College of Healthcare Sciences

Publish Date

10 May 2019

Related Study Areas

Sports technology a rapidly-changing game

Have you ever watched a game of professional sport, whether it’s rugby league, Aussie rules, or soccer, and noticed an odd lump in a player’s jersey? How about some of the bulky-looking undergarments players wear on their chests?

If you’ve jumped to the conclusion that these players are wearing a GPS, you might be right, but as JCU’s Deputy Head of Sports Science Dr. Glen Deakin will tell you, even that technology is fast becoming outdated.

To understand where wearable technology is going, it is first useful to see where it has come from, and according to Dr Deakin, the traditional heartrate monitor is becoming a thing of the past.

“If I go back to the beginning, say 30 years ago, when we looked at wearable technology you basically just had a heart rate monitor and that was it,” Dr. Deakin says. “Things have changed dramatically, particularly in the last decade; if you look at wearable technology, everybody has a Fitbit. It’s amazing how many people have wearable technology compared to what we used to see.”

Person compares data on smartphone and smartwatch
Sports Scientist attaching a GPS device to an athlete's back
Man swimming

Information Overload

Dr Deakin’s job as a sports scientist is to ensure the amount of data doesn’t overrun people’s ability to interpret it.

If you’ve watched a match in the NRL, AFL, or any other professional sport recently, you’ll know that the amount of data available can quickly mount up.

“If you look at the AFL, for example, they have analysts that sit down and just analyse the game; you might have three or four analysing the game just from a statistics point of view,” he says.

“They’ll video it, record it, how many people have kicked the ball, played the ball, catches all that information. On top of that now you’ve got player information such as how many jumps did they do, how fast did they run, how hard did they hit, so we’ve actually got an information overload.

“You can get to this situation where you have too much information, and what does the information mean? You can get what David Martin, previously from the Australian Institute of Sport, used to refer to as paralysis through analysis; that is you get so much information, but what do you actually mean by having all that information?”

That’s why Dr Deakin is at the forefront of ways to analyse and collate the information that can be made available from current technology, and the technology that is just over the horizon.

“We’ve got to be careful we don’t get into a situation where our sports science information gets ahead of our ability to interpret it,” Dr Deakin says. “That’s where people like myself and my department come in. We keep that information at a usable form.”

With technology advancing to such sophisticated levels, it seems sports scientists are claiming ever smaller advantages through the use of detailed analysis.

“One of the biggest areas that we’re looking at right now is athlete monitoring and recovery. Monitoring how much force an athlete is generating in competition, their types of movement patterns,” Dr Deakin says.

“Even the traditional GPS is becoming old-hat, but there are new forms of GPS and new forms of movement devices that we can put on that look at inertia and so forth. The idea is to now not just look at the body itself but individual limbs to see how forces are changing.”

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