There has been speculation about whether wearable technology gave English Premier League (EPL) team Leicester City the edge it needed to win the Premier League last year. This is especially impressive, considering that the season prior, and the ten years before that, Leicester City was not even in the Premier League to begin with. They had been relegated to the lower divisions and were languishing there for some time.
The type of wearable technology used by sports teams is slightly different from AR and VR simulations and headsets. Their wearable technology gives team coaches a unique insight into a player’s overall fitness. It measures heart rate, position, direction, speed and distance covered. It can even go as far as measuring the force and angle of a tackle. Using all this data in concert with complex algorithms, wearable technology can accurately predict the level of a player’s health and energy, in other words, match fitness.
Approximately 8% of top-tier teams employ the use of wearable technology, and Leicester City is one of them. On a scale as large as the EPL, a star striker’s match fitness could mean the difference between victory and defeat. It’s no coincidence that Jamie Vardy, Leicester’s striker, played every game, while Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney had to sit out more than a third of the season due to injuries.
In a sporting context like the EPL, where players are bought and sold for tens of millions of Pounds, and wins and losses translate into huge fluctuations in the bottom line, an edge like the ability to reduce a player’s injury rates, makes a huge difference.
Wearable technology has also had a significant impact on Rugby League, where data from wearables can clearly show the drop-off in work rates of certain players who need to replaced, and timely substitutions can be game changers. Wearables are also used in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) where they gather data such as the force produced from certain strikes, heart rate and distance covered in the octagon. The Australian Footy League (AFL) employs the use of wearable technology to keep tabs on players’ health, fitness and work rates. It seems like wearable technology, augmented reality and virtual reality have come from relative obscurity and are all of a sudden seamlessly woven into the fabric of sports. From development laboratories to the world stage, what was not so long ago viewed as a gimmick is now a crucial tool in the performance of athletes and sports teams.