Jake Davidow of Sports Injury Predictor has created a modern-day way of predicting which NFL players are more likely to get injured.
In a time when fantasy football has grown by leaps and bounds in terms of popularity and financial gain, this could be a game-changer. The innovation by Davidow has the fantasy football world buzzing and could be an applicable tool used by thousands of armchair quarterbacks for years to come.
In your system, how is it that you can determine which NFL players are more likely to get injured? While there is some randomness to injuries — it’s a very violent sport and players can go down at any time — there were definitely players that were more likely to get injured than others. It’s the same way that Google has an algorithm to kind of organize more information that they have access to. We could come up with a model that could predict in a very consistent way which players were more likely to be injured than others.
How did you build the model for your company? I figured that the people who were already doing this were insurance companies because the policies that these players take out on themselves are huge policies. There’s a lot of money that insurance companies are actually on the hook for. So I asked a friend of mine who worked for Lloyds of London, who underwrites the insurance policies for NFL players. He gave me the questionnaire that NFL players have to fill out when they sign up for insurance, so that’s what I built the model around, the questions that were asked in the questionnaire.
Is there one injury out there which surfaces more than others? We see a lot of hamstring injuries, especially [in training camp and preseason]. Players are coming back from the off-season. I think their preparation for the season really differs on an individual level. As the season progresses, a lot more of the contact injuries start becoming more prevalent. So you’ll start seeing a lot of concussions and a lot of knees and sprains that can pull the players out for a number of games, and you’ll see more ankles being rolled up on.
A movie titled Concussion featuring Will Smith will be released on Christmas Day, and the NFL is nervous about the movie’s content. What are your thoughts on concussions? I would say that concussions have definitely dropped in the last two seasons. I think it was a result of the rules changes. The focus on concussions has really helped and has really brought about a lot of caution when it comes to putting guys back in after they’ve come down with concussion-like symptoms.
Mainly from a fantasy football perspective, you concentrate on offensive players. But do you have an opinion on Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee, who is coming off anterior cruciate ligament surgery? An ACL injury used to be career-ending, but we’ve come a long way. I do think that he could be playing very close to the level that he was before he hurt his knee. Usually the first few weeks of the season are spent building up confidence. From the ACLs that we have in our database — and we have over 100 of them — it’s very, very rare that those injuries repeat. All things considered, I think Sean Lee should be fine.
What is your impression of the Dallas Cowboys? I’m originally from South Africa. They actually have a pocket of Dallas Cowboys supporters in South Africa. I’m actually a big Cowboys fan.
Were any NFL games shown on TV in South Africa when you were a kid, and is that how you got interested in the injuries associated with the game? There used to be a program on TV in the 1990s that kind of summed up all the games every week. And it was during the time when the Buffalo Bills were just going to the Super Bowl, and Emmitt Smith was on fire. You had two powers of supporters in South Africa, and you still have them today. You have the Dallas Cowboys supporters and you have the Buffalo Bills supporters. In fact, there was a rugby player who came up here in the 1980s [named Naas Botha]. He was a big kicker from South Africa who was very successful in rugby and he came out and [had a tryout in 1983] for the Dallas Cowboys.