Many athletes accept injuries as simply part of the game. But the Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly changing the way professionals approach sports safety and training. Not only has the IoT changed the way athletes and coaches interact with one another, as well as the way fans engage with their favorite teams, it’s also changed how people perceive sports injuries and how they can be prevented.
According to Deloitte, the IoT can aid in tracking athletes’ injuries right from the beginning of a player’s career, offering valuable insight on muscle imbalances and the ideal length of practice and training sessions. The advanced technology can also help in setting safety parameters, making it easier to determine when players are in a “danger zone.”
IoT Devices for Enhancing Athlete Safety
In recent years, manufacturers have begun to create smart devices designed for athletes in all types of sports. These sophisticated devices can protect and track player safety from head to toe — literally.
And the landscape is changing quickly. Last January, the U.S. Olympic Committee’s biomedical engineer, Mounir Zok, told Bloomberg that “Once an athlete starts using technology to peak when she wants to peak, limit injuries, and maximize performance, she can never go back to just intuitive training.”
Below are a few areas this new technology is being used.
In contact sports, the head is often exposed to traumatic impacts, which can lead to head injuries including concussions. Some impacts can even leave athletes with permanent neurologic disabilities. Smart helmets, which contain IoT-enabled sensors, can help track and prevent these injuries, conveying valuable data to athletes and coaches alike.
ShockBox helmet sensors, for example, track impacts to let parents, coaches and athletes know when a hit is too hard, allowing them to seek treatment sooner. The company offers helmet sensors for football, hockey, lacrosse, and snow sports. Similarly, Riddell has created a smart helmet that connects to mobile devices being used on the sidelines, offering data about the force and exact location of head impacts being sustained by players on the field. Other companies are even placing magnets within their helmets in order to repel helmet-to-helmet impacts.
Mouth guards, used in various contact sports, were also ripe for IoT innovation. Many companies have created connected mouth guards with built-in accelerometers, gyroscopes, and other types of sensors. These mouth guards may help prevent concussions, while also providing data to the sidelines in a similar fashion to the IoT helmets discussed above.
One kind of smart mouth guard, called the FITGuard, uses LED lights to signal impacts that may result in concussions. This smart tech shares data about linear and angular accelerations — as well as impact duration — with those who are connected to it, allowing players the chance to get help quickly. Sometimes, this mouth guard even alerts players to an issue before they know they are injured.
In the world of athletics, properly fitting shoes are essential for preventing many common injuries, such as ankle sprains and tendon tears. Manufacturers have listened to the needs of athletes, creating shoes that track everything the feet do.
IoT-enabled shoes can be used to track speed, duration of runs, time of runs, cadence, impacts, and more. Some of these shoes will even alert an athlete when they’ve worn them a total of 400 miles, the point at which it’s recommended to buy new shoes in order to ensure safety and joint health.
Due to their small size, modern sensors can be inserted into nearly any pre-existing wearables — T-shirts, compression wear, wristbands, harnesses, and bibs, to name just a few. And the information gleaned from these wearable sensors has created cause for change among top-level professional football teams such as the Norwegian Rosenborg and the Italian AC Milan.
The Future of Sports Safety
Allowing coaches and parents insight into potentially dangerous sports situations helps to ensure that athletes have the support they need while staying healthy and safe. And today more than ever before, athletes have access to a host of data that can be used to prevent injuries and help bring about peak performance.
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