Technology has a habit of changing everything we apply it to and sports is no different. You’re probably aware of the benefits technology provides for you on a personal level like the Fitbit or a blood pressure monitor. Our focus is usually on how technology makes our lives better, so we rarely consider how it affects other people including those we watch for entertainment.
Advances in technology, especially the internet, improved the way we watch sports and keep up with our favorite teams or players. Almost all games are more accessible now, and some apps update you in play by play fashion, so you don’t miss anything while you’re working or otherwise occupied. Again, this is the selfish side of sports technology because these advances help us enjoy sports.
Stats for your favorite player and videos of critical plays make their way to your tablet, laptop, or phone with little effort on your part and they’re free most of the time. This immersion works both ways by improving your experience and increasing your awareness of the sport including any events or games you may want to pay to attend. That’s the only part that benefits the athletes.
However, some significant advances in sports technology have improved most sports from making them safer for the athletes to enhancing their performance. In fact, the sheer number of advances makes it impossible to list everything in this article. Our best efforts may only cover a small portion of the ways technology is improving sports.
Again, covering all the great progress in sports technology piece by piece is a huge feat. So, in that spirit, let’s look at some of the crucial advances in sports technology. Our primary focus is safety and how sports technology is making it safer for athletes to compete. You may be surprised by some of the topics we’ve included below. At the very least, you’ll have some ideas for your players or coach.
Technology is Improving Nutrition and How We Feed Our Bodies
Few things are more important than proper nutrition. That goes for spectators and athletes since food is the fuel that helps us perform and recover from any activity. Technology and the way we monitor our bodies is helping companies that make protein supplements, protein bars, sports drinks, and other recovery foods improve their products.
For example, dig around in your favorite search engine for a photo of the current Mr. Olympia and Mr. Olympia from 1975. Compare each person’s legs and abs, and you’ll see a big difference. That difference is due to technology in a big way because it’s helped athletes like bodybuilders understand how to feed their muscles and create the body they need to compete for the Mr. Olympia title.
Proper nutrition is directly related to sports safety since a well-fed body is less likely to suffer energy loss or injuries. When you run out of energy, It creates a danger zone around you because you can’t move out of the way or you become an obstacle. If you’re injured, the correct nutrition plan speeds up recovery. Sports technology is directly responsible for much of our knowledge of nutrition.
Better Sports Clothing and Safety Gear
The best example we could come up with is imagining football players today slamming into each other wearing leather football pads from the early 1900s. Move the timeline up a few decades and football safety gear from just two decades ago was far less advanced than what players use today. Sports technology’s continuing efforts to make playing sports safer improves safety every year.
Another excellent example of technology making sports safer is the VICIS ZERO1 football helmet. It’s ranked as one of the safest football helmets by NFL and NFLPA labs. It’s designed to protect the athlete’s head and their brain which helps prevent concussions. The helmet is a product of technology that brought neurosurgery and engineering together.
Mouthguards rank among some of the advances athletes can thank sports technology for providing. Today’s mouthguard is tested for dozens of things including energy absorption, durability, and comfort. The goal is protecting an athlete’s mouth instead of merely satisfying a regulation and sports technology is continually improving this simple safety device.
Technology Helps Us Recognize Potential Hazards or Injuries
Software and doctors may analyze data provided by videos or other devices to look for reasons an athlete is in pain or to pick up on actions that increase the potential for injuries to occur. Software can track an athlete in real-time while they’re playing baseball, tennis, football, or any other sport. Their movements get analyzed for indicators that an injury is forthcoming.
For instance, a baseball player that consistently swings incorrectly may end up with a repetitive shoulder injury. The same might apply to a tennis player that serves poorly of a golfer that doesn’t follow through on their swing. Instead of relying on human eyes, the software may be able to predict injuries by watching athletes perform. Our eyes may not pick up subtle mistakes that lead to long-term problems.
Allowing technology to watch players for mistakes or poor performance helps coaches can be everywhere at one time. Alerts may come to the coach in real time or get saved for review at a later date. This type of technology lets coaches help their players play the game better and prevent injuries by avoiding common mistakes or using bad form.
You can force players to watch countless hours of videos or run drills regularly and still not improve their game. Gear or training tools designed to teach proper form or guide a player’s movements may help since the player can feel or react to the clothing or training gear.
Building Smarter Sports Gear
Athletes may choose to use smarter gear during training or in a game if the rules permit the use of intelligent equipment. Sensors and cameras built into the clothing or worn by the athlete may help them see mistakes or avoid injuries. The data gathered by sensors and cameras can be analyzed to help improve the performance or train new athletes. This training method is much faster than old school do-it-over-and-over-again training.
While repetitive training is certainly necessary, sports like gymnastics and golf may benefit more than others by digitally enhanced training gear. For instance, a gymnast may wear clothing with sensors that detect proper form which alerts them through vibrations or beeps to let them know they performed a move correctly or incorrectly. Similar technology may help golfers fix their stance and swing.
While not the only sport currently using the technology, some race car drivers use gloves or other wearable gear that contains biometric sensors. The sensors continuously send information to medical personnel so that they can monitor the physical condition of the drivers. This type of wearable is a big deal for safety since it lets the medical staff stop a driver that may be in danger physically.
In addition to monitoring the driver for health concerns, the wearable also comes in handy if a driver wrecks and remains trapped in their car. The medical team can monitor the health of any driver involved in the crash, so they know which driver needs rescuing first. A few seconds may be all the time it takes to save a driver’s life if they’re more severely injured compared to other drivers.
Technology isn’t limited to electronics and data. It plays a significant role in the design and development of new low-tech gear like shoes and gloves. While shoes and gloves may be fitted with sensors, the way they’re designed is a direct result of science examining how an athlete uses the gear. Once they have enough data, developers and designers can get to work improving the gear or making it safer.
Sports technology has come a long way since the days of simple gear and coaches screaming instructions across the field. Granted some coaches still do that and we understand why it’s often necessary. Sometimes it’s just a way for them to relieve some stress. However, in-game communication between coaches and the medical staff removes some of the yelling and helps protect players.
No amount of technology will ever wholly replace good coaching and training. However, it may help coaches and players in ways we haven’t imagined yet, or it may save lives. If you’re an athlete or a coach, we urge you to do some research and make sure you’re providing yourself and your players with the safest gear and the best technology available. Be sure to investigate data collection methods as well.
The data computer software gathers from analyzing video or information collected by wearables is invaluable to coaches trying to improve their players. The same data may be used by engineers and doctors to develop safer gear or improve treatments for common sports-related injuries. We can’t wait to see what the future of sports technology has in store for us.