How tech can help translate new healthcare guidance for a wider audience

How tech can help translate new healthcare guidance for a wider audience

Technology has rapidly developed in the last ten years, with it never being more accessible – especially within education. Damian Smith, Chief Technology Officer, Podium Analytics, speaks to us about how the company is helping schools regulate injuries in sport across the UK by logging data.

Picture the scene: a wet, windy football pitch. You are coaching the under-12s. You’re not quite sure why. It’s a combination of being a parent to one of the players, turning up every week and your inability to say ‘no’ when asked for a small amount of your time. Eleven players have turned up – just enough to field a full team. You know that a couple of players have minor injuries and should really be sitting this one out, but doing so will mean that the game will have to be cancelled and no one will get to play.

Your club has a trained volunteer first-aider but they haven’t turned up today. Luckily, you are also a trained first aider – something that you don’t quite recall volunteering for but you gained the qualification and now find yourself on various lists to assist at football matches.  The good thing is that this means that, when two players collide heads early on in the first half, you know what to do. However, not everyone is as prepared as you. Most people involved in community sports are volunteers like you, but the economics of sports clubs means that not every volunteer can be trained in first aid.

There is no shortage of information about what to do in the case of concussion but is it trustworthy? I write as someone who can catch an illness from a health podcast. Critical thinking is increasingly a skill required to engage with the modern world. We need to identify fake news and conspiracy theory, spot a hallucination in a ChatGPT response; we need to resist the lure of the simple and elegant explanation.

H.L. Mencken said: “There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat; plausible and wrong.” But how are we able to keep up to date with the latest medical advice if we don’t read long academic journals or policy documents? How much of this advice is grounded in proper, well-founded research? Whom do we trust to curate and filter this information and provide it to us in bite-sized, digestible form?

At Podium Analytics, when it comes to sports injuries, we recognise that there are pockets of expertise that do not cascade to the grassroots where 99% of sport is played. At an elite level, we tend to be brilliant at putting injured athletes back together again – but for the 25.5 million recreational players, we are not so good. Injuries that occur in community sport – unless they are serious enough to require a visit to the Emergency Room – rarely even warrant a visit to a family doctor. There is a complete black hole when it comes to data and information about recreational and youth sports injuries. This includes the numbers and types of injuries but also the time taken to recover from the injury and any long-term effects of those injuries.

A combination of consumer technology and rigorous academic research is one possible answer. We have seen the benefits of digital solutions first-hand during the pandemic, such as the mass adoption of video conferencing tools to enable families and employees to stay connected. That has been accelerating ever since as we seek ways to safely integrate, analyse and visualise data, with rarely a day going by without another technological success story.  However, these are balanced by an equal and opposite number of stories about the dangers of the unregulated use of technology, the misuse of sensitive data and the promulgation of misinformation.

Additionally, the benefit of a technology-based approach is that we have methodologies and frameworks that address exactly the challenges we are facing. Cybersecurity is one such problem, and the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) Cybersecurity Framework – a US standard – is an approach that is globally recognised and adopted. It’s built upon five core functions:

  1. Identify
  2. Protect
  3. Detect
  4. Respond
  5. Recover


From a Podium perspective, ‘Identify’ is all about identifying what injuries are happening, counting and classifying them and then prioritising those injuries. After all, people will always get injured playing sport. What we are concerned with is identifying those wounds and the ones that prevent people from participating in sports for a lifetime.


When we talk about ‘Protect’, we are thinking about using existing or new academic research to determine what can be done to protect players and prevent injuries. This can be either through new or modified equipment, changing rules and formats, enhancing coaching, providing interventions and/or improving pitch-side protocols.


Detect is concerned with methods of actually detecting and diagnosing injuries. This includes creating new tests, tools and algorithms for volunteers to identify when a particular injury has occurred. In other words, taking the subjectivity out of the decision to remove a player and seek help.


Respond, for Podium, places the correct tools and information into the hands of the volunteer or teacher to enable them to have the confidence to act appropriately when faced with an injury. The UK Government’s new concussion guidelines are one such tool.


Recover is probably the most important step. In the context of cybersecurity, it is concerned with the recovery of an organisation to normal operation after an attack. From a Podium perspective, this is all about managing and tracking the return to function and eventual return to play for a player.

Technology is not a panacea though. Technology projects make a lot of assumptions. They tend to solve problems for 80% of the target audience. It is easy to assume that everyone has access to a smartphone, the Internet, or that data is sharable from one platform to another.

At Podium we work with a broad spectrum of every kind of school. We are very conscious that we work with some incredibly well-resourced independent schools with their own Directors of Sport, their own physiotherapists, strength and conditioning coaches and nutritionists. However, we also work with state-funded schools in some of the most deprived areas of the country, where all sport is extra-curricular.

In these schools, one challenge we didn’t foresee was regard to parental consent. In certain families, parents may neither know nor care where their children are. The other challenge was around access to technology. Not everyone has access to the Internet or a smartphone.  In some particularly tragic circumstances, the home situation was so desperate for some that it was more important to sell the laptop to get money for food than it was for the child to participate in online lessons.

Digital poverty is not limited to our school participants. Volunteers in clubs are often passionate advocates of their sport from older demographics. They often have no access to technology. Many readers will recognise my situation where my ageing parents have no digital footprint at all and are finding it increasingly difficult to engage with the modern world.

There are undoubted benefits in bringing consumer technology to bear in solving the big health challenges facing us in the 21st Century, and there are many useful methodologies and frameworks to help us achieve our goals. However, we need to take care that we benefit all members of society and don’t inadvertently exacerbate the digital divide when designing our solutions and interventions.

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