So far one of my favorite topics from SXSW 2017 has been this discussion on the impact wearables can have on college and pro sports teams. NBA analyst Tom Haberstroh moderated a panel that included UC San Francisco sleep and performance expert Cheri Mah and Marcus Elliott, the founder of P3 Peak Performance.
Their discussion focused on the performance aspects of wearable technology, specifically how the data generated by these devices is being used by athletes and teams to improve movement, identify problem mechanics, and even predict potential injuries. They also touched on how far the technology has come, and how far it still needs to go in order to realize some of the most promising benefits.
Elite athletes are ravenous for anything that will give them a competitive edge and wearables offer at least some insight that could be used to improve some aspect of their game. For example, some of the work Elliott is doing at P3 Peak Performance involves measuring the force applied to an athlete’s body during certain movements. Through inertial sensors, he can tell if there’s an imbalance with the way a basketball player lands after a rebound. If the player’s movement overstresses part of the body, the athlete risks injury over time. That conclusion isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but without the insight provided by the technology, a player may not know there was a problem until it’s too late. Of the four major league sports, Elliott called out the NBA as being the most rigorous. Grueling schedules that include cross-country travel takes it’s toll on players, who may overcompensate for a tender left foot by overtaxing his right foot. Over the course of an 82-game season, an injury is almost a certainty.
Because of the money involved, teams have an incentive to invest in this area. Of course as athletes, and even teams, become more interested in collecting actionable intelligence, they’re actually generating more data than they can process. This avalanche of data is leading to teams hiring data sciences to interpret the data.
The panel pointed out that this mirrors what we experience in our everyday lives, but where it might take 20 years for you to notice a bad knee caused by favoring an ankle, these issues show up much sooner in the fast and furious, and sometimes short, career of a professional athlete.
There wasn’t a technologist on the panel, but there were several in the audience and they asked some great questions during Q&A about limitations of current technology and onboarding of data.
What obstacle do you think the wearables market will overcome next?