Exploring sport coaching and psychology
Exploring sport coaching and psychology

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Exploring sport coaching and psychology

3 Wearable technology

One device that is modestly priced, very portable and influencing many people is wearable technology. For example, you may have a better understanding of how your body responds by using a wearable device (e.g. measuring sleep patterns, steps taken, skin temperature, heart rate).

Activity 3 Johnson investigates new smart devices

Allow about 15 minutes

Watch the video below which has two sections: first, Michael Johnson visits the developers of new smart clothing in the USA and second, he heard from David Brailsford (UK) about a possible future with real-time nutritional aids. How useful are these two innovations likely to be for coaches and sports people?

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Skip transcript: Looking inside the engine: US and UK perspectives

Transcript: Looking inside the engine: US and UK perspectives

MICHAEL JOHNSON:
Wearable technology is a massive growth area. But its impact on performance so far isn't clear. However, if it works, there are some great opportunities. This company is at the forefront of the tech revolution, making clothing that can monitor muscle performance.
JAKE WAXENBERG:
It's just standard compression gear, sweat-wicking fabric like you normally see. The difference is that we have these sensors built directly in. So, all of these sensors fall exactly where they need to.
MICHAEL JOHNSON
So each one of these is a sensor, a different sensor.
JAKE WAXENBERG
Exactly. So these are our electromyography sensors, EMG for short. So, you know how you have a ECG, for your heart? EMG's for your muscles. So what that does is, your muscles when they're being used actually create an electrical signal. And we can record that.
MICHAEL JOHNSON
The sensors sit on the main muscle groups on the chest, arms, and legs, showing what muscles are firing, how hard, and what sequence. And all of that info is sent to your smartphone.
JAKE WAXENBERG
All of the muscles will light up, different colours, in real time, depending on when they're being activated and how much effort they're exerting. So the colour scale goes from blue, yellow, orange, to red, from 0 to 95 per cent muscle effort.
MICHAEL JOHNSON
I can see this being very useful, as it delivers sophisticated data in a very simple format, allowing athletes and coaches to target and test training strategies outside of an expensive lab environment.
JAKE WAXENBERG
Traditionally, EMG technology, although it's been around for a very long time-- as you said, 50, 60 years-- you'd need a PhD to understand it. So it's taking this traditional EMG data and then translating, in a way, in our app, where it's easily understood and actionable for everybody.
I think it's your turn. You ready to have a go and try them out?
MICHAEL JOHNSON
It's not my favourite place, the gym, but, uh-- no, it's interesting. Yeah. I'd love to see how it works.
I've always preferred the track to the gym, but, in the interest of science I was willing to have a go.
Not with that much weight.
JAKE WAXENBERG
No.
MICHAEL JOHNSON
[LAUGH]
JAKE WAXENBERG
Pretty light weight, for you.
MICHAEL JOHNSON
[LAUGH] Even now, still a professional.
JAKE WAXENBERG
All right, perfect. So one thing you might be surprised about is that you use that left side a lot more than that right side.
MICHAEL JOHNSON
The sensors seem to have picked up an old injury on my left side that I struggled with while competing.
I haven't seen my chiropractor in three weeks, so I'm overdue for an appointment. So, if there was anything on that left side out. And so, as an athlete, I had to figure out whether I'm off-balance or not. So, this sort of technology is fantastic for that sort of aid, to an athlete, as opposed to trying to feel it while you're trying to work out and while you're trying to train.
This product is in its infancy, but I feel it's part of the future of democratising data for all, enabling athletes of all levels to make better training decisions. Whether that will deliver better performances on the field is unclear.
You've spent quite a bit of time over in America and San Francisco, kind of the hub of technology and innovation. So, what were some of the things that you saw when you were there that really got you excited about the future of human performance?
DAVE BRAILSFORD
Well, I like the general-- I like the general attitude. You know, everybody I met was going to change the world. You know, here's a product. This is going to change the world. And I'm a sucker for that--
MICHAEL JOHNSON
So they think.
DAVE BRAILSFORD
You know, I like that attitude. And I think if somebody doesn't believe they can change the world, we'll never change the world. And I think there's a lot of real neat innovations coming out. And I think the-- for me, some of the-- certainly in relation to endurance and certain cycling events, the real-time monitoring of hydration status, you know, fuel sort of status, if you like, and what's happening in terms of energy expenditure, and all of those physiological parameters, being able to be measured in real time, and you're getting real feedback.
So you're fueling correctly. You know, you know exactly what's going on. It's like being aware of what's happening in the engine, if you like. I think there's some real smart things coming, in that area. And I think that could be a game-changer, I really do.
End transcript: Looking inside the engine: US and UK perspectives
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Discussion

The prospect of people being able to monitor which muscles are being used and the timing of, for example, leg contractions, might make what was once lab technology far more accessible to coaches and athletes. It was interesting that this clothing device picked up an anomaly in Johnson’s movement due to a previous injury.

In the second part of the video, David Brailsford (cycling coach/performance director) was palpably excited at the possibility of devices monitoring the fuelling state of athletes in real time. This could mean that deciding when and what to eat could become far more refined and could transform approaches to nutrition and training.

There is a lot of hype and excitement about developments and, while you can trust some sources when they speak about these advances, you have to treat many with caution. For example, numerous ambitious claims are made for technological advances on the internet and through social media, but the scientific credibility of some of these is highly questionable. It is worthwhile reflecting on the ways in which you might be able to evaluate the reliability of some of the claims made about ‘sport science’ advances. What clues are there that the claims are realistic and based on sound science? What clues are there that you are being presented with a scam?

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