CA Osasuna currently has several players in the first-team squad who came through the club’s academy in Tajonar, a place that has long and proud history of producing and promoting talent. It is the centre of the club’s sporting growth strategy and as such is an area where significant investment is directed.
Advancements in technology and intelligent innovation are helping clubs to make their academies even more efficient and CA Osasuna has embraced this in a unique way. The ‘Health Academy’ project includes the development of smart shin pads, which will help advance both the performance of youngsters at Tajonar and those in affiliated clubs playing across the Navarra region.
More than 50,000 data readings per player per training session or match
The club began using the shin pads through partnership with Telefónica and with HUMANoX, the startup behind the technology. Speaking about the innovation, CA Osasuna general director Francisco Manuel Canal said: “They are unique because the best GPS tracking devices in football can be integrated into the carbon fibre which offers the highest strength and protection. It is an efficient sporting solution that can be used without any issues in competitive matches, given that it is integrated within the kit itself.”
These are the first intelligent and connected carbon fibre shin pads in the world. As Canal continued: “They can process more than 50,000 data readings per player per training session or match. There are over 40 metrics that are focussed on not only improving sporting performance, but also on looking after players’ health.”
Data on heart rate, speed and acceleration can be generated, while the built-in technology also allows for individual heat maps to be created. Many of the technological capacities of a smartphone are also present in the shin pads and the data generated can be sent to the coaching staff in real time thanks to the machine-to-machine (m2m) connectivity offered by Telefónica.
The commitment to the academy
The shin pads are being rolled out in CA Osasuna’s own academy and at smaller clubs across the region that are partnered with the LaLiga Santander club, meaning more than 16,000 boys and girls will benefit.
There are advantages for the clubs thanks to the sporting feedback that can be provided, while the devices can also closely monitor the players’ health.
As well as tracking vital signs, the shin guards can measure the body temperature of a player through a digital thermometer that tracks the first three minutes of use. This could provide useful information on whether or not a player has signs of fever, which is more important than ever given the COVID-19 health pandemic.
The range of data that can be collected is so extensive that CA Osasuna is now considering extending the project to include the first team and reserve team.
The detection of talent
In terms of detecting talent at youth level, it’s becoming more important than ever before for clubs to make astute decisions, leading more and more sides to incorporate technology and data analytics.
“Our objective is to find the players who truly have what it takes to succeed within our academy and to do so before anybody else, doing so thanks to the intelligent algorithms,” Canal explained. “Our objective is to discover the players who’ll wear the first team shirt in the coming years.”
With this in mind, the club is also developing a personalised platform for data management, helping it to extract further value from the data generated by the shin pads. Elsewhere in the region, the University of Navarra is interested in working with the same technology to carry out studies into how such data could help tackle heart disease, arrhythmia or fever.
As those behind this project introduce the smart shin pads little by little, CA Osasuna will be placed at the forefront of football’s international technological advancement, representing another step forward in the Pamplona club’s modernisation plans.
Looking to the future, Canal believes that other clubs will follow the club down this path. “We’re the first club to have tried this and a significant number will be delivered over the coming weeks so that they can start to be used habitually,” he said. “We’ve learned that there are other clubs considering introducing them too. We’re convinced that they’ll be implemented at a national and international level within a few months.”