During the last several decades, the world of sport has undergone considerable changes and challenges. The use of technology is one of the evident achievements that have influenced the sphere of sport in today’s life. People want to believe that technology can provide them with several answers and offer improvements that can help to change their sports lives. Still, not all of them can think about the consequences that can be observed in human health or other aspects of life.
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In this paper, sports wearable biosensors as one of the current technological ideas implemented in the sport will be investigated and analyzed. It is not enough to research its history and effects. It is necessary to underline the worth of wearable biosensors and clarify the advantages it may have on sports training and human health. This study aims at introducing the technology of wearable biosensor in the sphere of sport as an opportunity to monitor and feedback for athletes in real-time, its history, and an overall impact.
Technology and Sports Relationship
The investigations of sport, human well-being, and the usage of technology have a long history. It was proved that physical activities could protect people against chronic diseases and promote health in case activities were chosen properly regarding the needs of a human body (Ermes et al. p. 20). At the same time, sports technologies are all those technologies developed by people. It means that people are interested in the development of sports technologies and introduce the devices with the help of which sports training can be improved, high results can be achieved, possible injuries can be prevented, and safe training plans can be offered.
The latest improvements in sports technologies are not only the devices that can be used during the games and competitions like the shot clock introduced in 1954 or titanium golf clubs developed at the beginning of the 1990s (Turner par. 2). People cannot even guess how deep technologies have been already spread in the world of sports training. The possibility to listen to music during training is one of the evidence and frequently neglected technological aspects in sport. People cannot even notice how productive and interesting their sports training can be in case they are listening to their favorite or, at least, motivating music. However, the relationship between technology and sport is not about music only.
Many other issues should be discussed. For example, smart technologies help to record training and observe it from different sides. Sportsmen can look at their moves, analyze their actions, and investigate what parts of the body should work out better. Nowadays, it is an ordinary procedure to use technologies to grade and make the performance of an athlete better. As a result, athlete performances become workable and accurate. For example, the bobsled coach Tuffy Latour demonstrates one of the possible options of how technologies (Ubersense) can be used during training. It offers real-time video analysis and feedback via any applicable device and takes people “from the dark ages of using video cameras, computers and hours of downloading video to a simple-to-use technology” (Hendry par. 4).
Still, successful athlete performance is not the only goal of sports technologies. Recent developers focus on the idea to create products that can help to gain control over an athlete’s health. “One of the more promising methods to monitor individual adaptation to training involves the regular monitoring of cardiac autonomic nervous system (ANS) status, thought the measurement of resting or post-exercise heart rate variability” (Plews et al. 773).
To succeed in performance and sports training, video technologies and the analysis of actions are not enough. Athletes and their coaches have to know what kind and amount of energy can be spent during training, and what kind of energy may be spent during the competition. People need certain productive technologies that help to analyze an athlete’s conditions not only after or before a competition or training but also during the procedure itself. One of the current observations was made during the competitions in which multiple Olympic medalists from Slovenia, Merlene Ottey, checked her leg several times (Moskvitch par. 1).
It was discovered that a miniature biosensor on her leg was the reason for her constant check. That sensor was used to demonstrate the level of her muscle fatigue during the competition. Such technological achievement in sports was a signal that something could be offered to athletes and their coaches. It was necessary to investigate the worth of this sensor and the possibilities that became available with that device.
Sports Wearable Biosensor History
Wearable technologies seem to be new in sports training. However, the investigations show that in fact, the idea of such sensors came from the middle of the 19th century. In 1884, one fashion company offered the idea of “illuminated girls” with “electric lights on the foreheads and batteries concealed in the recesses of their clothing” (Medici par.16). Though this kind of wearable sensor prototype is far from what is offered now in sports training, it is the history that cannot be neglected by those, who want to understand the essence of sports wearable biosensors.
In 2013, one of the representatives of Brigham Young University offered a helmet with a sensor with the help of which it was possible to measure such parameters as heart rhythm, breathing, and even the speed and quality of hit during training. Such sensors help to follow the characteristics that can be used to improve athlete performance. They serve as examples of how a sensor can be added to sports clothes and used.
