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Built to win

Built to Win

Sportswear retailer Nike recently captured headlines with its coordinated attempt to break the 2-hour marathon barrier: A trio of elite athletes led by marathon champ Eliud Kipchoge hustled around a Formula 1 race track in Monza, Italy in an all-hands-on-deck blitz to coerce optimal performance. They were guided by a laser showing the most direct path, used footwear that promised a 4 percent increase in efficiency, and adhered to direction by a team of scientists that monitored the athletes training, nutrition, and hydration strategies leading up to the race.
This “moonshot” effort spotlighted the commingling of sports and technology, but this event isn't the only example of the current push to use innovation to drive human performance. Across the sporting landscape, technological innovation is driving the performance of elite athletes and working to fuel improved results.

Creating personalized strength and conditioning programs

In 2016, the National Hockey League's San Jose Sharks began using the cloud-based Athlete Management System from Kinduct, a leading provider of athlete performance software.[1] The system collects large amounts of information on individual athletes, such as training data, nutrition, and sleep in a centralized platform, which the hockey team's personnel can then use to craft player-specific strength and conditioning programs.

Monitoring workload

Major League Soccer team L.A. Galaxy recently expanded their relationship with Match Analysis.[2] The California-based company's technology provides individual statistics from games, such as the distance a player covered in the contest, his speed on the pitch, and recovery rates. The data helps team personnel monitor players' intensity and workload throughout the season, which then informs the design of fitness programs as well as rest schedules to optimize performance.

Minimizing injury risk

From the growing use of cryotherapy to sensory deprivation tanks and 3D motion-capture technology, professional sports teams are aggressively investigating any innovations capable of keeping athletes healthy and off the sidelines.
Prior to the 2016 baseball season, the Minnesota Twins began working with Australia-based Catapult Sports, whose GPS and accelerometer-infused chest strap measures biomechanical fatigue.[3] Soccer's Seattle Sounders are using technology from Kitman Labs to manage injury risk.[4] Kitman's technology allows team personnel to benchmark athletes' asymmetry and fitness, while subsequent real-time data allows trainers and medical staff to assess injury risk and proactively design preventative measures that will help keep players on the field.

Improving sleep

Sleep has gained increasing attention over the years as a critical driver of performance, influencing everything from reaction times and injury risk to recovery and mental focus.[5] WHOOP, the officially licensed recovery wearable of the National Football League Players Association, offers a wristwatch-like wearable device that measures the duration and quality of an athlete's sleep. The data is then used to calculate a quality score along with actionable recommendations to drive more complete, thorough sleep.[6]

Heightening focus and anticipation

At the professional level, the game moves fast and athletes need to be able to make decisions in milliseconds. In the lead up to the 2016 baseball season, members of the Minnesota Twins began using “strobe glasses” that displayed individual pitches in short, picture-like fragments. Twins' hitters credited the glasses with slowing down the game, while helping them to keep their heads steady and their focus on the ball's rotation.[7]

Little changes, big difference

In the high-talent, ultra-competitive world of elite athletics, every little advantage counts. One delayed reaction can spell defeat. One minor, preventable injury can cost an athlete millions.
From enhancing sleep and focus to uber-personalized training programs, athletes and professional sports teams are increasingly leveraging technology to spark results, confident that sports science can elevate performance and transform fortunes. And as athletes, professional teams, and affiliated partners like agents and sponsors all stand to gain from better results, one thing is becoming abundantly clear: the budding marriage between sports and technology isn't a passing fad, but a new reality.

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