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 How Technology Is Influencing Contact Sports

Technology in contact sports has evolved exceptionally in recent decades, especially in recent years. A huge amount of technology is becoming portable and wireless, and the data is now often made accessible in real-time to trainers, coaches, and sports scientists. This has aided the transition of technology from laboratory aspects to practice courts, grounds, and, in some cases, official sports competitions.

A very recent scenario is the case of a partnership between Adidas and Major League Soccer in the USA, in which the Adidas MiCoach service was approved and is presently used by all MLS teams during training sessions and during official competitions to monitor athletes’ heartbeat rate, jump height, speed, distance traveled and other details. 

This was possible with miniaturized GPS, accelerometers, and gyroscopes incorporated into a small system in the athletes' jersey and, in some cases, in their cleats. This system has also been used by rugby teams in North America, Europe, and Oceania.

The use of technology in contact sports has increased greatly in improving performance, preventing injuries, recovering from injuries, and maintaining athletes' health. The use of advanced high-speed and high-definition cameras and biomechanical software creation allows teams to have a deep view of athletes' movements. 

This detailed view can help coaches better understand the kinetic link of a hockey athlete (joint, chain of muscular, and bodily events) during a kick, or a rugby player's penalty kick, or a corner shot of a football player; this information is then used to enhance speed, accuracy, but also to analyze potential indicators, such as the imbalance of movement that can cause injury.

Another technology and sports science area that has evolved greatly is neuro/biofeedback and neuro/physiology. With technological innovations, things that could only be measured in the lab, such as respiratory rhythms, muscle activation, and neurological activity, are now available during training and play, not only as a tool for measurement and evaluation but also as data that can be sent back in real-time to athletes.

Some sports bodies have used analysis tools to better understand the team's strategies by analyzing the geographical positioning and movement of athletes and the team on the field, using ArcGis, which supply data, including individual and team movement and positioning trends.

Technological advances have had a profound impact on contact sports, including:

  • Sports performance analysis that allows coaches to significantly improve the quality of feedback to players/athletes

  • Increase accuracy in measuring sports performance time

  • Allowing referees and sports officials to make better decisions about breaking the rules

  • Improvements in the design of sports equipment and clothing

In addition to technologies that can be applied on the field, some options can boost performance in off-field variables, such as athlete’s activity and sleep. Athletes' monitors and sleep patterns provide team professionals with information to understand each athlete better. With this information, professionals can offer athletes individual guidance following the team's training, travel, and competition schedule to improve rest, recovery, and performance preparation.

Several technologies have been made available to improve performance on and off the field and maintain athletes' health; some professional teams have followed this process and increased sports sciences investments. While some teams have done this more publicly, such as AC Milan in Italy, with Milan Lab and Real Madrid FC in Spain, with Real Madrid center TEC-Sanitas, other teams have made more discreet investments even secretive way.

Final Thoughts

Even if there are some obstacles, the future of sports and technology is promising. There is the potential to see a significant improvement in enhancing team performance and health systems from sports and performance technologies, especially with programs that use properly and the right adaptation of currently available technology. Finally, there are many reasons to be excited and looking forward to the future of technology in sports performance, as new compliant wireless technologies are being developed and improved. More efforts are being made to train professionals who will use them properly.

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