How Is Major League Soccer Getting Live TV Clips To the Sideline in under 180 Seconds?

Abstract

Major League Soccer (MLS) wanted to provide sideline medical staff with real time TV clips to aid in the spotting of injuries in games. After evaluating several solutions, they selected SnapStream for its ease of use and speed.

The Challenge

Major League Soccer (MLS), the U.S. men’s professional soccer league, developed a Concussion Protocol in 2017 that allows doctors to administer the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT) to quickly determine whether an injured player has suffered a concussion and should, therefore, be removed from the game.

Unlike other sports leagues, however, MLS allows for a limited number of player substitutions; if a player is removed from a game after three substitutions have already taken place, then his team must continue to play without replacing him on the field. MLS only allows doctors a three-minute time window to assess whether a player should be taken off the field for further assessment.

To aid in this process, Joseph Atkinson, senior manager for medical administration at MLS, hired and trained a team of “spotters” to monitor the live television feed of soccer games, identify potential instances in which a player has suffered a concussion, and quickly forward the video clips of these incidents to doctors on the field sidelines to use in their assessment. “The video was kind of my brainchild where we said, ‘If we see it, we might as well let the doctor see it too,’” said Atkinson.

“My background is as a paramedic, so if I can see how the car wreck happened it helps me figure out what happened and get a better diagnosis.”

Because of the high stakes of the concussion assessment and the extremely limited time to conduct it, Atkinson’s team of spotters needed a tool that would allow them to identify a potential concussion incident, edit a short clip of it, and send the clip to the doctor’s iPad, all within the three-minute time limit.

The Solution

Atkinson gave serious consideration to three different video capture tools. The first two, Snagit and PlayIt, were not able to deliver clips to the field within the three-minute time limit. “The problem with Snagit was that it has to run off MLS Live, which has a 30-second delay to begin with, so we were already 30 seconds behind,” said Atkinson. “And then the nature of having to cut, save it to some place, and go back into an email and send it -- it took anywhere from four-and-a-half to five minutes.” PlayIt was even more cumbersome.

After a demo and a thorough review, Atkinson ultimately decided to go with SnapStream.

“After SnapStream came along, when we saw an injury, we were able to immediately back it up 10 seconds, hit the clip button, and by the time we got done letting the doctor know it was there the clip was already sent and sitting in the inbox of the iPad.”

On average, it takes 2.5 minutes for the spotters to see a potential concussion incident, clip it, and send it to the iPad.

The setup and training for SnapStream went smoothly. SnapStream support staff trained Atkinson and four of his IT staff. “[The SnapStream staff] was very responsive,” he said. “If we had any questions, we’d shoot an email up, and usually within 24 hours we’d get a response back.” Atkinson’s spotter team consists of 11 certified athletic trainers, and he was able to train them on the SnapStream platform within four minutes. “By the time they sent it three or four times, they were pros at it.”

Results

Atkinson incorporated SnapStream into his team’s workflow in March 2017 ,and on game days he has 11 spotters using it in the New York office to clip and share TV clips in real time with medical personnel on the sidelines of the various games. While not part of the Concussion Protocol, SnapStream has proven to be a great resource.

In addition to using SnapStream to assess possible concussions, MLS doctors and athletic trainers have leveraged the platform to review other injuries as well. “There are a lot of times on Mondays where we’ll have a couple of the athletic trainers who will send us an email saying, ‘Hey, so and so was hurt during X minute of the game, can you send us the clip?’” explained Atkinson. “And we have the ability to go back and pull that clip and send it to them so they can put it up with their medical records.”

He also immediately took advantage of the alerts feature in SnapStream and set it so he receives an email every time someone says the words “injury” or “concussion.” 

“So when my boss comes down and asks, ‘Hey what happened in this game?’ I don’t have to watch every game, I just have an email that says what was said, and I can go back and review it,"

The MLS Disciplinary Committee also sometimes makes requests for clips. “If there’s a hard foul where someone gets injured, rather than going back and reviewing the entire game, 99 times out of 100 we have it already clipped, and we send it to them,” said Atkinson. “Or they’ll go back and clip it themselves.”

Atkinson cautioned that, while SnapStream is a tool MLS uses in its assessment, it’s not actually part of the Concussion Protocol.

In addition to Atkinson’s team, there are dozens of other MLS staff members across the organization’s broadcast and marketing teams that use SnapStream’s platform to cut, broadcast, and share game clips on TV and social media.

Assessment

“So far, the feedback is great,” said Atkinson. “It’s a program that gives me the ability to clip a video and send it to a specific email address without having to spend a lot of time-saving, searching, and moving through multiple applications. It does exactly what we want it to do.” Would he recommend it to another sports league? “If there’s the same need, I would absolutely recommend that they use it.”

“It’s a program that gives me the ability to clip a video and send it to a specific email address without having to spend a lot of time-saving, searching, and moving through multiple applications. It does exactly what we want it to do.”

About Major League Soccer

Major League Soccer (https://www.mlssoccer.com) is the top-flight professional soccer league in the United States and was founded in 1996, after the country hosted the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

About SnapStream

Based out of Houston, SnapStream (www.snapstream.com) has been making broadcast TV recording, search, and distribution products for over a decade. SnapStream’s diverse list of several hundred customers include: almost all the talk shows, including The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and the Late Show with Stephen Colbert; TV networks such as CBS, NBC, Golf Channel, MLB TV, and others; News/Entertainment brands such as Buzzfeed, Politico, New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Vice, VOX, Slate, and HuffPost; Sports leagues and teams such as several NFL, NHL, MLS teams, The PGA Tour, Major League Soccer, The LPGA, NASCAR, and WWE; the US Senate and the Library Of Congress; and many others. Learn more about SnapStream at www.snapstream.com

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