The Revolution of technology in professional sports

Today’s professional sports is a multi-billion dollar business and it is at a level in which physical differences are incredibly narrow. This is also the reason why athletes and professional teams are looking into new fields like sports psychology and sports science to get that ever so important competitive edge. The demand for sport-specific data has definitely gotten professional teams of multiple different sports on their toes. This data can provide helpful information and enhance in-game performance.

The way we follow sports is changing

Modern technology gives viewers a completely new dimension to immerse themselves into professional sports and events. Things like 360-degree virtual reality video feeds, drone shots and a number of social media platforms are changing the way we look at professional sports more than ever before.

According to Forbes, the professional sports market is expected to reach 73.5 billion dollars by 2019 in North America alone. This is mostly due to massive revenues from media rights deals, sponsorship deals, merchandise and ticket sales.

 

http://www.forbes.com/sites/darrenheitner/2015/10/19/sports-industry-to-reach-73-5-billion-by-2019/#d25a14515854
Chart from Forbes article “North America sports market by segment”

 

As sport’s business keeps growing, so do the demands of teams and athletes. This is why companies like Firstbeat and Kinduct Technologies have come for the aid of athletes to make sure their performance is razor sharp when needed. The companies use state-of -the-art analysis to optimize game-day performance, follow athlete readiness and recovery as well as provide valuable information of training progress.

Athlete data can be used in many ways

A person’s physical performance can vary greatly from day to day (1). Let’s say you are deadlifting 100kg (220 lbs) and your performance varies 5% from last day’s performance. That means on a good day you could lift 105kg (231 lbs), or on a bad day 95kg (209 lbs). That is a 10kg (22 lbs) change in the performance.

Interestingly, the peak performance usually occurs when the body temperature is at its daily high (2).

Some of these results may sound minuscule, but this is what professional athletes lives off of. This has inevitably created a need for top-tier athletes to bridge this gap with the help of modern technology.

For example, coordination can also change drastically depending on how well rested you are (3). This, along with muscle strength balance, is also a huge factor in how prone the athlete is to injuries (4) . Mah et al. researched professional basketball players and found that their ”Shooting accuracy improved, with free throw percentage increasing by 9% and 3-point field goal percentage increasing by 9.2%” when well-rested (5).

Photo by Keith Allison

Even more fascinating was the claim that some Baseball teams had the advantage of crossing fewer time zones than their opponents. Their winning percentage was 60.6% which is greater than the home-field advantage. (6)

Moneyball, anyone?

Recovery data helps athletes reach their peak

According to Steven Smith, CEO at Kitman Labs, injuries are a huge drain in the finances of professional teams. The average NFL team loses 11.5 million dollars per year in injured players’ salaries alone, which make these findings even more crucial. This is why teams need to follow their players’ training/recovery cycle.

Additionally, the human body produces growth hormones while asleep. This helps the body repair and rebuild muscle. This is also why a number of bodybuilders like naps after their workouts.

Petter Northug
Photo by Tor Atle Kleven

Following an athlete’s personal recovery data may be used to create training programs in a way that would help prevent overtraining or straining. In order to reach their potential, the focus for the athlete must be on both physical and mental well-being. Otherwise the athlete may suffer from overtraining syndrome (7) in the likes of Petter Northug, a two-time olympic gold medalist and 13-time world champion in cross-country skiing, whose 16/17 season is greatly affected by these symptoms. (8,9)

Tactical data can be used to overwhelm the opponent

From a tactical standpoint, these stats can be used to plan every aspect of the game on the go – whether it is the amount of successful passes made by your center midfielder or the positioning of your left winger during a power play. Making this data user-friendly and easily accessible to teams may just be the difference between winning or losing.

 

”Sports Science, without question is the biggest and most important change in my lifetime”.
(Sir Alex Ferguson, the former manager of Manchester United, 1986-2012)

 

Football (or soccer for you non-believers) players have worn chips in their shoes since season 11/12, (10) which provides up-to-date information on the players movement on the field – distance, positioning and top speed. This, on the other hand, can be used by the coaching staff to make sure the player is in shape and positioned where he/she is supposed to be. Therefore, it is up to the coaching staff to take advantage of every piece of information they have at hand.

