Program with up to $150,000 in awards to feature start-ups pitching their safety innovations and crowdsourced data analysis using insights from NFL-AWS partnership
The National Football League (NFL) announced the launch of the 2021 1st and Future competition, the annual Super Bowl event designed to spur innovation in athlete safety and performance. For the first time, this year’s program will be broadcast in primetime during Super Bowl LV week on NFL Network.
The event will feature two categories of competition – one for entrepreneurs and one for data analysts:
- The first category, the Innovations to Advance Player Health and Safety Competition, invites submissions for innovative product concepts designed to try to improve player health and safety. Up to four start-up businesses will be selected as finalists and will have the chance to pitch their innovations to a panel of judges during the event. The grand prize winner will be awarded $50,000, and the second-place winner will receive $25,000. All submissions will be managed by Duke University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (Duke CTSI), which also manages the league’s HeadHealthTECH Challenge series – a program that has awarded nearly $3 million in grant funding to advance the development of 17 new technologies.
- The second category, the NFL Computer Vision Competition, will crowdsource access to NFL game data to model a computer vision system for detecting on-field helmet impacts during NFL plays. This is a challenge the NFL is actively addressing as part of the development of its Digital Athlete platform in partnership with AWS. The Digital Athlete is a virtual representation of a composite NFL player that the NFL can use to model game scenarios and try to better predict and prevent player injury. The top five performing models will win $25,000, $20,000, $15,000, $10,000 and $5,000, respectively. The NFL Computer Vision Competition will crowdsource solutions via the data science platform Kaggle. A live leaderboard will track the success of applicants’ models; winners may be invited to present their computer vision systems during the broadcast.
“We are thrilled to showcase our innovative efforts to make the game safer and better for the players in a new, primetime broadcast,” said Jeff Miller, NFL Executive Vice President of Communications, Public Affairs and Policy, who oversees the NFL’s health and safety initiatives. “We invite people from around the world to tune in for a behind-the-scenes look at an important piece of our work to evolve the game of football and improve player safety.”
This year’s competition will be the sixth annual event. 1st and Future awarded innovators and data scientists $750,000 in its first five years. For more information on the submission process, selection criteria and official rules, visit www.nfl.com/1standfuture.
1st and Future is just one example of how the NFL is using data to advance the game. Last month, the NFL launched the third annual Big Data Bowl powered by AWS, a competition calling on professional and aspiring data analysts to devise innovative approaches to analyzing pass coverage in the NFL. Participants can sign up and enter a submission here.
About the NFL’s Player Health and Safety Initiatives
The NFL is committed to advancing progress in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of sports-related injuries. As part of the NFL’s ongoing health and safety efforts, in September 2016, Commissioner Goodell launched Play Smart. Play Safe. — a league-wide health and safety initiative. At the heart of the initiative is a pledge of $100 million in support of independent medical research and engineering advancements and a commitment to try to protect our players and make our game safer, including through enhancements to medical protocols and improvements to how our game is taught and played. For more information about the NFL’s health and safety efforts, please visit www.NFL.com/PlayerHealthAndSafety.
About 1st and Future
1st and Future is the NFL’s annual Super Bowl competition designed to spur innovation in player health, safety and performance. The first 1st and Future competition launched in 2016 and for its first three years featured three innovation categories for start-ups to enter. Since 2019, 1st and Future has featured two categories of competition, a data analytics category and an innovations category. Each year, finalists gather to pitch their submissions to a panel of judges and audience, including team owners and executives, during Super Bowl week.
1st and Future has, to date, awarded $750,000 to start-ups and data scientists over five years. Previous winners are listed below with descriptions of their innovations provided by the winners:
- 2020 1st and Future
- Analytics Competition: Winners Ben Jenkins and Steve Jenkins completed an analysis of NFL data to help uncover factors that contribute to lower limb injuries.
- Innovations Winner: Protect3D leverages 3D scanning and printing technologies to give medical professionals the ability to create anatomically-precise protective devices, each intended to be optimized for an individual athlete’s comfort, mobility and protection.
- Innovations Runner-Up: Plantiga combines sensor insoles and artificial intelligence that analyze how people move to in an effort to improve health, injury rehabilitation and performance.
- 2019 1st and Future
- Analytics Competition: Applicants were given access to exclusive NFL data sets to inform creative submissions about rule changes designed to reduce player injury during punt plays. Winners were Alex Wainger (New York, NY) and Halla Yang (Wilmette, IL).
- Innovations Winner: TopSpin‘s TopSpin360 is the first patented training device that dynamically strengthens the neck in an effort to help reduce concussion risk.
- Innovations Runner-Up: SOLIUS‘s advanced science uses nano-spectrums of light to stimulate the production of critical hormones and peptides as a way to reduce injuries, speed recovery and improve the performance of athletes.
- 2018 1st and Future
- “Advancements in Protective Equipment” Winner: Impressio, Inc. utilizes liquid-crystal elastomers (LCEs) to create novel dissipative liner materials for protective equipment designed to overcome the existing challenges of energy absorption in current helmet foams.
- “New Therapies to Speed Recovery” Winner: RecoverX‘s connected device can achieve the optimum cold or hot therapy temperatures without any ice or water, designed to allow users more freedom for their therapy.
- “Technology to Improve Athletic Performance” Winner: Curv.ai is an athlete development platform that leverages patent-pending computer vision and augmented reality to transform the camera on any mobile device into a versatile tool that captures human motion, measures athletic abilities and evaluates injury risk.
- 2017 1st and Future
- “Communicating with the Athlete” Winner: GoRout‘s on-field wearable technology helps streamline the communication between football coaches and players by allowing players to receive digital play diagrams and data from coaches on the sideline.
- “Training the Athlete” Winner: Mobile Virtual Player (MVP) is an innovative, patented training platform that allows coaches to teach and train players effectively while significantly reducing the risk of injury from player-to-player contact.
- “Materials to Protect the Athlete” Winner: Windpact is a safety technology company whose patented padding system uses air and foam to absorb and disperse impact energy to improve the performance of helmets and protective gear.
- 2016 1st and Future
- “The Future Stadium” Winner: Hyp3R makes it easy for businesses to engage influential customers at specific locations on a personal level in real-time.
- “Bring Home the Game” Winner: LiveLike uses Virtual Reality to bring you and your friends together in a sports viewing experience that’s as easy as turning on your TV and as thrilling as going to the stadium.
- “Tomorrow’s Athlete” Winner: Kenzen delivers real-time health insights using patented biosensors, sweat analysis and predictive analytics in an effort to predict and preempt injury and health complications.
More information about past winners can be found at www.nfl.com/1standfuture.