More attention should be used to the healthy condition of a sportsman. Nowadays, heart rate monitors and pedometers are frequently used as wearable sensors during sports training that focus on monitoring the stability of human health during training. Still, it was not the final idea that several scientists want to achieve. Some researchers think that it is convenient and effective to use a biosensor directly on a human body and consider the information offered during the training process.
At the beginning of the 2000s, several UK researchers began their investigations in the possibility to use biosensors that can help to detect and monitor different elements in a human body. In 2011, Professor Pankaj with the team of scientists offered the idea of biosensors being used on humans (Moskvitch par. 31).
In the middle of 2013, the idea to implement biosensors as tattoos directly on a human body was offered. “Such skill-worn metabolite biosensors could lead to useful insights into physical performance and overall physiological status” (“First Human Tests of New Biosensor” par. 3). Still, this idea is on the development stage, and more investigations and analysis is required to clarify if it is safe and effective to use biosensors directly on human skin.
Wearable Biosensor in Sports Training
Sports training has to be properly organized and controlled by an expert, who is aware of what kind of activity should be chosen first, how it is better to develop training load, and when it is necessary to stop. However, even the most professional coach cannot be sure that the condition of an athlete is normal and the level of substances that has to be identified in the body. The statistics show that the market value of the wearable device market during the period between 2012 and 2018 can be increased considerably:
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Such numbers serve as the best explanation of why people have to pay their attention to the development and implementation of wearable biosensors in sports training and explain the worth of these technologies. It is human nature to make use of technologies to facilitate the working process and achieve the required portion of results with a few efforts spent. Biosensors turn out to be an opportunity for coaches and sportsmen to avoid visiting doctors and other medical workers to analyze their health conditions. Biosensors can help them save their time considerably.
How Wearable Biosensors Work
Biosensors are the tools that help to analyze biological compositions and convert biological responses into electrical signals. Regarding the main characteristic of sensors that all of them are wearable, it means that a person should wear it on to make a biosensor work. There are two main types of sensors sportsmen can use nowadays: a ring sensor and different wearable things (Smart shirts, shorts, patches, or bandages).
The principle of the work of sensors is not very complicated. Each contraction of a heart muscle leads to a pressure pulse. This procedure takes place in the circulatory system because blood is ejected repeatedly. This pulse of pressure leads to the displacement of vessel walls that can be measured at different points. Photoresistors and transistors are usually used to strengthen the effects and reactions of the body. As a result, shirts and other things that can be worn introduce different information on their screens that can be interpreted by people, who wear them or control those, who wear them.
Advantages of Wearable Biosensors in Sports Training
In the sphere of sport, wearable biosensors are characterized by several advantages. The main evident positive aspects of the work of these devices are as follows:
- Biosensors are easy to install. There are no special requirements or instructions that are hard to remember. People read the material and learn how beneficial biosensors can be.
- Biosensors are easy to use so that people, who wear them, can get access to continuous monitoring of their physical condition before, during, and after sports training. It is not prohibited to use these sensors even during the competitions. All data is transmitted wirelessly, and sportsmen can share information with their coaches in real-time so that special analytics and coaches can analyze each piece of information and make the necessary improvements in a short period.
- Biosensors help to monitor the temperature of a person, who wears it. As a rule, the changes in the body’s temperature prove the fact that the organism works hard or even too hard to cope with the task set. Therefore, it is necessary to follow if the decrease or increase of temperature takes place during training or after and make the required corrections, take vitamins, or other medicine to promote an appropriate temperature of the body.
- Biosensors evaluate heart and respiration rates. The identification of these physical measures helps to gain control over the changes that take place particularly at the moment of movement of the body. Such possibilities can be used to comprehend if the chosen style of training and training load is enough, or if it should be decreased or increased.
- The use of biosensors may considerably reduce health care costs. Sportsmen can control their health conditions independently anytime they need it and choose the more appropriate load.
- The process of monitoring is fast. Therefore, the wearers should not take much time to get the required portion of information.
- The results that can be obtained with the help of sports wearable biosensors are used and analyzed by sportsmen and their coaches. They are aware of their physical limits, develop appropriate training plans, and learn how they could avoid injuries during training and competitions.
