Wearable technology has been one of the hottest tech trends ever – but taking it to professional sports could give players, coaches and trainers a huge insight into an athlete’s performance. Before, players, coaches and trainers were sometimes at a loss to explain a sudden drop in performance. Even in modern times, with sports technology being used at almost every professional sports club, some things still remain a mystery.
Spanish football player Fernando Torres’s £50million move from storied Liverpool FC to rivals Chelsea in 2011 was not only one of the biggest transactions in European football (it ranks 13th overall and is still the highest transfer fee between two English football clubs), but also one of the biggest disappointments. Torres had been averaging around 20 goals per season at Liverpool, but mysteriously dropped to just over half that with Chelsea. Chelsea in turn loaned him to Italian powerhouse AC Milan, who in turn ended up loaning him back to his first team, Spanish football club Atletico Madrid. “You end up in a situation where things have not gone well for weeks, or for years. That is like swimming in wet clothes,” Torres himself said about his time at Chelsea.
Could wearable tech help athletes stay consistent and explain sudden drops in performance? The answer lies in the old mantra of “numbers don’t lie.” According to Stephen Mayhew, publisher and co-founder of Biometrics Research Group, Inc., “Many professional sports teams are already using or will soon be using equipment with embedded sensors, such as baseball bats that track players swing and performance, and smart ice skates that measure the physical impact that jumps have on skaters’ bodies,” he said.
Mayhew mentioned wearables being used across many different sports, such as baseball, a sport extremely dominated by statistics. Sensors can be installed on bats to measure a player’s performance, and can help coaches pick the best lineup for the next game. Other teams that are picking up on wearable tech include 2014 World Cup winners Germany and Major League Soccer club Toronto FC, who are both using ADIDAS wearables during their practice and training sessions. The wearables collect biometric data on players that can be used to determine who is most fit for the next match.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) experimented with using OptimEye, which players wear inside their jerseys. According to Mayhew, the device can measure key statistics such as distance, velocity, changes of direction, acceleration and deceleration, jump height, and heart rate. These statistics are then transmitted to a computer where coaches, trainers and players can analyze real-time performance data. This is extremely important due to the fast-paced nature of basketball and can help coaches and trainers make substitutions in-game, or even how to go forth with treating someone on the disabled list.
The most important thing? Sports teams are willing to make the investment into wearable tech. The global market revenue for sports, fitness, and activity monitors (which include wearable tech) will be worth nearly $2.8 billion by 2019. “The market for traditional, dedicated sports, fitness and activity monitors will continues to thrive even amid the encroachment of smartphones and of multifunction wearable devices such as smart glasses,” said Shane Walker, senior manager for medical devices and healthcare IT research at IHS Technology.
Wearables in professional sports might become a reality before the decade closes—which might also have an unintended effect of changing the rules of the sport to accommodate wearables and affect the way the game is played. Sports and technology’s relationship will become closer as more teams adapt wearable tech.