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The use of technology in sport

The use of technology in sports is growing rapidly. In football, for instance, new devices are used for different reasons such as to help referees in decision-making and to quantify the athletes’ performance during a game, thus helping the coach to set the training program and the game strategy.

The video camera became commonplace in the 1980’s and provided sports coaches with a way to capture and analyse sport performance like never before. The video camera is perhaps the single most important development in coaching in the modern era of sport.

As a result of miniaturized video cameras, spectators are also now able to witness sport performance in ways that previously was not possible. Video cameras can be placed in places such as racing cars, cricket stumps, goal posts, and even on the athlete themselves.

One of the most famous and recent technologies introduced in football, is called ‘goal line technology’. It is used to determine if a ball has crossed the goal line, in order to support the referee.
Instead, as regards the quantification of the athletes’ performance during a football match, different kind of devices have been produced in the last few years.

Electronic timing controlled by computers is employed to measure performance times of athletes in a great many sports including Athletics, Cycling, Skiing, Bobsled, Triathlon and many more. In the case of Athletics, the electronic timing also measures the athlete’s reaction time to the start gun in case the athlete moves too early in the blocks.

The Force Platform is an apparatus placed under the feet of the athlete and measures their ‘ground reaction force’. This is useful in sports such as Weightlifting and enables measurement of force and acceleration throughout the athlete’s performance of a lift. Curiously, the measurement of force is due to the miniscule change in properties of crystals upon which the platform rests.
Hawkeye Technology, a computer system first used in 2001 for showing the trajectory of a cricket ball has made an immeasurable difference to the sport of Cricket.

Coaches use algorithms to know exactly where and how their players move on the field

Hawkeye produces all manner of statistical analysis such as ball speed, ball pitch on the wicket and trajectory of the ball after bounce. Hawkeye is now used in Tennis to assist in determining whether a shot is ‘In’ or ‘Out’. The analysis of sport performance provided by Hawkeye has greatly enhanced the spectator’s knowledge and involvement.

Wearable devices that can monitor heart rate have been integrated with tracking technologies that include global positioning system (GPS), accelerometer and gyroscope sensors, which are used to describe the athletes’ movement and physical demands. Therefore, these new technologies can assess the number of collisions and jumps that occur during a match.

These data-sets have become increasingly important for coaches, athletic trainers and doctors. In fact, coaches use them to provide better strategies for their team. Knowing exactly where and how their players move on the field, they can choose the best player for each position or change a player according to the opponents’ level.

Athletic trainers use these data-sets to plan the training sessions during pre and regular season, and use technologies to provide measurable training routines, customised for each athlete. For example, some technologies have been designed to enhance both the physiological and psychological elements of the game.

Moreover, athletic trainers, team doctors and coaches can utilise heart rate and sensor data to prevent injuries when players are about to exceed their physical thresholds.

Besides, the media also love data since it gives added value to their reports. Recently, big clubs have used data provided by these new technologies to scout potentially interesting players.

It can be argued that the use of new technologies is changing not only the way of training players and playing their sport, but also the whole experience of living and watching sport on TV across the globe.

Advances in technology have had a profound impact on sport including:
• Analysis of sport performance and enabling coaches to greatly improve the quality of feedback to players/athletes
• Increase accuracy in time measurements of sport performance
• Enabling referees, umpires and sport officials to make better decisions on rule infringements
• Improvements in the design of sport equipment and apparel
• Providing spectators with better viewing of sport performance

Sporting equipment is continually undergoing research and development to improve sporting performance. Some of the best examples include:
• Full body swim wear, made of polyurethane, made a huge impact in the 2008 Olympics only to be banned a year later because it was too obviously making a difference to sporting performance
• Kevlar fibre (5 times stronger than steel yet lighter, used in the manufacture of sails, bicycle tyres, football boots, tennis rackets, helmets, body armour and more
• Raving cycles and rowing shells made of lightweight but strong materials that minimise drag though the air or water
• Technology in racing cycles

Some people decry the use of technology to improve sports performance but in reality it is inevitable. The research and development of sport apparatus and apparel is an industry in itself which creates opportunity for investment and employment.

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