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NFL partners with Amazon in hopes of reducing injuries

Injuries have always been an unpredictable, yet inevitable, part of sports.

A new partnership between the NFL and Amazon Web Services hopes merging science and technology can help bring a bit more order to that realm.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was in Las Vegas on Thursday to announce the project, saying the league is committed to reimagining the future of the game.

“When we apply next-generation technology to advance player health and safety, everyone wins – from players to clubs to fans,” he said. “The outcomes of our collaboration with AWS – and what we will learn about the human body and how injuries happen – could reach far beyond football. As we look ahead to our next 100 seasons, we’re proud to partner with AWS in that endeavor.”

The plan calls for the NFL to leverage AWS’s technology to better understand when and why injuries happen, utilizing data on rules, speed, equipment, recovery strategies, field conditions and other factors. It will also be beneficial in other areas of the game.

During a question-and-answer session at Venetian, Goodell pointed out how much live broadcasts of the game have benefited from technology. There was a time when there was no time or score on the screen, much less a first-down line super-imposed on the field.

Next-gen stats continue to enhance game broadcasts. This will be the next step in that evolution.

“By leveraging the breadth and depth of AWS services, the NFL is growing its leadership position in driving innovation and improvements in health and player safety, which is good news not only for NFL players, but also for athletes everywhere,” AWS CEO Andy Jassy said. “This partnership represents an opportunity for the NFL and AWS to develop new approaches and advanced tools to prevent injury, both in and potentially beyond football.”

The NFL first partnered with AWS in 2017 to power its Next-Gen Stats. Thursday’s announcement at AWS’ annual re:Invent conference will at first center on creating a simulation system called The Digital Athlete where virtual players can be used to simulate game scenarios millions of times to identify potential health risks.

That simulation will enable the program to simulate infinite scenarios within a game environment without additional risk to athletes. It will apply AWS’s artificial intelligence, machine learning products and computer vision technologies with video feeds, historical data and environmental factors to enhance the league’s understanding of injuries and what causes them.

“The number one priority is to make the game safer for the players,” Goodell said.

The most immediate practical application will be to aid in rehabilitation strategies for injured players with injury prediction a more long-term goal.

Another system is being developed with the goal of better detecting head injuries in real time and increasing the understanding of how to better prevent them.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter. Review-Journal staffer Bailey Schulz contributed to this story. Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

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