How PT expert Davis is using analytics to help young athletes avoid injury

Safer sports

Local physical therapy and sports rehab guru Dr. Andrea Davis wasn’t pleased at all to get news that a young baseball pitcher she’d worked with throughout his high school stardom had torn a muscle in his arm within the first week of going away to play college baseball.

But, it was, for her, a sign that all the testing and injury prevention work she had done four years before — throughout which the player had never missed playing time — can be a difference-maker.

It’s also just further motivation to continue growing a new data-driven spinoff to her long-running Davis Physical Therapy and Sports Rehab practice. After recently doubling her company’s footprint with a new facility, Davis this fall also introduced a standalone business called Analytics for Athletes that shares the same base of operations.

Dr. Andrea Davis. (File photo)

Through that entity, Davis is pairing digital innovation with wearable technologies to quantify the agility and strength metrics of athletes in baseball, basketball, football, track and field and other sports. Importantly for her, it’s also taking some of the guesswork out of helping athletes avoid hurting themselves, particularly from repetitive stress injuries common across all sports.

Out of a 5,000-square-foot Medford complex that once served as an apothecary, Analytics for Athletes is running half-hour tests of athletes on-site with several different large movement-tracking devices and then using data from that to identify weaknesses and deficiencies, both in competitive performance and potential for injury.

Division I collegiate sports programs may have something like that. Professional sports teams also give athletes access to similar screenings, although she has worked in the past with Olympic athletes that hadn’t been exposed to it. For the general population, however, there’s very little access to innovations that can map an athlete’s movement patterns and identify where they might have injury risk, Davis said.

Davis gave the example of how gauging hip strength can help determine an athlete’s control on their knee positioning, and thus find out whether they’re at risk of an ACL rupture. Those injuries are on the rise among young athletes, said Davis, who is currently rehabbing a 12-year-old with an ACL tear.

“It’s very sad to have a 12-year-old having surgery and dealing with the impact of being removed from sport as well as not functioning as normally,” she said. “That’s hard enough for an adult, let alone a teenager. I’ve seen it time and time again and thought, ‘Why isn’t anyone doing anything about this?’”

Making the insights in preventing sports injuries available to the general public through school districts is something that Davis feels is a “moral obligation.” So, one of her primary goals for the future is getting more schools on board, having them tap into available grant dollars and doing these screenings for young athletes across New Jersey.

It’s a work in progress. School districts are notoriously hard to get into, Davis said. Coaches and athletic directors are often all for it; but superintendents and school boards … not always.

But, she believes she has a good case study at Burlington Township High School, where they’ve seen a 20% reduction in non-contact injuries through a partnership with Davis Physical Therapy.

“So, again, that’s something we’d like to see grow,” she said. “And we’d also like to continue to partner with sports clubs and organizations locally to adopt this.

“I’m optimistic we’ll get there. A year from now, I’m hopeful we’ll have experienced significant growth in this area.”