Technology

Technology Used to Track Players’ Steps Now Charts Their Sleep, Too


        

Yet so far, the changes are proving more evolutionary than revolutionary. Cal's first-year head coach, Justin Wilcox, for instance, featured various gadgets as "just another way to train our players," drawing and straightening them more and more of the basic cycle of practices, team meetings, weight-room work and games . Luke Rose, an assistant strength and conditioning coach at Rutgers, added: "At the end of the day, the biggest thing is not to rely on technology. Technology help, do not get me wrong, but the conversation with the kid and how the kid's feeling is a big one too. "

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Clemson defensive tackle Jabril Robinson, right, tracks his hours of wearable technology provided by the Tigers' medical staff. "They say you can feel the difference," said Robinson, "and I feel I feel it."
                        
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            Jamie Rhodes / USA Today Sports, via Reuters

            

For the moment, investors seem to be less supportive of the wearables industry The Equity funding plummeted to around $ 300 million last year from the $ 1.3 billion the industry raised in 2014, according to the Sports Innovation Lab. Isaiah Kacyvenski, managing director of the firm, said investor interest had waned because "wearable technology has failed to deliver its outstretched promises."

Yet there remains some sense that wearables represent a part of the future. Most investment is now directed toward early-stage companies; Nike and Under Armor are known to be interested in its potential; and Apple bills its fitness-tracking Apple Watch as "The ultimate device for a healthy life."

For an industry licking its wounds, elite sports is a redoubt.

"The tracking, the "said Mike Joseph, director of strength and conditioning at West Virginia, which uses Catapult and Whoop's wristbands, which track sleep and bodily" strain. "

" It's not just us, "Joseph added. "It's N.F.L., N.B.A., M.L.B. – all these professional leagues – and it has been filtered down. "

The wearable tech company with the most penetration in college football is most likely Catapult, which arises out of Australian rules football. Roughly half the teams in college football's Power 5 conferences, including Alabama, Wisconsin, Notre Dame and U.S.C., are clients. Torre Becton, Cal's head of strength and conditioning for football, said the company's legend grew after one of its earliest adopters, Florida State, went undefeated and won the national title in 2013 season.

But many other companies have

At Rutgers, according to Rose, heart rate data from his Zephyr Performance Systems device revealed unusual Prepractice spikes in one player, who referred to the sports medicine team for anxiety.

When Cal running back Patrick Laird felt unusually tired after a practice this summer, he sought confirmation in numbers gleaned from Catapult. It turned out that he had broken his personal record for yards and "explosive movements" in that practice – valuable information for coaches and trainers who would like to keep the junior healthy and fresh.

West Virginia linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton used to sleep "I've never been one to say, 'O.K., I'm going to get 10 hours of sleep,'" he said. "But now I'm more conscious."

Jay Hooten, Northwestern football's director of sports performance, spied unregulated sleep data from a player's Rise Science device, and sent him to a physician. The player was found to have sleep apnea.

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When Cal running back Patrick Laird, left, felt unusually tired after a practice this summer, he turned out to be an explanation: Wearable technology showed his personal record for yards and "explosive movements" in that practice – valuable information for coaches and trainers who would like to keep the junior healthy and fresh.
                        
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            Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

            

Clemson, the reigning national champion, has been using Rise Science's sleep monitors. Unlike Whoop and Fatigue Science, whose clients include Florida State and Texas, Rise Science Tracks sleep not with a wristband but with a ribbon that has its subject under mattress.

"It's kind of like back in the day, when we were having the nutritionist – 'rabbit food' – but now it's cool to be the nutritionist," Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney said . "So we're trying to create that same culture with our sleep, and these guys understand how important it is for their performance."

That is why, a hour before sleeptime, each night, Clemson defensive tackle Jabril Robinson puts on melatonin glasses – shades Every morning, he said, he checks an app on his phone to see how long he slept, what his resting heart rate was, and what, according to Rise Science, the overall quality of his slumber was.

"They say you can feel the difference," Robinson said, "And I think I feel it."

Wearable technology represents the opportunity not only for the teams, but for those companies who sell it. Many teams break down their data for their own personal insights, effectively doing research on the companies' behalf. The Clemson Data Analytics Team, for instance, is studying players 'on-field physiological data and sleep data in connection with each other.

"The more people you get it, the greater the set of information you' "said Ryan Warkins, Catapult's Director of Business Operations for North America.

But the very value of the data continues to disturb those who criticize its collection, specifically for college players, who are nonunionized and Barred from receiving compensation beyond scholarships Many critics objected last year when it was revealed that the University of Michigan's contract with Nike opened the door to the collection and exploitation …



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