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13 Jul 2022

How are Emerging Technologies in Sports Changing the Game?

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how emerging technologies in sports is changing the game

 

The 36-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo is a phenomenon. A once-in-a-generation talent who has changed the fabric of sports entertainment.  At 190 appearances, the Portuguese captain has the highest number of individual appearances in the history of the UEFA. And it does not look like he is running out of steam any time soon. Scoring an impressive 38 goals in the 2021-2022 season, CR7 is eyeing football immortality. 

 

Peeling back the goals, the celebrations, and the performance of this athlete presents a revealing fact. He is performing at the top-flight of English football, a stage where the average career is only 8 years.

 

What makes Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Zlatan Ibrahimović stand out from the crowd? 

Is there something special about them that allows them to compete in high-intensity games, regardless of their age? 

 

The answer is in the way their teams have integrated sports training with technology. 

 

 

Importance of technology in Sports

 

Sports have always been at the forefront of adopting technological advancements. The global sports technology market is expected to reach a valuation of US$ 40 billion by the year 2026. This is on the back of the adoption of technologies like VAR and DRS. Integrating technology has also improved the quality of life of athletes from designing dynamic prosthetic limbs to developing diet regimens that cater to specific requirements. 

 

The adoption of technology is not limited to improving the performance of athletes. Technology has improved the way fans interact and enjoy their favorite sport. Esports is an arena that is pioneering the use of technology to connect with fans. Augmented Reality (AR) features heavily during championship games of League Of Legends or CounterStrike with fans getting an immersive experience of the action.

 

The sport that is synonymous with the adoption of technology is F1 and for good reason. Every year the F1 car undergoes repeated tests to reduce drag and increase speed. The cars have also become progressively lighter while improving the efficiency of the engine. The current V6 F1 engine generates 26% more power than the  2013 V8 engines. This increase in power does not come at the expense of emissions, with the latest engines reducing the emissions produced by 20%.

 

The cars have the benefit of employing the latest advances in fluid mechanics. F1 cars have been built to be aerodynamically stable and force the cars to the tarmac, as low as possible. F1 has embraced technology in all aspects of the sport, from logistics to video production. An ideal example of how sports and technology can transform a sport. 




Different types of technology in sports today

Below are the commonly used technologies in sports:

 

Accessibility

 

​​different types of technology  in sports

4,403. That was the total number of athletes who were competing at the 2020 Paralympics games conducted in Tokyo. Integration of technology with prosthetics has given a second chance at life to countless athletes. The application of technology in sports is allowing these elite athletes to compete in international competitions once again.  

 

The global prosthetic market is expected to reach a market worth of USD 8.6 billion by 2028. Organizations like Ossur are leading the market in research and development to empower athletes to realize their dreams. 

These companies are striving to reduce the weight of prosthetics and improve the performance of athletes. 

 

Running and cycling are two of the biggest beneficiaries of the technological  transformation of para-sports:

 

  • Blade runners are carbon-fibre prosthetic devices that are worn by athletes to replace their calf or ankle. Designed to mimic the hind legs of a cheetah, the running blade has empowered generations of athletes. Removing the shackles that grounded them, these technological innovations in sports are empowering para-athletes to strive for greatness once again. 

 

  • Para-cycling is a sport in which athletes with disabilities compete on specially designed cycles. Depending on the injury, the cycle could have a modification on the handlebar or on the pedal. 

 

These improvements go through rigorous testing and have to meet the standards and guidelines of the International Paralympics Committee (IPC)

 

Referees and Technology 

 

referees and technology

 

Referees have to consider many factors before announcing their decision as they affect the outcome of a match and entire tournaments. Until the inclusion of technology in sports, the field was a hostile environment where the referee could not second guess themselves. 

 

That changed with the arrival of the Virtual Assistant Referee(VAR)

 

VAR uses a series of cameras placed around the pitch to provide real-time feedback to the referee. In football, the use of VAR has helped increase the number of correct key match decisions from 82% to 94% in 12 months. During the 2018 world cup, the application of VAR in matches increased the sensible referee decision from 95% to 99.32%. 

 

In cricket, the third umpire (an off-field umpire) has a host of technologies like hawk-eye, hotspot, and ultra edge that constitute the Decision Review System (DRS). With DRS the captains of either team can contest a decision made by the on-field umpire and ask for a review by the third umpire.  

 

Implementing the third umpire has increased the engagement of fans as industry experts observed that 45% of fans support the implementation of VAR. And in cricket, the DRS system has allowed the fans to watch the action from the Point Of View (POV) of the umpire thereby improving fan engagement. 

 

Virtual Reality Technology in Sports

 

virtual reality technology



The coronavirus-induced lockdown forced organisations and athletes to consider and implement out-of-the-box training routines. One such novel technology is that of Virtual Reality (VR). Virtual Reality technology simulates a 3-D rendering of the real world to which operators can add immersive details like other players or even entire stadiums filled with the roar of fans. 

