Going Pro with Sport Tech Wearables

January 21, 2020

If the recent Astros scandal is any indication, the sports industry is still trying to find where rising technology fits into the game. But harmony can be found. Some IoT wearables have already been approved and are in regular use in US national leagues.

American Football & Wearable Tech

The NFL partnered with Zebra to place sensors in player shoulder pads. These sensors track data such as player speed and distance traveled. That data is shared with the NFL’s franchises and can be used to analyze individual player and team performance.

The NFL Player’s Association partnered with WHOOP – a wristband that monitors player health factors such as sleep quality, heart rate and calories burned. The band is meant as a recovery tool that allows NFL players to keep track of performance ability, strain they’ve put on their body and recovery routines.

Though none are yet officially endorsed, a number of wearables exist for measuring or reducing head impact for football players. These mainly involve patches that evaluate impacts for possible concussions. Having data allows important medical judgements to be made beyond how well a player may feel. There’s also a collar that reduces injury from head impacts by increasing blood volume around the brain to prevent it from connecting with the skull during impact.

Baseball & Connected Technology

In 2016, Major League Baseball approved two wearable technologies for player use during games. A connected vest monitors heart rate and breathing to assess player fatigue. And a sleeve measures elbow stress for pitchers. These technologies help prevent strain and injury. In 2017, Major League Baseball also authorized player use of WHOOP.

Smarter Basketballs & Jerseys

Not an official NBA wearable, KINEXON is still used by nearly half the league’s teams. KINEXON uses both a smart ball and sensor-equipped jerseys to track player performance, detect overloads that could cause injury and provide team analysis.

Sensible Soccer Jerseys & Vests

In 2012, Major League Soccer partnered with Adidas and their miCoach Elite System, which involved sensors woven into team jerseys. The sensors tracked speed, power, distance, position and other factors. This data was transmitted to coaches in real time so they could evaluate the stress on individual players or performance of the team overall.

Adidas since shut down miCoach systems, and the US Soccer Federation partnered with STATSports for performance monitoring. The system uses a vest with sensors to collect player stats and track movement in real time.

The Future of Smart Fitness

The market of smart fitness wear is expected to grow to $4.5 billion by 2023. How much of that will transition to professional sports is unclear. But IoT appears to be a certain future.