Sports Wearables: Current Status in Professional Sports

Many major corporations are still trying to figure out how to use big data to increase their efficiency and improve employee’s performance and satisfaction. Professional sports teams are no exception.

Many are looking at how to use wearables to cut down on costly and harmful injuries to players as well as enhance team game strategy, while players and their associations are becoming concerned about the use of data in negotiations and commercialization of data, along with security. Here’s a brief look the current status of how some of the leagues are using sports wearables and navigating the delicate balance between efficiency and privacy.

Major League Baseball
In April of last year, Major League Baseball approved the use of the Motus Baseball Sleeve that measures elbow stress and the Zephyr Bioharness that measures breathing and heart rate. It also approved two bat sensors for workouts.

Yesterday, the it approved a third device, the Whoop Strap to tracks strain, recovery and sleep of athletes and provide teams an overall picture of a player’s health. Players will be able to decide how much information is shared through security settings adnd players and teams will have equal access to data and both must pre-approve its public distribution.

Discussion of how to use emerging technology continues to be an area of attention for both the league and its players.

National Basketball Association
A new collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and player associations finalized last month states that teams can only use wearable device data to ensure player health, performance and tactical purposes and would be fined up to $250,000 if they used it during contract negotiations with players.

Teams can ask players to voluntarily wear adidas miCoach elite systems, Catapult Sports ClearSky and Optimeye systems, Intel Curie systems, STAT Sports Viper systems, VERT Wearable Jump Monitors, Zebra wearable tags and Zephyr Bioharness systems. Wearables are still barred from use during games.

National Football League
Compared to the other sports leagues, the NFL’s adoption of wearables and technology has been more gradual. But over the past year, it’s begun to utiliz Catapult devices, Zebra shoulder pad sensors, the Zero1 football helmet, Oculus headsets and many more devices in the high-stats sport. It has also begun to use adidas’ miCoach in training NFL hopefuls and improving their performance.

This week, the NFL awarded startups GoRoute, Mobilve Virtual Player and Windpact $50,000 each for wearables and motorized practice dummies that assist in player protection and training, with Roger Goodall declaring “We think technology is our friend.”

Major League Soccer
MLS and leagues in Europe have allowed the use of the adidas miCoach elite systems. U.S. teams including the Seattle Sounders have utilized devices including Omegawave, Polar T2, GPS Catapult and Fatigue Science Readiband.

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