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Personalised sports injury rehabilitation — how AI is changing the game

AuthorsCarys Thornton

Personalised sports injury rehabilitation how AI is changing the game

AI is playing an increasingly significant role in the field of medical devices, including for injury prevention. Yet injuries will always remain an unfortunate part of the job for elite sportspeople.

Here, trainee solicitor Carys Thornton explores how AI is helping athletes to implement effective rehabilitation programmes to help them get back to training and performing in the quickest and safest way possible.


Personalised rehabilitation

A 2022 study revealed that 52.4% of para swimmers reported experiencing an injury that affected their training. The study concluded that injury prevention programmes are essential yet underused.

Treatment plans must be personalised to address the specific requirements of each sport and athlete. For para swimmers, this includes both swimming biomechanics and the specific impairments of athletes — and AI could revolutionise the way that athletes and their teams optimise training programmes, detect early signs of injury and boost recovery by accounting for unique physical characteristics.


Wearable technology and therapeutic ultrasound

Just as data modelling builds a tailored portfolio for each athlete during their training and performance, AI can also be used to devise personalised treatment plans by analysing vast amounts of data from a number of sources to provide insights into the extent of the injury.

One example of how AI-powered medical devices are used in recovery is wearable monitors. The data recorded by these devices includes blood pressure, heart rate and muscle activity, which can be used to devise new (and edit existing) treatment plans to avoid setbacks. This can all be conducted remotely by healthcare professionals to avoid any delays — a critical factor for elite sportspeople.

A further example is the use of therapeutic ultrasound to treat ligament sprains, muscle strains, tendonitis and scar tissue adhesions, among various other types of injuries. Essentially, this is a form of physical therapy intervention which increases blood flow to impacted areas and helps to reduce pain, swelling and inflammation.


Medical device regulations

While such technologies have huge potential, the entry of new devices in the medical field does pose ethical and legal considerations for both innovators and manufacturers.

In the UK, medical devices are regulated by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) — a body with the responsibility to check whether medical devices comply with legal requirements.

Given that non-compliance can cause significant financial and criminal issues — regardless of how effective and popular a product is — it’s essential to seek legal advice to ensure that you’re on the right side of any regulations.

If the MHRA believes that a serious offence has been committed by failing to comply with the regulations, it may prosecute — which can ultimately lead to unlimited fines and/or six months' imprisonment.

If products are considered unsafe or could cause a risk to consumers, a large-scale product recall or withdrawal can be mandated. This is costly and time consuming. In either scenario, the adverse reputational impact will be significant.

If you’re innovating or thinking about entering the field of medical devices, our experts in regulation, product safety and intellectual property can help.

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