There’s no doubt that where we are today technologically stands worlds away from where we will be. The door of innovation has been unhinged from the handles and the loads of technology being developed are aiming at the fitness industry. The health world is being taken by storm and demands for bigger, and better is growing as well. With that growth comes all types of neat little gadgets that promise to improve performance and not let you waste your time scratching your head. As of currently, even the most advanced technology has a reasonable margin of error. However, we are only a few brilliant minds away from redefining measurement and evaluation of fitness.
Biomechanical research will improve as a field with new and improved accelerometers and other gadgets that monitor real life, real-time calculations measuring acceleration, velocity, power, ground reaction force, etc. Dieticians and team athletic trainers can monitor critical biomarkers in sweat such as sweat and potassium. These are critical to performance as they aid in preventing electrolyte imbalances. Now the team can know when they need to refuel, and when it has become a diminishing return to continue to drink sports drinks. By monitoring new and never before measured factors, elite performance can be improved using the science of exercise physiology and nutrition. In fact, the world of exercise science is likely to make a turn for the better with all the demand and hype being created right now.
Gatorade joined with the Brazilian nationals soccer team to monitor and improve their athletic performance. Using differing technology, Gatorade scientists were able to look into the hydration levels of the athletes. They supplied them with knowledge of recovery and performance and gave them a snack bar for them to refuel from. Using a microchip implanted into a Gatorade water bottle, each player had routine updates on their intake levels and hydration state. Further, each player had a customized hydration formula built for their physiology.
With several controversial newspaper articles, and a movie centered around the disease that has been theorized to have taken several NFL player’s lives, the NFL created sensors to measure the helmet contact in players. Whether in fear of the data collected being released, or because the sensors were truly inaccurate, the NFL decided to discontinue the pilot program. The forces created during helmet to helmet contact are likely astonishing, and could be bad for business. However, it’s agreeable that the accuracy of the helmets likely is counteracted by a margin of error. Despite that, the information maybe useful in both the decisions of players and coaches on if they will continue to play.
Speaking of wearable technologies, several exciting new products have hit the market. ECHO monitor is a smart patch designed to analyze sweat. Using only a bead of sweat, ECHO monitor is able to provide accurate and useful data on the body. The Embrace watch is is a product by Empatica which was designed for those with epilepsy. It is built with an accelerometer, gyroscope, and electrodermal activity sensor. This allows ECHO monitor to predict and recognize seizures, determine orientation, and capture movement. Halo Wearables tracks athlete’s hydration state. Optical sensors and two electromagnetic pads are integrated on the backside of the watch. Optical sensors track sodium and potassium levels from sweat. It also includes a thermistor which meausres skin temperature, humidity and air temperature. Color coding allows users to know whether they are dehydrated or filled to the brim with fluid. Biolinq (electrozyme) is a temporary tattoo biosensor which provides blood level info without drawing blood. Biolinq also is capable of sensing and assessing metabolites and electrolytes. Xsensio uses nanotechnology cleverly disguised as a stamp. Xsensio captures information on electrolytes, metabolites, small molecules and proteins. Comparatively, Xsensio is 1000 times smaller than existing technology and provides convenience for this reason.
