Mental work, artificial intelligence and innovation in the medical field, protagonists of the first day of Sports Tomorrow Congress 23
28 Feb 2023

Sports Tomorrow Congress, the sports innovation event by Barça Innovation Hub, started this Monday within the framework of the Mobile World Congress, with an agenda dedicated mainly to mental work, artificial intelligence and innovation in the medical field.

The congress was opened by Albert Mundet, Director of the Barça Innovation Hub, who highlighted the importance of innovation in the world of sport and how FC Barcelona is leading the way in this field. Mundet spoke about how technology and innovation are key to improving the performance of athletes and how the Barça Innovation Hub is working to develop new solutions that can take sport to new heights.

The first talk of the day was given by rally driver Albert Llovera, who spoke about how he overcame a skiing accident that left him in a wheelchair and how a positive attitude can lead to opportunities for growth and overcoming new challenges.

The first talk of the day was given by rally driver Albert Llovera, who spoke about how he overcame a skiing accident that left him in a wheelchair and how a positive attitude can lead to opportunities for growth and overcoming new challenges.

To close the first morning block focused on the psychology of sport, Bojan Krkic was the protagonist of another session on emotional management moderated by journalist Raül Llimós. Bojan explained how he experienced his arrival in the sporting elite when he was a young player, and what it meant to him to live with pressure and the management of expectations. Krkic said that confidence is not given away and that it is necessary to “avoid considering the soccer player as a product”. Regarding his decision to forgo Euro 2008 for mental health reasons, Bojan admitted that he has never regretted it and that overcoming his anxiety was more important than participating in the competition.

The rest of the morning’s sessions focused on artificial intelligence (AI), a topic that was addressed in three different talks on sports performance, data collection and the potential of artificial cognition to change the way sports are understood and managed.

Maurici A. López-Felip, Co-Founder and CEO of Kognia Sports, and Nicolas Hohn, Data Scientist at McKinsey, talked about how Artificial Intelligence can improve sports performance, using the America’s Cup sailing as an example.

Meanwhile, Adrià Recasens from Deepmind, Esteban Granero, former professional soccer player and CEO of Olocip and Javier Martín Buldú, researcher at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, talked about the future of AI and how to apply it to the world of soccer.

One of the presentations that generated most expectation among the attendees was the one led by Howard Hu and Carlos García Galán, NASA engineers responsible for the ORION project, which will take man to the Moon 50 years later. Hu and García Galán also talked about the mental and performance challenges that will be faced by the astronauts who will lead these missions, where AI and data management will play an important role.

To close the morning session, a nutrition talk was held in collaboration with Heura. FC Barcelona nutritionists Toña Lizarraga and Mireia Porta, together with Dr. Sari Arponen and Álex Pirla, discussed the connections between food and brain.

The afternoon sessions had topics much more focused on the medical field. In the first talk, David Bartrés, neuropsychologist at the University of Barcelona, spoke about neuroscience and how physical exercise can help overcome traumatic situations, giving as an example the pandemic and confinement.

In the next session, Mark Williams from Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, Gabriele Cattaneo, neuropsychologist at the Guttmann Institute, and Alan McCall, head of performance and research at Arsenal FC, participated in a panel discussing cognitive training and intelligence in sports. Developing these skills through practice and training prepares elite players to make better decisions when they are on the field.

Another of the afternoon key sessions focused on brain injuries, more specifically concussions. Edwin Goedhart, head of the medical services of the soccer federation of the Netherlands, and the neurologist of the Hospital Clínic, Álex Iranzo, spoke about the long-term consequences that these injuries can have on athletes.

This was followed by an overview of new businesses based on Artificial Intelligence and supercomputing, presented by Lluís Pareras, founder of Invivo Capital, Josep Maria Martorell, associate director of the Barcelona Supercomputing Center and Xavier Ferràs, professor of Data Science at ESADE. 

The speakers talked about how supercomputers have been used to create digital models of human organs and how this has improved surgical techniques. They also explained the IoTwins project developed jointly by Barça Innovation Hub and the BSC, with the aim of predicting the movement of people in stadiums and improving the flow of spectators.


The last session of the day featured FC Barcelona basketball star Cory Higgins, who delved into his mental work in an interview with Albert Mundet.

Higgins, a former NBA player, explained how he uses relaxation and mindfulness techniques to improve his performance and how he manages pressure and results. He also stressed the importance of controlling only what is in one’s hands and the need to train the mental aspect in order to take his game to another level.

The closing of the first day of the congress was the 2nd edition of the Allianz Startup Challenge. The 6 finalist startups took the main stage of the Sports Tomorrow Congress to present their solutions to the jury of the competition formed by the driver and Allianz ambassador Marc Márquez, Mónica González, Marketing Director of Allianz, Anna Valverde, Regional Organization Director of Allianz, Albert Mundet, Director of the Barça Innovation Hub and Jordi Mompart, Director of AI of FC Barcelona.

In this second edition, the winner was Sweanty, specialized in the study of the composition of sweat and its effects on health and well-being. 

In summary, the first day of the Sports Tomorrow Congress was a success and a great opportunity to learn about the latest trends in the world of innovation, technology and medicine applied to sport. Experts in human performance, data and artificial intelligence, as well as experts in disruptive innovation, presented innovative solutions and success stories that will define the future of sport.


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