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By some estimates, the sports tech sector will reach over $30 billion by 2024 as athletes seek to gain whatever edge they can find over their competition. Athlete performance technologies, such as wearable devices and sensors, are being used to optimize training, game-day decision-making, and recovery. Fans, coaches, referees, and trainers all rely on data generated through sports technology to continue to push the boundaries of what athletes can achieve.
For both pros and amateurs, here’s how technology is changing the game.
Technology in Training
Wearable tech has changed the way some athletes train — with sensors, athletes and their coaches can collect information on everything from heart rate to acceleration to sleep. This data can help athletes design smarter training programs, identify weaknesses, and track progress against fitness goals.
Sensors are a key tool that can be used in a range of different ways. Heart rate monitors track pulse and breathing patterns and inertial sensors analyze human motion and can be used to help with recovery following injury. Accelerometers and gyroscopes monitor position, rotation, acceleration, and speed — key metrics for pitchers, quarterbacks, and other specialized positions. For runners and cyclists, GPS and LPS measure velocity metrics and distance. Sleep trackers also help aid in recovery, allowing athletes to optimize sleep patterns.
In the age of COVID-19, remote coaching technology is also on the rise. Coaching apps allow athletes to receive instruction and training programs remotely. Virtual reality (VR) is also being used to create remote training sessions.
“Manchester startup Rezzil allows players to participate in VR training sessions on their television. Users place sensors in their living room and on their feet to execute training drills. It’s a bit like the training games on the FIFA 20 video game, however, it requires actual skill — as witnessed by a demonstration I saw late last year,” reported Forbes.
Companies like Peloton, HomeCourt, and Train Effective are all focusing on developing training programs that amateur and pro athletes can use to improve performance in any environment.
Changing the Game
It’s not just athletes who are using technology to make better decisions. Referees now use tech to improve the accuracy of their calls. Goal-line technology and VAR help referees maintain control over the game and improve decision-making. Goal-line technology uses sensors to verify whether a ball went past the goal line in instances where the naked eye can’t tell.
During the game, too, sensors can provide critical data about an athlete’s performance. GPS trackers sewn into a uniform, or RFID chips added to a player’s cleats, can send real-time data about a player’s balance, speed, distance covered, and accelerated. Wearable tech also helps prevent injuries, especially in football.
“Early signs of injury to soft-tissues are readily detected, letting coaches relieve players before serious problems arise. Impact monitor stickers attached to player’s bodies alert coaches and trainers to otherwise invisible signs of potential concussion, brain trauma, over-exertion, or injured muscles, tendons, and ligaments,” wrote experts at Ohio University.
The NBA’s Toronto Raptors used wearables to monitor for signs of soft tissue injury during the 2014 season. These wearables enabled the team to drop from the highest rate of player injury in 2012 to the least player injuries in just two years.
For coaches, real-time data transmitted from these wearable devices can help improve game strategy. Players who are fatiguing can be subbed out, for instance. Or, coaches can collect data to improve sports hydration and nutrition, providing the optimum fuel during a race or match.
The Science of Recovery
Tech also helps athletes bounce back from a tough training session, chronic injury, or challenging match. Coaches and trainers can measure a diverse set of variables using training management software, capturing data from wearables as well as tracking diet, mood, sleep, and fatigue. Some wearables even report on range of motion and mobility, key data points for recovering from injury. In combination, all of these variables help reduce self-created injuries and optimize physical therapy.
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