The Short Answer:
The database is one of the key differentiators of the Sparta System versus simply utilizing the hardware (force plate) alone. While a force plate and some simple data acquisition software can give us absolute measures of force, without a database this data is much less meaningful (and potentially just bad/unreliable). The 10-year-old Sparta database of both assessment data (Jump, Balance, Plank) and outcome data (injuries, performance) is really the true value behind the Sparta system. Utilizing this massive volume of data, along with different research and data science techniques is what allows us to identify meaningful information that relates to risk and performance, and ultimately gives us the best evidence-based plan to enhance an individual's movement.
The Long Answer:
The force plate is simply the “needle to draw the blood” and to be honest, we wish we didn’t have to use the plate at all. However, in order to collect a thousand data points per second and measure movement accurately the plate is necessary (for now), but it’s the data and interpretation (the software and database) that allows our partners to make quick and impactful decisions to positively influence the health and performance of their team or organization.
Most hardware simply provides hundreds of variables to be “interpreted” by the end-user. While raw data is certainly interesting to gander at, it barely scratches the validity surface in helping the practitioner decide what to do next. When comparing a concentric vertical impulse of 5.2 to 6.8 how do we know what threshold is significant? It really just becomes a hobby for the “sports scientist” to collect data. Sports executives and practitioners that say they want to “play around” with data have become a huge problem in sports and military. If you want to play around with data and fancy graphs using hardware you are not a sports scientist, but rather a “sports hobbyist.”
By standardizing protocols and normalizing the data we can effectively compare organizations and individuals from all over the globe utilizing an aggregate database (just like medicine). In doing so, we can gain insights unseen and unfathomed by basic hardware companies. The powerful aggregate database can give the practitioner meaningful information, while the raw data collected sits there in a spreadsheet to be seen by one “scientist” waiting to spin that information in whatever way best fits his or her narrative.
Data is as valuable as our ability to interpret and change it. Without insight derived from a large and diverse database, the only way to evaluate data would be within-individual percent change, which requires time and some guesswork. Furthermore, while you could compare or rank individuals within a population there would be no way to know the potential biases of that specific population. By incorporating a much larger and broader population, it is possible to better recognize strengths and weaknesses within a global movement assessment. The real power of Sparta Science lies in the database full of standardized data and interpretation to help practitioners now - NOT the force plate.
As our database continues to grow we are able to not only improve our predictive models but continue to search for insights and trends we have yet to hypothesize. For a professional or collegiate team hoping to do research, realistically it would take years to collect enough data to be of any value. The ability to aggregate data allows us to test hypotheses drawn from case studies of one on populations of thousands, to ultimately improve our understanding and better help individuals to become better movers.