As President & CEO of MuscleSound, Andy Jackson is among an elite group of execs who are at the foreground of innovation in sports medicine. Through cutting-edge software and technology, MuscleSound helps athletes reach their Optimal MuscleHealth and recover faster. Mr. Jackson sat down with Direct Interface Founder Kevin Jordan to share insights on how the company is changing the game.
Tell me about some of your past experiences.
Prior to my current role as CEO of MuscleSound, I was the CEO of a wearable tech company called CloudTag. It was a medical grade rehabilitative project that I ran for two and a half years that was also listed on the London Stock Exchange. Prior to that I ran an international distribution company that sold products in 50-plus countries in relations to sports and health & fitness clubs.
As an organization, what are some of MuscleSound’s capabilities?
In essence, we are the MuscleHealth company. So our focus is, if I can give you an example; a lot of our sports teams and people we are concentrating on what the athletes do, through tracking GPS data and through the analysis of heart rate data. They are tracking two main things: what their players do in terms of load or distance and how intense, how hard they’re doing that, and how they plan around that. Here at MuscleSound we look at what actually happens to the athlete/player within the very fabric of their muscle. We look at a series of MuscleHealth measurements via a portable Ultrasound. We can then help the coach to plan and focus on more effective recovery, readiness for the next game or event. So, for example, we were working with one of the MLB teams on rehab, looking at managing players back to Optimal readiness. For example, a player may have a soft-tissue injury and we’ll manage them back to full health. We accomplish that by knowing their baselines within pre-season training or manage the injured limb back up to the healthy limb. How can you truly tell if they are fully healthy, by measuring their MuscleHealth step by step through the treatment phase.
From the nutritional side, for example, we had a linebacker from a famous NFL team who came into last year’s training camp and he was around 25% of where he needed to be in terms of fuel levels. So we were able to change his diet through training camp and get him back up to his optimal levels. That was readiness uniquely for him.
>> MuscleHealth is “the capacity of a muscle to store, generate, and replenish energy.” Click to learn more about this unique concept developed by MuscleSound (PDF). <<
We work with an NFL team every Friday afternoon and we look at all of their players. We look at where they are according to their baselines, to see if they’re ready to go on Sunday. If they’re not ready to go on Sunday, we can then make changes in the next 48 hours leading up to game day, whether that’s diet, sleep, whatever it is. So, we’re their MuscleHealth analytics company. We can measure muscle fuel, fuel ratings to compare where you are to other athletes, muscle balance assessment (right to left), and perform strategies around looking at your body composition to see if you’re at the right composition relative to body fat, diet fat, and muscle quality.
I have always been a critic of companies that claim to prevent injury, that is simply not possible as there are too many factors that influence the chances of injury. We do however claim that we’re part of looking at the process that minimizes the chances of injury.
We work with several of the Olympic teams and we actually go in and work with them throughout the lead up to the next Olympics. We work with some of the MLS teams but most of the time we train their athletic directors, sports medicine, doctors and physical therapists to be able to use our system because we cannot be there 24/7. It’s pretty easy to train. We can train them in one day to use our system. We have a few assessments; they just have to learn how to run the assessments. Everything is cloud based so the results of the data come down within seconds from the cloud to give them the information they need to make instant actionable decisions to help their players.
We are very much about reassessing, and if the coaches find an issue or problem, they will work with the athlete directly, they know the players better than we do, and the best interventions they can use to fix the problem. It may be, for example, that their fuel scores are really low, maybe the players are not sleeping. The athletic directors that have a good relationship with their players are better at having a look at the ideal stepps to help improve that….What is he eating before he goes to sleep? What are the issues around the lack of sleep? And then the next step is to reassess that player that did those interventions, to see if they actually work? So we’re very much into assessments, interventions, we will give advice to athletic directors and physical therapists about potential interventions, but most of the time they know what to do and then you reassess to see if they’re ready healthy enough and ready to go.
The main thing is to understand that this data is there to facilitate support of health and not to judge performance. We’re looking inside the muscle. We’re not just looking at what the body did, how far did it run, how long it went and how hard it went. We’re looking at what were the effects of that.
What would you say is the trajectory of the industry currently?
I think what is happening when you look at it purely from a league sports angle, what people are doing is starting to look at the data from a player care perspective, rather than look at it from the point of view of a big stick to drive performance. Our data is completely different to other sports data. In US sports the Unions are questioning the GPS data because, ultimately, if you measure players by how far they run and how hard they work, it does not necessarily mean they’re going to be the best performer within that particular sport.
So, what I think is happening with the data now, would be like saying, Player X, this is to help you be at your optimal readiness, to know what that level is, so that when something does go wrong, you can use this data to manage you back up. So that you don’t go too early overtraining or you don’t do something unintentional when you’re not ready to. Its all about Player care for Optimal performance.
Are there any gaps you’re observing?
Challenges—this is really interesting. The whole concept of analyzing and looking at someone’s muscle health is really something that is quite new. People always talk about probability rate, so what we’ve been doing with one of the athletes who is quite well-known for the Colorado Rockies, we’ve been working with him for four years. He has not had a soft-tissue injury for over the last two and a half years, and we know from looking at all sorts of information with this athlete. The challenge is getting the other teams to understand that there is no short-term fix in these situations. You have to look after your players, look at their pre-season training. You have to educate the players as well as the coaches. You can’t tell them what to do. You have to show them the benefits of looking inside their muscles on a regular basis. You have to treat them as individuals and not like everybody’s the same. And then you will get some responses. So to summarize, treat them like individuals. Show them that it’s about care of body. Get them to understand the care of their muscle health.
What are three emerging trends that you’re following and why?
1. The Culmination of data to paint a picture of: is that player ready or have they recovered is going to be a big key trend. So it is not just looking at one key piece of data, it will be a combination of data. Just like you get your medical records done in healthcare, you don’t just get cholesterol levels, hip-waist ratio and other bio-markers, you’ll listen to your heart etc. It’s the same thing with player care. No one company’s technology is going to be the winner in this. In fact, the key trend should be that they partner with various companies to create that overall perspective of the athlete’s health, wealth, fitness, muscle health etc. will be the one that wins.
2. Looking inside the muscle rather than looking purely at what someone did. Looking purely at their data, what they did and how hard they did it is not an individualized approach. You have to look inside the muscle to see the state of health. Certain players can go harder for longer and other players need more rest and more time to recover and perform at a high level.
3. Learn to use the data to make the right interventions. Do not fear the data but use it for a particular purpose along with the education of the athletes is paramount.