Wearable Sports Tech Is Transforming Athletics
There are two questions consistently on the mind of every competitive athlete, coach and organizer:
“How do I get an edge on my opponent?” and “How do I get better?”
The answers aren’t always easy. Working harder and the buzzword of the day “grinding,” only goes so far. An athlete needs outside support to discover just have far they can push their performance.
Enter wearable technology. From just the push of a button on a watch, or by inserting a small sticker in a dri-fit shirt, athletes can glean hundreds of data points in order to fine-tune their workouts and maximize their strengths. Motivation and encouragement have now been digitized throughout the training process as well.
Wearable technology continues to evolve. A watch that only counted steps five years ago can now provide an athlete their heart rate, the incline they’re training at, a comparison to previous workouts, and the ability to track a workout within a workout. A microchip on a player’s shoulder pad can determine the force at which a player gets hit, while tracking total hydration levels in order to finetune their optimal performance. And a sticker within a shoe can track a player’s natural motion from one side of the court to another, finding out where they might be most effective.
Wearables can come in many shapes and sizes, depending on the sport. Here are just a few of the various types of wearables on the market now.
Blast Basketball Jumpshot – This piece of technology tracks a few items- rotation, jump height, and acceleration- that are all key to the development of a basketball player. With 3D motion sensors, all sorts of performance metrics are tracked and sent to a smartphone or tablet, allowing an athlete to view trends like wasted movements, or poor acceleration angles necessary to keep up with a defender or to lead an effective fast break.
SOLIDshot Smart Sleeve – Allen Iverson made the sleeve cool back in the early 2000’s, but the Smart Sleeve takes basketball fashion to a whole new level. It can give an athlete real-time statistics including shooting percentage and form, helping an athlete get to Steph Curry status when it comes to shooting.
The NFL is in its second straight season outfitting players with Whoop 2.0 technology, which measures a variety of data including sleep, strains and recovery. These fitness trackers help players and coaches develop what is called a “load score,” which determines a player’s workload for the week. If a player has a weekly load score of 500, and after running a series of sprints ends up with a score of 490, a coach may decide to rest that player in practice the next day, for fear that too much work could result in injury.
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In 2015, the league also inserted RFID chips into players’ shoulder pads. This has enabled coaches and GM’s to create player profiles and map movement similar to how Catapult works with its NBA clientele. RFID data tells us that Deshaun Watson ran more than any other quarterback. Was that due to his innate athletic ability, or his need to improvise quickly due to poor blocking?
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Finally, the league has partnered with companies like Graphwear, who created a patch to analyze an athlete’s sweat to track glucose and electrolyte levels.
Similar to basketball, Major League Baseball approved the Motus sleeve and the Zephyr bioharness back in 2016 for in-game use. The bioharness measures heart rate and breathing, a great source to measure fatigue, while the Motus sleeve tracks throwing arm workload.
While some of the other major sports struggle with how to implement wearables into in-game use, plenty of runners and triathletes wear gear, from smart sports bras, to smart spandex shorts, to LifeBeam smart hats, which measure heart rate, steps and calories burned, while syncing to a smartwatch. The hat is perfect for those who are running long distances looking to maintain consistent performance stats and make adjustments on the fly during a grueling race.
As the wearables industry continues to evolve, the natural next steps are to combine wearable technology with virtual reality. The football club Stoke City used virtual reality firm Beyond Sports to help devise potential game scenarios, while also using VR headsets to recap different game moments.
Beyond Sports gave a presentation/demo at the Sportsinnovation 2018 fair in the @fortunaDUS stadium! 🖥⚽️ #Beyond #Sports #DFL #Sportcast #Sportsinnovation2018 #Dusseldorf #Germany #Technologie #Virtual #Reality #VR #Soccer #Football #Science #Legendsofthefuture #Stadium #Fair pic.twitter.com/GMSQXQUO5o
— Beyond Sports (@beyondsportsvr) May 16, 2018
What could we see in the future with VR and wearables? Perhaps something with the Oculus Go that could show a basketball player the different energy levels of other players on the court in real-time, or VR that could show a wide receiver a cornerback’s tendencies when lined up seven yards away.
What we know for sure is that wearables will continue to evolve and change how we play sports.