Regulating AI Used to Predict and Prevent Sports Injuries: A Crucial Need

Karin Michel

Associate Editor

Loyola University Chicago School of Law, JD 2025

The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in sports could revolutionize the way athletic injuries are predicted and managed. Notably, a variety of AI companies have developed software that forecasts potential injuries, possibly prolonging athletes’ careers. This technology analyzes data about the biomechanics of players, their frequency of play or training, and past injuries to identify patterns, find potential causes, and predict future injuries. There is immense value in preventing injuries in athletics for players, teams, and fans alike. It would therefore make sense that everyone is eager to utilize the findings of AI, but without regulation this could cause more harm than good.

How implementing AI can be useful in the world of sports

If AI can accurately identify the injuries of athletes, there are several obvious benefits. Namely, team managers would have the capability to adjust players’ workout routines and recovery in order to maintain their health when it is most crucial. Additionally, AI, enhanced by wearable sensors, can detect subtle changes in an athlete’s body position and movement, signaling fatigue or weakness that might cause injuries. In that case, coaches and players can make real-time adjustments to movements to prevent injury, and have an indication of when an athlete is reaching a breaking point. Consequently, athletes can maintain peak performance throughout the season, minimizing missed playtime and preserving endorsement opportunities, as well as safeguarding their long-term health post-retirement. Teams, having invested heavily in their players, also benefit from reduced injury risks, contributing to their journey towards championships. Fans, sharing the same aspirations as their teams, also gain from this advancement.

 Furthermore, AI in sports is economically beneficial. Injuries in professional athletes, once unpredictable, can lead to significant financial losses for teams due to underperformance. Additionally, the medical expenses associated with these injuries can be substantial. AI’s predictive capabilities in injury prevention not only enhance player well-being, but also reduce the frequency and cost of medical treatments during a season, proving to be a cost-effective solution for teams.

The troubles of unregulated AI technology in sports

The unregulated use of AI technology in sports, while offering significant benefits for athlete health and organizational interests, also presents substantial risks. A primary concern is the testing of AI algorithms, which paradoxically might involve disregarding AI warnings about potential injuries and observing if athletes actually get injured. This unethical approach raises serious concerns about the accuracy and applicability of AI predictions.

Data privacy is another major issue. As AI systems require extensive personal data to best predict injuries, there is an increasing risk of sensitive information being added to databases. This escalates the danger of data breaches, potentially leaving athletes without legal recourse against the organization responsible for handling their data. The Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights, published by the White House, highlights this concern for data privacy more generally. However, Congress has yet to pass any uniform legislation regarding AI and data security, much less how it relates to sports medicine specifically.

Compensation for athletes whose data is used also remains a pertinent issue. Given the risks of data exposure, fair compensation seems necessary, but this is unlikely without intervention and regulation from player’s unions, as organizations often avoid additional expenses. Additionally, as AI companies and organizations profit from this data, there’s the potential for athletes to be compensated for these profits, a protection that player’s unions should begin to enforce in new contracts.

In the same vein of organizations preventing extra costs, one of the main risks of AI injury predictions is the potential for organizations to utilize this information in contract negotiations. If an organization is told from an AI database that a particular athlete has a higher risk of being injured, it could utilize this information to lower the value of an athlete, without assurance that the athlete will ever actually become injured. Athletes could end up being stuck with lower value contracts based upon these predictions but may never actually get injured.

While this AI technology should be utilized as a valuable tool for preventing injuries, its unregulated use could lead to misuse of personal information, harming athletes in the long run. It is crucial for Congress to focus on this significant revenue-generating industry, enacting legislation to regulate AI in sports and safeguard athletes effectively. Players’ unions and sports organizations should advocate for these specific concerns impacting the sports world.