Top performing tech for athletes

As athletes seemingly reach the limits of their physical capabilities, they are looking to technology to help them break new boundaries. From the clothes they wear and the equipment they use to how they train and recover from injuries, tech can be applied to all aspects of athletes’ daily lives. It can also enhance the spectator experience. Below are just a few examples of how tech is transforming sport participation, performance and voyeur behaviour:

Brain training

Sporting performance is as much down to the physical abilities of an athlete as it is to the mental capabilities. Cognitive fatigue has been proven to have an adverse effect on athletic results so keeping the brain in good shape can help ensure athletes are mentally trained ahead of a competition.

Based on this theory, a team of doctors, neuroscientists and engineers have worked collaboratively to develop technology to improve brain function. The outcome of their collaboration is the Halo Sport headset which applies light energy pulses to the brain’s motor cortex as a form of stimulation. The manufacturers of this product, Halo Neuroscience, claim that these pulses speed up the brain’s ability to develop new neural pathways and improve the connection between the brain’s function with the body, making the movement of athletes “more precise, coordinated and explosive”.

Close-up coaching

A major influence on an athlete’s training programme is their coach. As well as their knowledge and experience, today’s coaches also have a wealth of technology available to help them make the most effective training decisions. One such technology is an app which allows coaches to train their athletes remotely. Whilst an app like this might not seem revolutionary, its use of real-time feedback via video analysis is an extremely valuable asset within a coach’s armour of training tools, especially when they can’t always be in the same place as the athlete. Dartfish is considered the leading video analysis software, and is quoted as helping sprinter Usain Bolt beat his own world record at the 2012 Olympics.

Other tools include wearable devices with sensors that monitor performance. These sensors aren’t just tracking athletes during training; they are also tracking them during sleep. Devices which track sleep enable coaches and athletes to see how well recovered their central nervous system and heart rate is. They can then analyse this data to make an informed decision on how hard to train the following day.

Avoiding injury & quicker recovery

Injuries in the top professional football leagues cost teams worldwide an average of $12.4 million per year, according to the Global Sports Salaries Survey. So the ability to prevent injuries or at least, recover from them quickly is a high priority for sportspeople worldwide.

One example of injury-assessing tech is a movement tracker which uses sensors to record an athlete’s movement patterns. Errors in these patterns can then be identified using analysis software, and a coach can use this data to decide on a better training technique.

By analysing industry statistics and collating data on an athlete’s behaviour, some tech companies have been able to develop algorithms to calculate risk profiles for individual athletes. These profiles indicate how likely an athlete is to get injured and help coaches or team managers to decide whether an athlete should participate or not.

Closer to the action

For the first time in Olympic history, the 2016 Games will facilitate programming in virtual reality. This will enable viewers to fully immerse themselves in their favourite events, be it track, field or even beach volleyball. And they’ll also have the chance to see a 360 degree view of the opening and closing ceremonies.

All you need is the NBC Sports app, a Samsung Galaxy device and a Samsung Gear VR headset.

But, which of these technologies will stand the test of time and what will the future of sport tech look like?

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