Friday 19th April 2019


How the 49ers Helped Push Develop Its Daily Assessment Tool, Push Vital

How the 49ers Helped Push Develop Its Daily Assessment Tool, Push Vital

How the 49ers Helped Push Develop Its Daily Assessment Tool, Push Vital
The San Francisco 49ers collaborated with Push on the creation of Push Vital. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

As the 49ers were making a strategic investment in strength training wearable company Push in early 2016, the franchise hired Chip Kelly as head coach. Kelly wanted an athlete readiness and wellness assessment to prepare the team for the upcoming season. He wasn’t satisfied with any of the options on the market. He wanted something that wasn’t intrusive and took no more than five minutes per athlete per day. So Kelly, and the 49ers, turned to Push.

Eight weeks before training camp, Push’s CEO and founder, Rami Alhamad, and a few members of his Toronto-based development team relocated to Santa Clara. In collaboration with the 49ers’ strength and conditioning staff, they worked to create a new tool from scratch. Staff at the local Marriott wondered if Alhamad had moved in for good. “You’re still here?” they asked him.

The end result was Push Vital, a daily assessment that takes no more than four minutes and aggregates physiological data like heart rate variability, external load (from the use of Zebra’s RFID tracking technology in practice), plus answers to a questionnaire on how a player is feeling and how much sleep he got the night before.

“It was an absolutely insane quarter,” Alhamad said. “I remember burning the midnight oil for weeks on end in Levi’s Stadium, basically building it on site with my team.”

The 49ers’ strength and conditioning staff—led at the time by Mark Uyeyama, with Taylor Johnson as an assistant—helped craft a battery of tests and questions for the team’s needs. When a player shows up at Levi’s for practice or before games, they step onto a scale, and are then led through a series of tests and questions on a screen.

“We took that [system] and we also took our player wellness data—our objective and subjective data—and we created our own user interface and database in house,” said Johnson, now the VP of Performance at Infinite Esports & Entertainment.

Push Vital automatically generates a report, and sends it to the appropriate coaches, trainers, and medical staff. The report flags anything off baseline. That summary helps pare down the necessary personal check-ins on a roster of 53 players.

“This was a very easy, lightweight system to help a coaching staff know, ‘OK, today I need to go talk to these three guys’ as opposed to ‘I need to go check in on every single person,’ which would cause too much friction and slow everything else down,” Alhamad said.

In addition to Zebra, Vital also integrates with ithlete to measure HRV. That came on the recommendation of Andrew Flatt, then a Ph.D. student at Alabama and now an assistant professor at Georgia Southern University. Vital is also used by two MLB teams, one NBA team, and a Division I college program.

The support for Push and other data-driven approaches came from the top of the 49ers’ organizational hierarchy. Alhamad said he met with Paraag Marathe, who serves as president of 49ers Enterprises and EVP of football operations and is a big believer in analytics.

Vital is the third Push product following the Push Band and Push Portal, a specialized app for strength coaches to monitor athletes’ work in the weight room. Alhamad played rugby and soccer at school and college. He logged considerable time lifting but said he always had trouble quantifying and understanding the value of that training.

One day in 2012, while lifting at the University of Toronto, Alhamad saw several varsity athletes training with Tendo Units, which measure a weight bar’s movement to help quantify load through speed and the degradation of speed over a set. Intrigued, he dove into velocity-based training research. Alhamad had considerable weight room experience and a scientific background—a master’s degree in engineering systems and computing, as well as undergrad work in mechatronics (a combination of mechanical engineering and electronics).

That project became the Push Band, a forearm wearable that is a simpler solution for gauging weight room training. That product has been maximized with the Free Movement app and is now used by athletes across a wide variety of sports: football, soccer, squash, rugby, tennis, baseball, and even badminton and table tennis. Push has also released a CrossFit-targeted version under the Nexus label.

“The overarching mission of Push hasn’t changed dramatically,” Alhamad said, “but it’s broadened in scope.”

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