According to More’s law the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit has doubled approximately every two years. Technology is moving fast, to say the least. Being able to measure the velocity, fatigue, hydration, etc. of an athlete creates invaluable decision making abilities about who should start, who should be replaced during a game, and so on. For example, a starting running back has been tested for maximum acceleration in a given movement. Perhaps we are discussing a linear direction such as a straight shot from the starting position towards the goal line, as in a run designed to fit right between the center and the guard. We know that this player’s acceleration and top speed are reached within a given time frame and therefore would be the best player for the job when it’s a quick developing play. However, this player’s fatigue level is high, and when compared to the back-up, the fatigue will slow his acceleration and top speed to levels below the back-ups acceleration and top speed. Therefore, the back-up should be swapped in for the starter because he has the best chance of performing the way the play is designed. Now imagine this type of decision making being made on the goal line, fourth quarter, and the Seattle Seahawks matched up their freshest starter versus the most depleted Patriot’s player two years ago on that final play. The outcome might have been very different. Of course, they would need access to the opposite team’s data as well but I wouldn’t be surprised if hackers found a way around that. Further, the sports betting world would likely buy into this technology. Regular updates on ESPN, a long with averages over a season, could give incredible information on which players gas out first, and who is performing at 100%. That way sports betters and sport enthusiasts can make better decisions on which team is truly playing at the best of their capabilities. A long with all of this, sports trainers can also see their own impact on a team when they see players recover faster with a particular formula or blend of sports drink, nutrition program, or workout regimen. Essentially, sports measurements recorded by accurate and wearable technology is going to reshape the way we see sports. There will be much less guessing games about who will perform on game day, and more pressure on those players, coaches, and trainers who are responsible for creating optimal results. More than likely, less head coaches will be fired and more players will be cut, and more athletic trainers and strength and conditioning coaches will be axed. Once again, this goes far beyond just the professional sports world. Combines, and the colleges that can afford them will also be using this technology. Scouts for professional sports will be checking on top prospects and seeing whether they are a player who can stick it out the whole game or consistently loses their edge. This will change the way a player is drafted will fit into the line-up. If a pitcher loses the speed on their fast ball after 5 innings, then the coach will decide to pull him after the first five or put him in for the last 5. This will create a better designed game plan. No one is perfect, and creating a game plan where starters won’t always start the whole game is a likelihood. Performance is everything, and when a player no longer performs at a given level of demand, they will be replaced with someone who performs better. It will be a beautiful thing, and statistical methods will eventually create formulas that aid in predicting winners. Instead of the traditional measurements of forty yard dashes, and combine numbers, winning will be calculated by the amount of time a starter can stay hydrated and working at 100%. It will be calculated by the amount of players who can replaced the starter, and how long they can stay 100%. It will be an entirely different world and the way we measure success will come down to every little measurement and evaluation a long the way to winning. Everything will count. Every bead of sweat will be analyzed for electrolyte imbalance. Patches will measure the amount of available glucose left in your blood. Even off the field the measurements will not cease. After a game, dieticians will be making sure your body is filled to the brim with carbohydrates and other nutrients that help you recover and prepare you for the next game. Especially in cases where games are played almost back to back like hockey and basketball. It will likely change the science of sports performance as well. What we find from being able to accurately measure and evaluate these different concepts will change the way we think about performance and recovery. That is what Adidas miCoach is on the verge of. It is pioneering the future of sports performance, like several other companies. They are on the forefront of innovation.
The presentation by Adidas focuses on the features of Adidas miCoach. Training variables such as frequency, intensity, time, etc. are measured. Heart rate is monitored. Power is graphed for viewers. The presenters stress not to just look at the numbers but to use it as a tool to communicate with the team what is happening. Adidas truly has created an amazing device. Being able to classify actions, type of actions, and essentially turn all movements into an applied anatomy/biomechanics chart is incredible. Breaking down the measurements used to evaluate an elite soccer team, Adidas has gathered amazing data to view and assess. Obviously having two speakers with very dense accents might not have been the best for the viewers, but they seem to know what they are talking about. The main speaker is spot on when discussing how athletes will approach their own data. I believe that an athlete will see a value, and perhaps a plateau in their peak performance, and seek out the necessary help. I believe humans will become as close to optimal as ever by enlisting the help of all the allied health sciences. That includes sports psychology, dietetics, exercise physiology, etc. They will have access to it all and the sports team will foot the bill. It’s a truly amazing future we are getting a glimpse of and it will come down to who’s done their homework because exercise and physical activity is not going away, it is growing. The whole experience is on it’s way to a new dimension, and we should all excited to be a part of it.
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