Technology companies are making massive strides in developing and marketing wearable devices for athletic teams. Companies like Zephyr Technology, Viperpod, Smartlife, miCoach, and Catapult are transforming how athletic coaches make decisions, how sports are played, and ultimately, the performance, health, and safety of professional sports players themselves. These technologies are also moving rapidly from the professional sports arena into markets for the general public.
To learn more, check out this infographic created by Ohio University’s Online Master of Athletic Administration program.
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A Developing Technological Niche
Wearable sports technology in action is only seven years old. It was first seen in 2009 when the European Soccer Club used one of the earliest wearable devises for measuring overall player workload during games. This device was among the first to allow coaches real-time monitoring of each player’s biometrics for signs of exhaustion or injury while on the field.
In 2014, world-renowned Dutch football manager Louis Van Gall introduced the Oculus Rift to his Manchester United players, letting them experience the 2014 World Cup games from the other players perspectives. Wearable sports technology had expanded from simple biometric monitoring to inclusion of perceptual and psychological aspects of professional team sports for enhancing performance.
This year, a total of 9,500 professional athletic players on 500 teams in 35 sports and 35 countries are using wearable athletic devises made by Australian industry leader Catapult GPS sports monitors for improving personal and team performance and reducing injury.
These players are the first wave of professional athletes seeing the benefits of these technologies for boosting athletic performance and reaching their personal best. These new technologies are also revolutionizing sports by reducing the potential of sports related injuries like damaged tendons, exhaustion, and concussion.
Wearable sports technologies are being used to monitor athletic training, in-game performance, and recovery after an injury. Developments in this rapidly expanding technological niche are letting team administrators, coaches, trainers, and players excel in their sport while reducing injury and sports related illness at the same time.
A Wide Range of Wearable Athletic Devices
Wearable athletic devices are already here in all sizes and shapes, and new ones are continuously on the development horizon. Devises are being seamlessly incorporated into the fabric of sports apparel, built into sports equipment like balls and bats, and worn by athletes as small devices attached to the body in a waistband or skin patch. The devises then link by Bluetooth and GPS technology, relaying real-time data to coaches with laptops or other electronic devices for analyzing, recording, and responding to the information.
Bat motion sensors made by Zepp Baseball let players improve their swing using a precision device inside the bat. Data lets coaches and players’ analyses personal body mechanics, improving performance or adjusting techniques to avoid injury or reduce effort.
GPS trackers sewn into athletic uniforms are feeding back real-time information on NFL player’s balance, speed, acceleration, and motion. 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.
Sensors and devices for athletes must be almost invisible and weightless, as well as flexible, durable, and impact resistant. Simultaneously, they must produce precise measurements of biometrics like motion, heart rate, respiration, and impact. New materials like StretchSense fabric are designed to meet all of these requirements.
StretchSense fabrics are made with micro-sensors built directly into the lightweight flexible material. Bluetooth circuitry sends data to an Android app, showing feedback on real-time action for an individual wearing the fabric. Fabric sensors can also be glued or clipped onto clothing, and the materials come in a wide range of colors and print options. Other types of sensors are being incorporated into sports shoes.
Devises already in use are measuring over one hundred human metrics, including heart rate, metabolism, stress load, core temperature, and physical impact from trauma. Researchers are forging ahead, designing devices which will be available in the near future to more accurately measure hydration levels and deeper aspects of physical stress and metabolic function.
Sports Teams Reducing Injuries with Wearable Technology
The Toronto Raptors compete in the NBA Eastern Conference Atlantic Division. They had the highest rate of player injury in the league in the 2012 season. Then they started using athletic wearable technology and monitoring players for early signs of soft tissue injury while practicing and playing. In the 2014 season, the Raptors had the least injuries of any team in the league.
The Florida State Seminoles are another sports team who has seen a significant improvement in their statistics due to wearable athletic technology. In 2013 they strapped on wearable analytic devises made by Australian industry giant, Catapult. In that year, the team had an 88 percent reduction of injuries to soft tissues.
Sports teams of all kinds are quickly learning how wearable sports technology can improve their team’s performance and save players from injury and illness. Given the advantages gained by teams and athletes using this technology, it is likely to become a standard for all teams in the future.
Wearable Athletic Devices Industry Booming
Stockholders are also seeing benefits from developments in athletic technologies. By 2013, sales of these technologies had already reached almost two billion dollars. By 2019, this figure is expected to reach 2.8 billion dollars. Sports apparel manufacturers like Niki are teaming up with wearable analytics companies like Catapult and developing ever more sophisticated products in this sector and making them increasingly available to professional athletes and the public at large.
The applications for wearable athletic technologies are expanding. While professional sports teams are forging the path forward, average people are also seeing versions of these devises for the non-professional athlete and for non-athletes. Wearable sports technologies are merging with personal medical devices which monitor individuals and communicate personal biometrics to their health care provider.
Opportunities for product endorsements for athletes and teams using these devices are another financial outgrowth of wearable analytics. Widespread distribution of personal biometric devices, fabrics, and equipment for sports teams and everyone else appears certain to grow in the future.
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