If used right, it would make athletes physically, tactically and mentally superior while being less prone to injuries.

The bottom line

When combining state-of-the art technology with sport science and data analysis, professional teams are standing on the edge of one of the biggest revolutions in sports history. The data is already there, It just needs to be incorporated in the right way.

 

 

 

References:

  1. Leatherwood, Whitney . & Dragoo, Jason L. 2013. Effect of airline travel for performance. A review of the literature. British Journal of Sports Medicine (47): 561-567 originally published online November 9, 2012
  2. Atkinson, G. & Reilly, T. Circadian variations in sport performance. 1996. Sports Medicine, April 21 (4): 292-312.
  3. Williamson, A.M. & Feyer, Anne-Marie. 2000. Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Vol. 57, Issue 10.
  4. Taylor, Lee, Chrismas, Bryna C.R., Dascombe, Ben, Chamari, Karim, & Fowler, Peter M. 2016. Sleep Medication and Athletic Performance – The Evidence for Practicioners and Future Research Directions. Frontiers in Physiology. Volume 7, Article 83.
  5. Mah, Cheri D, MS, Mah, Kenneth E, MD, MS, Kezirian, Eric J, MD, MPH, & Dement, William C, MD, PhD. 2011. The Effects of Sleep Extension on the Athletic Performanceof Collegiate Basketball Players. Sleep. Jul i; 34(7): 943-950.
  6. Winter WC, Hammond WR, Green NH, et al. 2009. Measuring circadian advantage in 84 Major League Baseball: a 10-year retrospective study. International Journal of Sports Physiological Performance (4):394–401.
  7. Kreher, Jeffrey B.  MD, & Schwartz, Jennifer B. MD. 2012. Overtraining Syndrome – A practical Guide. Sports Health. Vol. 4. No. 2.
  8. http://www.norwaypost.no/sport/athletics-a-winter/24364-cross-country-northug-overtrained (Cited on 20.2.2017)
  9. http://www.expressen.se/sport/langdskidor/petter-northug-hoppar-av-tour-de-ski/ (Cited on 20.2.2017)
  10. http://www.techradar.com/news/world-of-tech/adidas-unveils-micoach-speed-cell-tracker-1036849 (Cited on 20.2.2017)

 

Other sources

http://www.sporttechie.com/2016/12/14/technology/sporttechie-25-the-most-tech-savvy-sports-teams-in-the-world/ (Cited on 20.2.2017)

http://biztechmagazine.com/article/2016/12/nfl-pushes-boundaries-football-emerging-technology?utm_source=t.co&utm_medium=referral (Cited on 20.2.2017)

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/feb/11/attack-of-the-drones-sport-drone-racing (Cited on 20.2.2017)

http://www.forbes.com/sites/darrenheitner/2015/10/19/sports-industry-to-reach-73-5-billion-by-2019/#174483281585 (Cited on 20.2.2017)

https://www.firstbeat.com/en/ (Cited on 20.2.2017)

https://www.kinduct.com (Cited on 20.2.2017)

http://www.kitmanlabs.com/knowledge/real-cost-of-injuries-in-professional-sport&type=subject&tag=Analytics (Cited on 20.2.2017)

http://www.livestrong.com/article/555993-sleeping-after-breakfast-for-bodybuilding/ (Cited on 20.2.2017)

http://www.techradar.com/news/world-of-tech/adidas-unveils-micoach-speed-cell-tracker-1036849 (Cited on 20.2.2017)

https://twitter.com/prozonesports/status/332761230500560898 (Cited on 20.2.2017)

2 Replies to “The Revolution of technology in professional sports”

  1. Very interesting information. This is an area that will continue to grow in value and outcome. One of the variables, however, it doesn’t take into account is human EMOTIONS and the change in physiology it causes. Training, conditioning, recovery, nutrition, etc… are all important areas to implement to maximize performance, but the heart and mind of an individual will always remain a factor that can impede or propel performance.

  2. Very true once again! It’s nice to see more and more mental coaches working together with the athletes.
    However, there is still a lot to learn from this. The bigger the stage, the bigger the pressure.

    You just gave me an interesting idea on something to write about. Thank you for that!

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