 

This industry is growing by a CAGR of 32% and has an expected global market valuation of USD 56.7 billion by 2026. Virtual reality is efficiently used in contact sports like American football and Rugby. Due to the physical nature of the sport, which involves repeated head trauma, athletes in this sport are likely to develop chronic brain diseases. One of the ways to decrease the risk factor is to use Virtual Reality during training sessions. 

 

VR allows athletes to understand strategies by simulating real-life on-field training.  Practicing the playbook against simulated opponents will allow the player to understand the flow of the game and improve their performance. 

 

During the 2018 winter Olympics, the US ski team could not practice on the slopes of Pyeongchang. They practiced and trained on a digitally recreated terrain of the track. The US team silenced the critics of the training method and went to bag 1 gold, 2 silver, and 1 bronze medal from the various events. This result provided conclusive evidence of the validity of using VR in training athletes and improving their performance. 

 

Fitness and Nutrition

 

fitness and nutrition

About 45% of all households in India own wearable devices. The sensors present on these devices track everything from your Blood Pressure (BP) to your body temperature and heart rate. The sensors present on the wearable devices measure the data and generate actionable data in real-time. It’s no small wonder that the global wearable technology market will reach USD 62 billion by 2025. 

 

Sports teams around the world are integrating this technology into their existing training schedules to improve team performance and reduce athlete injuries. 

 

Analysis of wearables' data helps teams better understand player fatigue and reduce the chance of serious injuries. Teams using wearable technology have seen a reduction of 88% in soft tissue damage compared to the previous year. 

 

Nutrition is an integral part of fitness. Sports professionals push their bodies to the absolute limit and have a  higher nutritional demand than regular human beings. Usually, elite athletes consume around 2000-6000 calories every day. Athletes also require supplements that help them achieve their nutrition requirements

 

To monitor and meet the daily calorie requirements of athletes, sports teams use devices like bodybugg that catalogues various parameters of energy expenditure. These devices use the data generated from various sensors to calculate the total calorie consumed and recommend improvements to the diet of the athlete. 

 

These devices leverage the computing power of machine learning algorithms to draw actionable insights about the dietary health of the athlete. Devices like the bodybugg communicate with web applications like myfitnesspal, calorie king, eDiet to create a diet plan that targets and improves the calorie and supplements requirements of individual athletes. 

 

These supplements include protein and vitamin supplements, and minerals like Magnesium, Iron, and Sodium. Supplements, alone, account for 50% of the USD 40 billion global sports nutrition market. 

 

Data Analysis

 

The volume of data captured from a sports organisation requires the help of trained engineers to help translate and organise it into a visually engaging format to draw conclusions. The data generated by a professional sports team is only useful if it can improve the performance of an athlete and the entire team. This is why sports data analysis is an important application of information technology in sports. 

 

Sports analysts are data science experts hired by professional sports teams to draw actionable insights from these large datasets. They apply machine learning logic to extract trends in player performance,  health, and fatigue. 

 

A sports data analyst will be able to correlate the performance of a player with their nutritional intake and communicate their conclusions with the coaching staff. Referencing existing datasets, sports data analysts are able to predict the injuries of players. 

 

A Brave New World

 

Wearables are the tip of the iceberg that is the application of technology in sports. Every year sports organisations invest and develop new technologies that can give them an advantage against the competition. 

 

An emerging technology that is being adopted by every major sports organisation is that of haptic suits. Paired with a VR headset, these suits have receptors that provide feedback to the user allowing them to interact with a simulated 3-D environment in real-time. 

 

Microchips are being deployed in different types of sports equipment and can soon find their way into the human body. The data collected from a microchip would be cleaner, with less noise, allowing the athlete and the management of sports to fine-tune their training and nutrition strategy. 

 

A career in sports technology will allow you to work on cutting-edge projects that push the limits of the human body. You will design and calibrate the training regiments of the world’s finest athletes. An M.Tech in sports technology or a certification course in data science will allow you to explore new possibilities and enrich your career. 

 

Who knows, you could play a part in the rise of the next CR7 or Usain Bolt. 

 

Conclusion

 

To start a career in sports technology you have to be passionate about sports. You might not know how to apply machine learning techniques to that data of CR7’s career, but you should be able to notice certain patterns that help make sense of data. 

 

Understanding and deriving insights from patterns is a skill that requires experience. To improve your experience you have to work on industry projects that simulate real scenarios. This project-based learning approach is the reason why 15,000 students across the world have chosen to trust Skill-Lync to pursue their dream careers. 

 

The proliferation of technology in sports has led to the birth of the modern athlete. These elite sports professionals are assisted by a team of technical experts who try to bring out the best in athletes, every day. 

 

Develop a rewarding career as a sports analyst working with athletes you admire.

 

Take the first step towards your future today. 


Author

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Anup KumarH S


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