The modern footballer is used to being monitored in every minute of every training session; now players at Barcelona are being studied in their sleep in order help maximise performance.
Marta Plana, the Barcelona director responsible for Barça Innovation Hub, spoke to MailOnline about its varied pursuit of advancement in sport – and the project directed at perfecting players’ sleep patterns.
‘Barça Innovation Hub is a laboratory where we can advance knowledge, create technology and foster innovation to improve the performance of the 2,100 athletes at our club,’ Plana said in an interview with MailSport at the Camp Nou.
The Barça Innovation Hub has over 70 scientific research projects ongoing (La Masia pictured)
The Barça Innovation Hub has over 70 scientific research projects ongoing and that includes a six-month investigation into the sleeping patterns of 644 athletes in its various professional and amateur teams – 35 of them in the 18-22 age-range drawn from the club’s professional football teams.
The study will also focus more closely on a selected group of 50 sportsmen and sportswomen within the 644 who will be given ‘smart-shirts’ to wear while they are sleeping that will record sleep quality, heart-rate and breathing.
The idea is to draw conclusions regarding when, where and how best players – who often have to sleep in different conditions at different times because of travelling to and from games – can get their rest.
The hub is in a six-month investigation into the sleeping patterns of 644 athletes in its teams
A string of high profile players have come through La Masia, not to mention Lionel Messi
Barcelona junior team group including Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique and Cesc Fabregas
The club will produce a Sleep Guide at the end of the study, which will put the findings into a series of recommendations for its players.
BARCA INNOVATION HUB – WHAT IS IT?
The Barça Innovation Hub has over 70 scientific research projects ongoing, it’s an added arm to the club to make sure it stays at the cutting edge of modern technology and advancements that can help with sporting success.
In short, it’s ‘a center for sports knowledge and innovation’.
They highlight three main aims:
The club also hopes findings could shed further light on certain heart disorders whose symptoms show up during sleep. ‘The benefits of Barça Innovation Hub should be social as well, to fit the ‘more than a club’ slogan,’ adds Plana.
She says the idea that knowledge garnered then filters out into wider society manifests itself in the Barça Innovation Hub’s education programme that runs seven face-to-face masters courses and also offers online training to 10,000 students from more than 100 countries.
‘The online Masters programme gives students access to the people who are working with Barça Innovation Hub right now on these projects. We want that knowledge sharing and collaboration,’ says Plana.
The club will produce a Sleep Guide at the end of the study. Part of the famous La Masia shown
The vision is of a huge virtual sports laboratory devoted to encouraging the design, testing and development of new ideas will be increasingly easier to get a handle as the two-year-old project starts to mature and throws up more tangible results.
The fields being explored are as diverse as: how to improve the analysis of player data from training sessions and matches; to the development of modern rooftops for new stadiums that change according to weather conditions.
The club is also collaborating with a start-up to develop a potential upgrade on the current GPS vests, players use so that coaches can analyse the ground they have covered and anticipate when they will need to rest to avoid injury.
The new development called WIMU uses a more accurate technology than GPS and so improves the recording and analysis of players’ movement offering better data on metres covered at high speed, the number of accelerations or decelerations and the distance travelled to better inform coaches trying on how to optimise performance.
An under 17 friendly game against a Japaneas team at the academy which also houses players
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And one example of Barça Innovation Hub’s contribution is already very tangible and shows how not all developments have to be related to maximizing performance, winning and losing.
‘Robot Pol’ has been designed to enable sick children, unable to leave their hospital beds, to enjoy a Camp Nou stadium tour experience virtually.
It’s named after a young leukaemia patient ‘Pol’ who before his death featured in a video demonstrating the innovation in practice.
Xavi went through Barcelona’s academy to establish himself as a guaranteed club legend
Plana says of Robot Pol: ‘It enables children who are in hospital and unable to go to the stadium to experience it virtually. Robot Pol shows how these technological advances can be transferred to benefit children who wouldn’t otherwise be able to experience them.’
The Barça Innovation Hub is also being used to contribute to the 600m euros renovation of Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium and surrounding facilities.
The ‘smart stadium’ will have a ‘digital twin’ that will help foretell crowd movements inside the stadium providing information that can later help with evacuation plans in emergency situations or decisions over where best to place facilities.
Plana concludes: ‘It’s the on-going effort to ensure that innovation and technology are a permanent part of this club.’