October 23, 2020

    Embracing Change at an Established D1 Powerhouse

    The Challenge

    The Pac-12 is historically known for being one of the powerhouse conferences for NCAA baseball and continues to produce top Major League talent. The Pac 12 conference has produced four out of the last nine number 1 overall draft picks in the and has the most college world series championships in history. The Sun Devils of Arizona State University are no exception, as they recently generated the number 1 overall pick in the MLB draft and have the fourth most college world series appearances all time.

    Like many well established programs, ASU baseball had been operating under a more traditional model of reacting to injuries and implementing a return to play protocol but felt they had developed a sound program with relatively good alignment within each department. When approached with the Sparta Science System, there was a natural hesitation for change.

    After dealing with high injury rates, the staff identified an opportunity for improvement utilizing technology to enhance their existing methodology and preparation strategies. The staff tracked KPIs such as the number of injuries, DL days, surgeries, and MRIs throughout the year but was lacking the modifiable leading indicators that affect the outcome of these particular KPIs.

    The Solution

    An initial misunderstanding was the assumption that to utilize Sparta Science they must operate under strict parameters and prescriptions set by the Sparta Science System, taking away their autonomy and ability to apply their own expertise. During the on-site installation of the Sparta Science System, the ASU staff welcomed the fact that this technology was a complement to their existing approach, and not a replacement. After the initial on-boarding, the ASU strength and conditioning and medical staffs quickly realized the Sparta System provides them the necessary data to make individual adjustments while fitting within their current system.

    “It’s natural human instinct to stick to what works. But I think I’ve learned that if you’re not constantly looking to change and evolve and really tweak your program to get better, you’re going to get left behind.”

    — Jason Robbins, Head Baseball Strength and Conditioning Coach

    While the performance staff uses the Jump Scan to focus on the biggest “bang for your buck” portions of the program and make customizations depending on the individual, the medical staff prioritizes the Plank Scan and Balance Scan to evaluate athletes’ proprioception, global stability, and identify deficiencies throughout the kinetic chain. If an athlete scores below a specific threshold, the staff assigns supplemental programs which are completed on their own in the training room, before on-field workouts, post-weight room sessions, or during their personal time. Upon re-evaluation, the staff reassesses using the Plank and Balance to check progress and make the necessary adjustments. This feedback loop creates accountability and has led to consistent results in reducing injuries, DL days, surgeries, and MRIs.

    “After so many injuries in the 2015-16 year and 2016-17 year, it just got to the point where I was tired of rehabbing all the time…if I can prevent the hamstrings, the low back injuries, the shoulder injuries, and the elbow injuries, those are the main targets for this. So since 2017, we’ve decreased our injury rate from 70% down to 30%.”

    — Jesse Lowman, Head Baseball Athletic Trainer 
    Tag(s): Sparta Science

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