The example of Ms. Ottey helps to realize how advantageous the use of biosensors can be. There are many old sportsmen, who do not find it necessary or just do not want to leave sports as soon as they reach a certain age. Still, they want to be sure that any kind of training load is not harmful to their health. Their muscles may become less balanced (Moskvitch par. 8). That is why such sportsmen as Mr. Ottey have to monitor each response of their bodies with each effort made in order not to quit the kind of sport they are fond of and not to worsen their health. At the same time, it is necessary to admit that sports wearable biosensors are not cheap.
People should understand that their primary costs might be higher than they expected to be. Another significant disadvantage is the necessity to follow the charge of the device. As it is wireless, it may work distantly. However, it should be changed from time to time. Sportsmen and their coaches should consider these points as well as the fact that scientists work at the possible improvements of devices before they make their decisions to use sports wearable biosensors.
Where People Can Get Biosensors
Nowadays, many companies offer special Smart Shirts, sensor rings, sports watches, smartphones, and desktops that can be used during training. Phillips, Sony, and Apple are the leading companies that offer people to make the right solution and try wearable biosensors in sport. However, these companies are not centered on the development of biosensors only. The frequently used biosensor examples are BSX Insight, Myontec Mbody, and Motus Sleeve. All these products have their peculiarities and can be offered to sportsmen in different regions.
For example, Motus is a global leader in biomechanics the products of which can be used to prevent injuries and analyze performance. The company was organized about five years ago. It sets the goals to attract the attention of customers with the help of its biomedical database and the possibility to provide a wealth of insight into the ways of how sportsmen can use their bodies and use the energy they can develop.
One of the most successful propositions of the company is a stretchable sleeve. Motus Sleeve should be worn on a pitcher’s forearm of the hand that is used for throwing a ball. With the help of the motion-sensing module, it is possible to analyze the situation when a pitch takes place. Such sleeve helps to gather much information about “peak arm speed, peak wrist velocity, peak elbow velocity, peak varus (inward-turning) torque on the UCL, release point, elbow height at release, arm orientation at release, and forearm pronation at release.” (Coxworth par. 3). This information has to be properly evaluated to provide an athlete with the following instructions to achieve good results and spend few efforts that may be harmful to their organisms.
Myontec Mbody is another successful example of how technologies can be applied to the things athletes should wear. The Myontec Mbody set consists of three details: shorts, a recorder, and the application itself. There is nothing difficult that should be done: people should wear shorts, attach the recorder to the shorts, and get the required portion of the information on the application. All bio-signals will be recorded. This device helps to monitor such variables as muscle load and balance to understand if it is necessary to reduce or enlarge the efforts.
The developers of BSX Insight admit that their devices should be considered as the first wearable technology that can be used to analyze how hard human muscles are working during sports training or competitions. This sleeve should be worn on a leg (the calf section) so that it is possible to measure consistent data and get credible results. The endurance capacity of muscles has its measurements. BSX Insight helps to recognize the most favorable training zones that can be investigated in real-time. The device shows how hard the body is working, analyze the information that is taken from the body.
The peculiar feature of this device is muscle oxygenation. The muscles have to work hard during training, and athletes should understand that oxygen is the main component of energy production and a real-time metric. Muscle oxygenation helps to promote the balance between oxygen supply and demand during training. The identification of balance plays an important role in successful training. The evaluation of all these devices and technologies helps to understand that there are many ways of how wearable sensors can be used by sportsmen and their coaches. Every human organism has its demands and needs, and such sensors as BSX Insight, Myontec Mbody, or Motus Sleeve are offered to people to improve the results of their training.
In general, many athletes admit the worth of a merger that is happening between sports and technology. Sports wearable biosensors are one of the latest technological achievements in the field of sport that helps to monitor and control sportsmen’s health conditions during training and competitions and choose the most appropriate amount of training load. Each effort requires time and its outcomes in a human organism. People should have access to the information about their bodies, and biosensors offered by such companies as Motus, BSX, and Myontec can be rather helpful.
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