance of female athletes.

– In recent years, the University of Jyväskylä has conducted extensive research on the health and performance of female athletes, including football players. Our national cooperation with the Research Institute for Olympic Sport (KIHU) and the Finnish Football Association has been successful. I’m confident our international cooperation with Athletic Club will provide new research opportunities with the goal of increasing the number of healthy and injury-free training days for athletes, she says.

Athletic Club has previously utilized mathematical algorithms based on sensors to predict injuries.
– We have two years of test results from our teams, including women’s teams. We will be evaluating the results in the light of our new collaboration, Jiménez promises.

During his visit to Finland before the pandemic, Aitor Jiménez made an observation, which Finns have probably heard before.
– You are good at coming up with innovations, but you also have to know how to sell them, he laughs.

Rautiainen sees a big opportunity here.
– Before long, we will reach a stage in our collaboration where we will need privately developed technology and solutions. There’s a good opportunity here for Finnish businesses to take part in the project with their expertise.

…and top-notch training and field research from Bilbao

Founded over 120 years ago, Athletic Club plays in the top professional division of the Spanish football league, LaLiga. It is also the only top-tier club in the world which has exclusively local players. The club, which relies heavily on the developing of local talent in the area for future players, makes for an interesting research subject, allowing the study of a continuous developing test group from grassroots to professional footballers.
– We are a very successful club with strong partner networks, and we offer great conditions to train and play – like one of the top class stadiums in the world. We can simply provide value that others cannot, Jiménez guarantees.

  • ecosystem
  • performance
  • research
  • University of Jyväskylä

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