The greatest sporting events are a platform for diversity when athletes from around the world compete. Nothing says dedication and high performance like a world champion, even if only for a few months. An Olympic Gold Medalist carries the best-in-the-world honor for four years. However by the time they defend their next medal, dozens of new sports technologies will have launched. The result is incrementally increasing and technologically dependent athlete performance. Most elite athletes are now dependent on technology to replicate their results while expanding the human physiological limit.
A new field called “sports technology” has emerged to guide technology in sport. A ‘sports technologist’ provides teams and athletes with expertise to apply processes, data, equipment, devices, and computers to sport. There are numerous applications for technology in elite levels of sport, training aids to safety devices, but some of these technologies are potentially groundbreaking for all athletes. There are three core technology areas that competitive athletes can use to gain an edge: sleep, data and neuro.
Over the last ten years, it has become clear that an athlete’s post-training recovery is tightly linked to sleep. That’s why it is not uncommon for the world’s highest performing athletes to “live to sleep.” Elite athletes gain a high-performance advantage from technologies that measure or monitor sleep effectiveness. Apps, wearables and smart mattresses help elite athletes record and track their sleep. While collecting sleep data is rather easy, you’ll need to have a physician or sports scientists customize a training schedule based on your sleep behavior to find an advantage. Luckily, access to expertise in the area of sleep has become more widely available.
If athletes can collect all types of data, then having an expert look over the data becomes paramount. To do that, athletes need to think about centralizing their data. Most winning sports teams interact with athlete data in an Athlete Management Platform. These specialized data platforms are customized for sport and allow stakeholders such as coaches, nutritionists, trainers, physicians, scientists, athletes and parents to interact with the data, often displayed as trending graphs. The data may consist of performance skills, laps an athlete swam, calories consumed or sleep schedules. An integration of connected devices from wearables into these platforms is a growing high performance trend. Find a way to track your training data in a central, accessible repository; this will allow for more complex training regiments and the sharing of training data with experts.
As athlete training data becomes more complex, a focus on precision and speed is not the only concern. We must think of the body as a system and, as such, the mind is very important. There is strong evidence that an athlete’s brain can be electrically stimulated before training sessions to help them learn faster. Be on the lookout for this technology. Neuro-based technology is truly an elite effort at this point so I don’t suggest amateur athletes try this technology just yet. In fact, the devices on the market today warn that youth should not use their technology. An unnoticeable electrical field is created by a head band or headphone like device which lightly excites the motor control area of the athlete’s brain while they wear it during a “priming” session before their physical skills activities. The evidence suggests that pre-workout stimulation helps in the creation of new pathways within the muscle control areas of the brain.
Don’t blink, things are moving fast in sports technology.
David Geddes, Chief Executive and Co-Founder, ISTA, [email protected]