The smart way to avoid injury

Wearable technology is all the rage, much of it aimed at encouraging a healthy lifestyle by tracking our exercise and steps, or monitoring things like heartbeat, respiration and blood pressure. 

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that professional sports teams are very enthusiastic about the technology. In the UK during a major rugby event, many of the teams, including the US, are wearing GPS tracking devices that relay data back to analysts who can track performance.  

Football players are using these devices to track performance during training is commonplace, providing details about how much ground a player covers, how long a player can sustain peak performance and the period of rest a player needs between peak activity bursts.

It’s about more than just performance, however.  A large part of what sports teams are doing in using wearable technology is centered on injury prevention. Pro baseball manager Billy Beane’s use of data, immortalized by Brad Pitt in the movie “Moneyball,” revolutionized baseball more than ten years ago. Now utilized across all sports, the health data provided by wearable technology is what professional teams are seeking to gain the next competitive edge.

Joe Rogowski, director of sports medicine and research, told the Washington Post that today’s professional sports teams are trying to identify the perfect formula to accurately assess a player’s condition and performance potential. 

“Every day there are new companies coming out with new devices, measuring this and promising that,” he said.  When asked what these teams are monitoring, he said: “Give me an hour and I can go through the whole list.”

Factors being tested and measured include speed, hydration, hormone levels, muscle fatigue, exertion and vitamin D levels – plus, of course, heartbeat, sleep patterns and the effects of travel.

This wearable technology is directly linked to that which is available to consumers as well. In fact, this summer, the champion women’s soccer team was using the consumer product Polar Wearables strapped to their wrists during every training session. The team’s strength and fitness coach, Dawn Scott, kept a close eye on each player’s condition, creating individually programmed training routines where necessary to ensure every player arrived at the final game in peak condition. 

Of course, one other way to avoid injury is to avoid heavy physical contact. For football players, the issue with concussion injuries is well known, and they even occur in training.  But how can you practice for a heavy contact sport like football without some aggressive tackling?

In answer to this question, students at Dartmouth have come up with a novel approach and their very own take on the concept of the MVP.  The School of Engineering has designed a robot called Mobile Virtual Player – a padded crash test dummy that the college’s football team can throw themselves at and knock to the ground without fear of injury.  During practice, coaches control the position of the robot, and players try to break through the lines to launch themselves at it.  This method seems like a lot of fun, as well as another great demonstration of how technology can help college and elite level sports players avoid injury. It all goes to show that smart sports can sport smart tech!

Check out some of the sports and fitness wearables Verizon has to offer.