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Fusion Sport's Smartspeed timing gates. Photo courtesy of Fusion Sport.

How A Local Analytics Company Helped the Nuggets Make the Playoffs

After giving an assist to Jokic and the gang, Boulder's Fusion Sport looks to join the Army.

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Two years ago, the Denver Nuggets’ training staff was struggling with an influx of data. An explosion of technology—all those wearables and apps—had produced a bevy of numbers about players’ performances. However, sprint-speed information gathered by one app was uploaded to an Excel spreadsheet, while the wearable that tracked heart rate only sent figures to a specific website. Having to toggle between various databases made it challenging to get everyone on the same page to make informed decisions about athletes’ health.

That changed in 2018 when the Nuggets began using Smartabase full time. A software program created by Australian analytics company Fusion Sport—which has its North American headquarters in Boulder—Smartabase takes statistics about players’ fitness and well-being from a variety of sources and compiles them into a single platform. That allows the Nuggets, who begin their season on October 23, to make better decisions about, say, whether to dial back a player’s workout intensity to prevent injury. “It helps us find trends that bring meaning to a lot of information,” says Matthew Tuttle, a physical therapist on Denver’s training staff.

Fusion Sport owes much of its success to good timing. In 2003, Markus Deutsch, an exercise physiologist in New Zealand, developed a system of gates that tracked sprint speed much more accurately than a stopwatch. As training centers and teams, including the New Zealand national rugby squad, implemented his device along with other similar data-gathering equipment, Deutsch saw the resulting numbers explosion create an information pileup. He stepped in as traffic cop.

Deutsch and a former classmate, Joe Cole, launched Smartabase nine years ago. Today’s version can aggregate outputs from more than 100 pieces of technology, from Garmin watches to Omegawave heart rate bands. (But it won’t make sense of your personal Fitbit. The company doesn’t license the software to individuals—only organizations.) Smartabase doesn’t reach conclusions, though. Rather, each client decides how it wants to view and compare data. The Nuggets, for example, are particularly concerned with workload: The franchise tries to pinpoint the criteria that cause execution to diminish as well as what types of therapy help athletes play better, longer.

The Nuggets aren’t the only team unlocking performance secrets with Smartabase. More than 200 organizations—including the San Antonio Spurs, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Australian Institute of Sport—in 15 countries use the service. To drum up even more business, the company opened its Boulder office in 2018. From there, Fusion believes it’s well-positioned to court a potential new customer: the U.S. armed forces. Troops at Fort Carson are already participating in a pilot program to see how Smartabase can help measure markers such as endurance and anxiety control. By doing so, the Army believes its soldiers should be better prepared to perform when it really matters.

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