Healthcare Technology Featured Article

January 24, 2013

High-Tech Hoops: NBA Players Use More Technology to Monitor Conditions During Practice

The world of technology and sports has become increasingly intertwined recently as athletes find that high-tech devices help improve their training and conditioning.

The Phoenix Suns, for instance, use heart-rate monitors on every one of their pro basketball players during practices. A chip can estimate heart rate, movement, direction and posture.

Also, cameras follow how often the athletes walk, jog, run and sprint, and then estimate “mechanical load” on players’ legs, news reports said. Also, range of motion and strengths are detected and improved with the technology.

Image via Shutterstock

The devices have led to a great deal of data that can help to understand athletes’ conditions. A majority of the NBA teams are using software and data collection. That compares to just a few teams using the tech monitoring methods in 2011.

The Phoenix Suns use SportVU, an in-game system from STATSInc. SportVU has also been used to track the conditions of European soccer players.

“We’ve got some very interesting information and we’re working with the business analytics team to see trends and correlations that could be valuable as a basketball club,” Tyler Wallace, a Suns’ consultant who is also vice president of business development for the National Academy of Sports Medicine, said. “We’re on the cutting edge of determining what the best way to utilize this information and the trends we see. There’s no map out there that says, ‘Here’s how it works.’”

The data helps to predict possibilities for injury, as well. If a player ran a lot during a game, he/she may undergo treatment with knee-high compression boots that increase circulation.

So far, the NBA has blocked the technology from being used during actual games.

Similar technology is found in other sports. For instance, F1 technology tracks the condition of athletes in race car driving, cycling, rugby and football. Recently, McLaren Applied Technologies, a division of F1, used the sensors to make a “smart shirt” to collect readings, which are then wirelessly transmitted as encrypted data to a computer. It can report heart rate, blood-oxygen level, respiration and temperature. It helps to show stamina, fatigue and ways to avoid injuries.

In addition, during 2011 UnderArmour launched a sports garment which featured an embedded heart-rate monitor and accelerometer.

There are already benefits seen from these kinds of technologies. New materials and devices are being tested and developed. They are expected to lead to improved performance by athletes.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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