Wearable Technology in the Sports Realm

By Gloria Coleman

Athletes want to keep their hold above their competitors. This means they are always trying everything they can do to stay ahead of the competition. There are many different ways to do this, but one specific way is starting to become a trend.

With newer and newer technology coming out all the time, sports gain access to more technology in their field. Smartwatches, smartphone data, and other trackers all give professional athletes the ability to track more of their vitals than before. This gives them information on how their body is doing; that can then help guide them in their workouts, eating, and daily activities. 

In a 2019 study on the growth, trends, and forecasts of the smartwatches market in 2020-2025, the data shows a major increase in smartwatch users since 2015. In 2015, the global shipment of sports and fitness trackers was 97.6 million, but in 2018 it jumped to 134 million. The predicted amount for 2021 is 148.5 million. This forecast is based on the Consumer Technology Association.

Apple Inc. is still the number 1 competitor in this field, with many other technological competitions. The Watch Series 6 recently made an appearance, so many people are excited to get their watches and finally start filling out the circles that show their progress. But Fitbit Inc. is not far behind. With both Fitbit and Google under the same parent organization, Alphabet owns the rights to so much data through these two networks. This might help Fitbit move up the chart and challenge Apple more in the smartwatch area.

Athletes studied

Luczak, Burch, Lewis, Chander, and Ball conducted a study on the use of technology in sports, and published it in The International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching on November 1, 2019. In the study, many professional athletes admitted to actually not liking to wear any form of technology for their sports. This preference is for many reasons, including uncomfortable straps, the device’s appearance, the tracking which means that their coach is able to tell when they were slacking, and even just the fact that some people wear them for “simply no good reason other than entitlement.” Some athletes also blame poor performance on the devices.

The technology and the data reported back can also be hard to understand. This was mentioned by some of the athletes in the previous study. In tracker apps, there is some guidance in understanding the vitals that are recorded, and how one can use this information to take care of their body. However, there is not as much as may be needed. The data is not much use without the interpretation of how to use this data to help take care of one’s body. 

Setting goals

Kendra Ecklund, an swimmer on the Wheaton Thunder team, says that wearing a smartwatch has significantly increased her want to train and workout, even when out of season.

The reminders to exercise and the ability to see her friends’ and family’s fulfilment of goals pushes her. This reminds her that she has set a goal for herself, which helps her to follow through in making sure she gets in all the workouts that she needs. She is sure that technology is helping her in a positive way.

This trend is seen more specifically in lower level athletes, especially NCAA Division II and III. Also, both international and female athletes, according to the previously mentioned study by Luczak, stick to using more technology. 48.8 percent of the interviewed athletes reported that these categories of athletes were more open to using wearable technology, as opposed to the “elite NCAA male athletes.”

The trend is not looking to end anytime soon, especially with more and more advanced technology coming out each year.

The individual wearables for each sport will become better; it might even be possible that more athletes will start using them. Apple and Fitbit will continue to make their mark upon the world in this area in foreseeable years. The market of smartwatches, according to a 2019 study, is probably going to grow at a rate of 14.5 percent from 2020-2025. This leaves all competitors open, and probably more athletes open to the idea of trying these out in practices.