Connecting Athlete Health In A Data-Driven World: Part 1

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In today’s data-driven world, more and more athletes and sports medicine professionals are turning to technology to boost their game and optimize their training! Technology, like wearable devices, collects data to promote better athletic health and performance, and their usage is growing in prevalence. Currently, the NFL requires its players to use wearables (in their shoulder pads) to track real-time location data, speed and acceleration for every player and play on the field!

Since this is clearly a trend that’s around for the long haul, we’re sharing a roundup of the types of technology that are available to track athletic health and performance. Let’s take a look at the different types of data that can be collected from wearables! 

Who, What, When, Why, Wearables?

Wearable technology is being developed in many forms, including watches, socks, mouthguards, in-ear sensors and so much more! These types of wearables are small and unobtrusive, collecting valuable data while allowing athletes to perform unhindered by restrictive equipment. The data points collected by wearables and other athlete tracking technology can include heart rate, distance, VO2 max (also known as maximal oxygen uptake), fatigue and more, all of which can be leveraged to help athletes perform at the highest level.

Depending on the technology, there are different types of data that can be collected: 

Physiological Data:

Wearables that track physiological data, such as heart rate, core body temperature, and even hydration can provide insight into how hard an athlete is working. Omegawave, Zephyr Performance Systems, and Bodytrak are among the many wearables that monitor vital body signs during play, to help determine how to support and optimize athletic performance. Other wearables that track physiological data, including the WHOOP Strap and Fatigue Science Readiband, also require athletes to wear them during sleep to monitor sleep and fatigue, allowing for evaluation of an athlete’s recovery and game-readiness.

Positional Data:

A number of wearable sensors exist to track athletes’ position on the field, including Catapult, Zebra MotionWorks, and the Kinexon Tracking System. These types of tech promise to deliver accurate positional data, as well as speed, acceleration and distance covered, allowing coaches to improve their overall team strategy, as well as support an individual athlete’s performance. 

Other wearable devices by Catapult, called Playr, recently hit the market and are targeted at amateur athletes. These wearables are essentially the world’s first football smartcoach system and include the Smart Pod (small GPS tracker), SmartVest and SmartApp. These wearables allow for a player’s speed, distance, sprints and heat maps to be measured and have been used in many countries (99 to be exact). They have been shown to increase speed distance, top speed, total distance and power plays. 

Impact & Injury Data:

Some wearables strive to detect injury as it occurs, including the Prevent Biometrics mouthguard and Shockbox helmet attachment, which track impact metrics. These types of wearables can detect when a hit is too hard and notify coaches or athletic trainers when an athlete may require care. The NFL has even deployed a pilot program for injury prevention, which is accomplished by players wearing impact-monitoring mouth guards and cleat-tracking technology. Similarly, the Adidas miCoach Elite System tracks impact, power, and acceleration, and has been used by Major League Soccer in the US and Europe to detect potential injuries and concussions!

Looking for more information on concussions? Take a look at our Concussions 101 blog post!

Technique Data:

Race car driver tracking his speed, distance and heart rate

Clothing with integrated wearable technology can enable early detection of injuries and help address concerns about injury-prone technique. Senoria’s sportswear line includes socks which can track running speed, altitude, steps, foot landing technique, and more! They’ve also produced wearables to improve professional race car drivers’ performance by tracking their speed, distance and heart rate, as well as recording lap videos. Athos, another sportswear producer, creates clothing which tracks muscle activation, allowing for detection of muscle imbalances and overall movement quality. 

Movement Data:

Also on the rise are sport-specific sensors and wearables, which help identify the effectiveness of certain movements. This includes products developed for cyclists, basketball players and more. One such wearable, the motusBASEBALL Sleeve, tracks the workload of baseball players’ throwing arms, and has been approved for Major League Baseball in-game use! Specialized wearables like these offer in-depth insight into the specific movements and motions that can make or break an athlete’s game. 

All of these innovations are changing the way athletes, athletic trainers, coaches and sports medicine professionals approach athletics. Stay tuned for the second post in this blog series to learn about how the data collected from wearables actually helps athletes with their training and performance, and how Athlete Electronic Health Record systems like Presagia Sports can use this data to help improve athlete health and performance.