Wearable technology for the elite athlete
Wearable technology has already made its way into almost everyone’s life to some degree. Interestingly, Major League Baseball (MLB) has now allowed the use of these technologies to track players’ performance. Using the data provided by these new devices has a lot of implications.
Smartphones can now track how far and how quickly a person can walk. The Fitbit, Apple Watch, Fuelband and other devices can collect and analyze more data about the wearer’s physiology and sleep habits.
In the case of competitive sports, wearable technology can give an athlete a big advantage in regard to training habits and injury prevention.
Two devices approved by MLB for use during games this season look at different activities. One device is a sleeve that measures stress on elbows. This is specifically designed to collect data that will hopefully decrease the number of Tommy John surgeries that seems to be growing rapidly. The information can help create better coaching techniques and improved arm mechanics at all levels of play.
The other piece of approved wearable technology is a bioharness that monitors heart rate and breathing patterns in real time. These basic physiologic measures can help athletes gain necessary feedback to reach peak performance in stressful conditions.
One area of interest is the field of hydration and electrolyte balance. Specifically, the ability to monitor these parameters and avoid sudden death has become a goal of many scientists.
“The wearable technology industry related to the assessment of hydration status, sweat composition and body temperature has exploded in the past few years,” reports Dr. Douglas Casa, Professor of Kinesiology and CEO of the Korey Stringer Institute at UConn. “As of now we still do not have a valid wearable sensor that can reveal real-time hydration status or provide an accurate estimate of core body temperature. I predict this will change within the next 5 years and will be of great value to the equipment-laden soldier, laborer or athlete who could benefit from this information while training, competing, or working.”
Although many athletes are concerned with the privacy of physiologic data, their concern may be offset by the lifesaving ability this technology can provide.
Dr. Alessi is a neurologist in Norwich and serves as an on-air contributor for ESPN. He is director of UConn NeuroSport and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org