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Wearable Sports Tech: How Wearable Technology is Helping Athletes Improve Their Performance

February 7, 2017

It has been very difficult for coaches and trainers to keep tabs on unquantifiable aspects of athletic performance. Enter wearable technologies to solve this on a large scale. As technology is advancing to a level where wearables can be worn as often a sock, professional athletes will be able to track their diet, training, workouts, drills, simulations, sleep and life off-the-field to improve their performance.

Wearables

Today’s technologies let you track each muscle in your body and even predict injuries to prepare and train systematically for games and important events. But that’s not all: you can even track things like your protein and food intake, which directly impact your performance.

Let’s look at some popular wearable products by each sport that is helping athletes improve their performance.

Golf:

A full swing to a putt, all the movements of the club can be tracked to assess and monitor the player’s performance. These are some of the popular products available today to help the avid golfer:

-K-Vest & K-Trainer

$995

Some of the world’s best golf players and instructors use K-Vest (starting at $6,000) which has sensors at the top and bottom of the spine and on the lead wrist. K-Vest tracks the amount of separation between the shoulders and hips on the backswing. The less-expensive K-Trainer has a $99 monthly subscription fee and features just the back and hip sensors.

-Lumo Lift

$100

A good posture is an essential part of a good golf swing. Lumo wants to prevent back pain — on and off the course — by monitoring posture and the amount of stress you put on your back through other activities, like running or working out. If you start to slouch, Lumo will remind you to stand up straight by gently vibrating.

-SkyPro

$200

The SkyPro attaches to the shaft of the club and registers any movement the club makes (full swing, chip or putt) and transmits it to a phone through an app so the swing change can be viewed in 3D as you progress. It can track actions like shaft, lean and club rotation which is key for their training, fitness and when recovering from an injury.

Tennis:

From the grass court to the clay court, athletes prepare differently for each condition. Their stamina and endurance is an outcome of their training.

-Pivot

From $279

This story comes straight from Silicon Valley startup TuringSense. A whopping 14 sensors for the top of the range pack, the coaching and monitoring system has been developed in partnership with Hall of Fame coach Nick Bollettieri. Pivot promises to improve a player’s game by recording 360 degree motion, preventing injuries and getting statistics on a wide range of performance metrics including footwork, body position, elbow bend, knee bend, and more.

The device records full body movements by leveraging multiple 9-axis sensors and proprietary data capture software. You don’t need a camera; there’s a hub that records all the biometric data each sensor sends. Up to 1,000 data samples per second are sent, from the accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer. You can replay the action and see the analysis on the companion app.

– Babolat AeroPro Drive Play

This version comes with a bank of sensors integrated into the handle that records a player’s tennis strokes before sending the stats to an Android or iOS device.

Simply put, this clever slice of hidden tech tracks a player’s stroke power, ball impact position (sweet spot or edge) and the number of forehands, backhands, overhead and spin strokes performed during play. The data is then presented on your smartphone screen via a series of colorful, illustrative graphs.

Football / Soccer:

– GPSports’ Vest

GPSports’ Vest — also known as “the man bra” — is an activity tracking shirt from GPSports. It is not a new idea for a smart shirt to track activity. However, this shirt is particularly impressive because of its mass tracking with one wearable. GPSports’ Vest can track around 150 football teams and their performance. The vest has a built-in slot which is designed for GPS-enabled high-performance unit. In addition, it enables heart rate monitoring, a chest strap and accelerometer. All the data (heart rate, speed, density) is instantly uploaded to the GPS software.

– Viper Pod

Viper Pod is the world’s leading performance monitoring tool for football. It includes building sensors into clothes that players can wear on the training ground or even in matches. Moreover, Viper Pod is packed with a GPS module, a series of motion sensors and a heart rate receiver. Therefore, it is able to monitor valuable metrics such as distance, speed, acceleration, step balance and heart rate. It can also report collisions and give players a fatigue index.

Basketball:

– Shot Tracker

Shot Tracker is a wearable device that automatically tracks shot attempts, makes and misses. It includes 3 separate parts: a wrist sensor, a net sensor and the Shot Tracker app. When players shoot, the wrist sensor sends a signal that a shot was attempted. Then, the net sensor sends a signal indicating if the shot was made or missed. Both signals are sent to the mobile device where the Shot Tracker app keeps tracks of shooting stats. It works with a wristband or a sleeve depending on the player’s choice. Both the wristband and sleeve are light and comfortable to wear. A plus for a product where the battery lasts for 3 months after a full charge.

– Nike+ Basketball Shoes

With these shoes, which work together with an iOS app, players can track “how high, how hard and how quick” players do. Each shoe has a Nike+ Pressure Sensor built into it that allows users to collect data about their movements and send it wirelessly to their mobile gadget. Nike+ basketball shoes focus on your footwork while on the basketball court.

Swimming:

– Fitbit Flex 2

Fitbit fans should be happy they’ve finally got a swim-friendly option in the form of the new Fitbit Flex 2. It’s water resistant to 50m in the pool, ocean or shower and brings a five-day battery life, LED light alerts and fancy accessories to the usual Fitbit features of activity and sleep tracking. It’ll recognize the four main swimming strokes: freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly. While you don’t get a comprehensive collection of swim metrics, it will track duration, distance and pace for a basic breakdown.

Waterproof rating: 5 ATM (50m)

  • Apple Watch Series 2

Along with adding a built-in GPS, waterproofing was the other headline feature for the Series 2. But Apple went a step further adding pool and open swim tracking and it’s one of the best we’ve used. You’ll get served up with a host of metrics including distance covered, lengths, average pace and it can distinguish stroke as well. During the swim the touchscreen is inactive, but you can raise your arm to check in on real-time progress. Data is synced to the Apple Activity app, but there is a handful of swimming apps that can now support the added swim tracking features for more advanced insights.

Waterproof rating: 5 ATM (50m)

Wearables will continue to evolve. In another 5 years, technology will have progressed to a point where our predictions today will sound funny (just like how we talk about the movie Back to the Future). Technology and sports will continue to coexist. Players will outperform the statistics and records.

And then technology will improve to help them shatter those again.

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