by Matthew Stollak on Monday, March 5, 2012

One of the major themes of last week's Transform HR Conference was wellness.  With health care costs continuing to rise, employers are looking for new and innovative ways to serve their employees while looking out for their bottom line.  Fran Melmed looked at ways that organizations could do better in her session, "The Second-Generation Workplace Wellness Program."  Similarly, Jennifer Benz looked at  HR communication efforts to make wellness more viable in her session, "3 Steps to Success: How Benefits Can Drive Your Strategic HR Efforts."  Even keynote speaker Billy Beane, GM for the Oakland A's, noted that injury analytics were the next market inefficiency baseball executives should look to expoit.

Coincidentally, in the March 5 edition of ESPN-The Magazine, Molly Knight highlights the Los Angeles Dodgers Senior Director of Medical Services, Stan Conte.  According to Conte, "In a post-Moneyball World, injury risk assessment is the final frontier." For over a decade, Conte has been trying to collect enough data to develop a compelling methodology.  Knight writes:
Conte is attempting to discover in advance who will get hurt and who won't - or at least give accurate odds.  With enough well-analyzed data from the past to inform roster decisions in the present, (Conte) believes, it's not outside the realm of possibility to assemble a team that goes an entire season without losing a day to the disabled list.
Certainly, the impact of injury on the roster is prohibitive.  Since 2007, Major League Baseball salary totals are $13.5 billion, of which $2.1 billion (15.2%) was paid to players on the disabled list.  Conte has made some initial progress:
More than a weatherman than a psychic, he can tell you that $22 million was lost in 2011 to oblique injuries that took an average healing time of35 days for pitchers and 26 days for position players.  He also knows that players almost always injure the oblique on the side they lead with (left for righthanders and vice versa) and that hitters account for 56% of those injuries.  Finally, he can say that a player put on the DL with that malady has a 12.2% chance of being DL'd with it again.
Certainly, these advanced analytics can impact decisions regarding talent:
In the Dodgers' new methodology for acquiring players, in which DL projections sit next to OPS stats on the GM's yellow pad, the question can become not only "What is the chance Guy X will get hurt?" but also "How badly will my team be affected if he does?"  It might be worth the gamble, Conte says, to add one high-risk, high-reward pitcher to a starting rotation of four reliably healthy hurlers, but it's suicidal to add two.
Most organizations would love to be on the same track with Conte, determining which applicants or employees are more likely to be absent or get injured....if only we could avoid those pesky genetic testing discrimination concerns

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