Performance Optimization and Injury Reduction Solutions for Athletes

Nneile Nkholise H’18 is a Mechanical Engineering graduate of the Central University of Technology, Free State, South Africa. As a keen basketball player and having been injured while playing the sport, she noticed how her coach had an umbrella approach to performance. All players were trained in the same way and performed similarly with no consideration given to players who had unique performance attributes. Nkholise noticed that her injuries were a result of putting too much pressure on her body. A keen entrepreneur, with a childhood dream to work in football, she saw the value in being able to predict injury risk potential in real-time and performance targets of athletes based on the sport they play, position and physical attributes. In 2018, she started 3DIMO as a solution.

“My calling in life is to make Africa prosper. I can’t do it on my own – I need a hand to hold on to.”

Reducing the pain of injuries and increasing the joy of great performance

THE CHALLENGE. 88.5 million people play a team sport in the US (basketball, football, soccer, volleyball, and baseball) and 1.1 million people play rugby in South Africa. Sport is recognized as one of the greatest forms of entertainment with the level of competitiveness continuing to increase with seemingly no end in sight. This meteoric growth in sport has resulted in revenue growth for sports clubs and athletes, and making a career of sport is a keen ambition for many young people. However, this exponential growth has resulted in intense pressure being put on athletes to perform at the highest level. Athletes are becoming more prone to injuries because of the risks they take while training and during games. The desire to be and deliver the best can often result in the greatest setback of an athlete’s career and life. With athletes’ careers and clubs’ investments potentially at risk, the conversation about early injury detection and prevention has developed from research to a growing business area with a huge opportunity. Nkholise recognized the opportunity to be at the forefront of technology with her sports tech start-up, 3DIMO.

THE PROCESS. When she started 3DIMO, Nkholise’s original idea was to create pre-surgical planning models (either digital or 3D printed) to support Orthopedic surgeons with surgery planning to speed up surgery time, reduce the cost and increase the accuracy of surgery. Nkholise partnered with some Orthopedic surgeons to help with pre-surgical models. She learned that most of the patients were professional sportsmen who were having surgery when their injuries had graduated to severe, career-threatening injuries. She realized that most athletes would incur a minor injury, ignore it and continue to play injured for a prolonged time until it had affected a large region of their body and had become more severe. 

Her research forced her to take a step back in order to address the root cause. She changed tack to develop wearable, injury-sensing software that could predict, in real-time, injury risk potential. Her basketball experience further enabled her to add features to her product that would allow her to predict performance targets of athletes based on the sport they play, their position on the field and physical attributes.

She reached out to her network to form a team of highly skilled software engineers who fell in love with her vision and the opportunities of being able to predict injury risk and athlete performance.

THE RESULT. Nkholise and her team are currently running early tests of both their product and software and have partnered with the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport’s rugby 7s team for pilot testing. They would like to run more pilot tests with more pilot partners to enable them to gather as much data as possible in order to build data patterns and model them in such a way that their software will have depth and intelligence. 

The team is planning on running four additional pilots with the goal of launching their product in October 2020. This will, however, depend on their ability to raise sufficient funding. “Getting investors in South Africa has been difficult because Sports Tech is not a sector that investors have paid attention to on the continent. However, we still believe that in the long-term, there are significant benefits to be realized, including enabling coaches to develop tailor-made insurance plans for elite athletes, helping sports clubs to reduce financial losses due to injuries and reducing athlete injury rehabilitation.” 

Nkholise will focus her initial marketing efforts in the US college sport (NCAA) arena. Almost 480 000 athletes participate in college sport each year and of that number, 78% of division 1 athletes sustain injuries that restrict participation, with 60% of them reporting chronic injuries. With the NCAA being the talent funnel for the best athletes to make it to major leagues, such as the NBA and NFL, injuries are setbacks that every team wants to avoid at all costs.


3DIMO is an interactive sports data visualization software company, giving real-time insights on athlete performance and helping clubs with business and technical intelligence to optimize performance and reduce injury risk. 

3DIMO’s software solution helps with rapid injury prediction, long-term performance monitoring plans, improved, customized athlete conditioning programs for peak performance enhancement, injury-prone region digital imaging and data monitoring of 3D virtual molds using algorithms to compare models for sports injury analysis for athletes. It also provides reports on the muscle joint forces of players during training and in games, and in-game injury video analysis zoomed into contact incidents for individual players. 

Their software solution also helps medical specialists to plan for complex bone surgeries, reduces the time for surgical procedures by optimizing efficiency in planning, which reduces the risk in complex surgical procedures by using 3D virtual models. 

3DIMO’s proprietary solution will help to accelerate the treatment of injuries to athletes by boosting their fitness and reducing the recurring costs, which clubs and management incur when taking them to the treatment table.

Committed to Africa’s development through technology


A passionate sports activist and devoted social entrepreneur

Nkholise was born in South Africa and is a Mechanical Engineering graduate from the Central University of the Free State. She is a mechanical engineering technologist with 8 years’ experience in the construction and biomedical sectors having developed biomedical products, ranging from prosthesis to bio-implants. She was the Managing Director of iMed Tech, a biotech company specializing in custom-made medical solutions using CAD and CAM techniques. In 2018, she founded 3DIMO.

In 2016, she was recognized as Africa’s top female innovator in Africa by the World Economic Forum. She was awarded the South African Youth of the Year by the Office of the Presidency in 2017. In 2018, she was awarded Forbes Africa magazine’s 30 under 30, recognized in the 100 top young Africans by the Africa Youth Council and awarded Industrialist of the Year in Southern Africa at the All Africa Business Leaders Awards.

Source: The Next 100 Summit – Global Citizen


Nneile Nkholise wants to be part of the unique culture of learning offered by Harambe.

“I grew up on a continent that faces significant challenges, such as lack of access to quality healthcare and education; no food security; water and energy crisis and crippling poverty for so many people. I want to be one of those young people who has the passion to solve our problems.”
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