Wearable Tech and Football – Athlete Monitoring Is Changing Pro Sports

Wearable Tech and Football – Athlete Monitoring Is Changing Pro Sports

Few sports are more demanding than football. Athletes — from middle school to the pros — are asked to hit hard, run fast and demonstrate incredible agility on any given Sunday. Pro athletes in particular needs explosive speed, strength and power to make plays on the field.

Pros athletes probably aren’t too worried about counting their steps like the rest of us. (After all, exercising and eating right is their full-time job.) But that doesn’t mean that wearable technologies to monitor physical activity don’t have a place in the stadium. In fact, it’s already big business, with a variety of pro sports team gathering huge amounts of data on their players and analyzing the results.

As we head into the height of football season — bowl games for college athletes and fans, and the NFL playoffs for the pros — here’s a look at how activity trackers are being used and what might happen in the future.

Wearable Tech and Football

1) Performance Evaluations

In March at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference pro receiver Andrew Hawkins said the “NFL’s looming technology boom” could make athlete monitoring — and contract negotiating — an objective practice, whether that’s for better or worse for players. As it stands, more than half of all NFL teams monitor players during training camps and practices, though it’s not yet known if staffing decisions have come from this data so far. (Once that happens, labor issues — including the team’s right to base hiring decisions off of this data — are likely to crop up.)

Soon, the NFL will make this data available to fans, too, “… sending the data on player speeds, runs, exertion and fatigue exclusively to broadcasters for the fan’s enjoyment,” wareables.com reported.

2) Injury Prevention

So far, the data collected on players has enhanced training, tracking exertion, speed and other performance metrics, as well as working to prevent injuries.

One anecdote, from ESPN:

Hawkins, for example, told the story of a teammate who had a history of hamstring injuries before last season. Browns coaches used tracking data from a professional movement sensor to monitor his practice workload more efficiently, limiting his repetitions to the point where he made it through the season injury-free.”

3) Business Opportunities

Where there’s data, there are chances to make money. Tech companies are seeking to be the next big provider of wearable tech for athletes, from the teen years through the pros. Catapult, an Australian technology company that’s working with the NFL, NBA, NHL and other organizations, offers elite sport-specific tracking. It also wants to supplement raw data with analytics, creating systems for coaches to analyze the information and put it into action, the company says, in addition to its wearable devices. There are additional sponsorship and media opportunities related to this data, as well.

catapult sensors for athlete injury prevention

One analyst also told wareable.com the data could even make it into the sports betting arena, with fans wagering on how hard someone is working. (Rightly or wrongly.) It might not be long before you log on to a betting site like online sportsbook and you find yourself wagering how far your favourite player’s going to run. And these ideas are just the beginning.

wearable tech and football analytics

4) Apparel Changes

The Golden State Warriors are among the teams testing high-tech smart clothing on the practice field. (They’re working with Athos; a company in which the Warriors’ owner invests.)

athos smart clothing worn by athletes

Photo Credit: Athos

Law360.com writes:

The smart clothing uses motion sensors, breathing sensors and electromyography to tracks biometric data like heart rate, breathing and effort and activation of muscle groups. The sensors relay the data to a core unit worn by the athlete, which sends the aggregated information to a smartphone app that can display it in real time. The team can use the information not only to track the progress of players in training, but also to monitor and use fatigue as a way to prevent injury.”

5) Legal Issues

As with so many things today, athlete tracking raises serious privacy concerns. Who should own an individual athlete’s data? When is something controversial, and who has the rights to release this confidentiality? Can this data be used in video games or in other media settings without an athlete’s consent? These and other issues remain an evolving part of wearable technology and the law, Law360.com notes.
All in all, it’s interesting stuff — wearable tech and football is a topic that will surely garner much discussion and controversy in the coming months and years.

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