The two worlds of technology and sport are perhaps destined to come together as we continually seek more innovative ways to improve sporting entertainment. With improvements in technology come better training equipment and methods, revolutionary broadcasting capabilities and sophisticated assistance measures where once there was only the subjectivity of officials. But aside from these obvious benefits, technological innovations in sports safety are all set to change the way we deal with the risk of injury forever.
Technology in sport has not always been well received; and this can be partly blamed on human nature’s resistance to change. Football and tennis are two perfect examples of the attitudes new innovations are faced with. Hawk Eye technology was quickly brought into tennis to assist umpires in deciding whether or not a ball had gone out. While there was some opposition, everyone within the game can now see what a huge difference it makes when the stakes are so high, even if it means we no longer get to watch fantastic, McEnroe-esque outbursts. But contrast this with football. The same technology took several years to be brought in, and was only welcomed after several contentious goal-line decisions went the wrong way on a number of high profile occasions. This year, the Rugby World Cup used Hawk Eye technology for the first time, and its debut opened up the debate about what other innovations we could expect to see in the future.
One of these innovations is a concussion detector which can be worn by players of contact sports. Companies such as JoltSensor already offer this technology, although it is not yet obligatory kit. In the recent Rugby World Cup, technology such as this would have been ideal, as several players were removed from games after taking serious blows to the head. Concussion can be dangerous even when noticed and treated, but in high-adrenaline contact sports some players may not even realise, which is where clever technologies can come in handy, alerting doctors waiting on the sidelines.
During the Rugby World Cup many teams also tracked training sessions with real-time muscle sensors; the data from which was interpreted by physios to see which players were in danger of injury and needed a rest. The future application of this technology could lead to the end of fatigue-related injuries, as coaches become more able to track their player’s fitness in new, tangible ways.
So why should sports embrace the future? Yes, there’s something deliciously nostalgic about things always remaining how they were. But simply put, technology and innovation will enhance our sports in every possible way. Players will be fitter, stronger and less likely to pick up injuries, while the spectacle itself is also set to improve. Video officials and ball-tracking technology will remove contentious decisions and bring a new level of objectivity, meaning that the future of sport could be purer than it has been at any point in history. And most importantly, player safety and fitness will be preserved, leading to better performance and broken records on the pitch, court, track and in the water.