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An Australian servicemember uses the Sparta Science platform. Photo: Courtesy of Sparta Science

A Silicon Valley startup is using machine learning to create individualized fitness plans designed to reduce injury risk.

Why it matters: Musculoskeletal injuries are a major cause of lost time for both athletes and members of the military. A platform like Sparta Science that can leverage machine learning to identify weak points before an injury could result in major health care savings.

How it works: Subjects carry out three different kinds of fitness assessments on Sparta's force plates: one involving balance, one involving the plank position and one involving a jump.

  • The plates — what Sparta Science CEO Phil Wagner calls a "high-powered bathroom scale" — granularly measure the force the subject is able to exert in different positions.
  • The company's machine learning platform takes that data and analyzes it to screen for potential injury risks in different kinds of activity, or to assess recovery if the system is being used for rehabilitation.
  • "When subjects perform a movement on the force plates, we can tell them 'here is your risk in these areas, and here is the best way to address it,'" says Wagner.
  • Sparta Science has worked for years with the University of Pennsylvania athletic program, which saw declines in the number of injuries and reductions in annual health insurance premiums.

More recently Sparta Science has branched out to the military, where "non-combat-related musculoskeletal injuries" account for up to 65% of soldiers who can't deploy for medical reasons.

  • Last month the House of Representatives passed legislation that includes a provision to study the benefits of force plate technology, with possible plans to possibly implement it throughout the Defense Department.

The bottom line: As health monitoring devices grow cheaper and more precise, expect to see similar solutions that aim to use AI to assess health individually and prevent injury and sickness.

Go deeper: How new tech raises the risk of nuclear war

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Facebook paying up to $14M to settle employment discrimination claims

Photo: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Facebook has agreed to pay up to $14.25 million to settle allegations that it discriminated against American workers by reserving positions for temporary visa holders, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The settlement represents the largest civil penalty and monetary award that the Civil Rights Division has recovered in the 35-year history of the Immigration and Nationality Act's anti-discrimination provision.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Mapping repression in China's Xinjiang region

Data: © Mapbox, © OpenStreetMap; Map: Will Chase/Axios

A sweeping new report released today by an Australian research organization reveals new details about how the Chinese Communist Party — and specifically who within the party — is carrying out its campaign of repression in Xinjiang.

Why it matters: Uncovering the actual offices and individuals implementing the Chinese government's genocide and forced labor policies in Xinjiang can bring accountability and help international companies delink supply chains in compliance with U.S. and EU forced labor laws.

Report: U.S. Latinos near 50% homeownership rate

Real estate broker Alex Betances sits in front of a home in Reading, Pa. Photo: Ryan McFadden/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Image

Latinos increased their homeownership rate to nearly 50% in 2020, according to a report from a group monitoring U.S. Hispanic wealth creation.

Why it matters: The Hispanic Wealth Project found that the homeownership rate grew despite the lack of diversified financial assets among Latinos and around 15% who still live below the federal poverty line ($26,500 for a family of four).