Sports are highly competitive and athletes use their physical strength, mental preparedness and natural talents to best their competition, that’s sort of their whole deal. An advantage of .001s is an advantage that can make a difference between being a champion and being a loser, so athletes and their teams are looking for any edge they can get. With the emergence of technology, all athletes from runners to swimmers and skiers are starting to rely on technology to make their motions and moves smarter, more consistent and efficient. So let’s see how technology affected sports through time:
Evolution of materials
In the 1800s, most sporting equipment were made of wood, so for instance, tennis players only had wood racquets and golfers had wooden drivers. But as technology became better and able to develop metal, carbon and titanium equipment that’s also light and efficient, wood soon became obsolete. In the 1960s, Wilson Sporting Goods introduced the first popular metal racquets and in the 90s, golfers got an opportunity to try out titanium drivers with a larger sweet spot and faster swing.
While stopwatches are not a new technology (they have been invented in the 1600s) the use of new electronic automated timing systems is new. In 1964, Seiko launched its new system that also contains a photo-finish mechanism that improved the accuracy of a stopwatch to 1/100th of a second.
And today, timing is everything, especially in big competitions like the Olympics. Last winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, the official timekeeper Omega launched new tech that helps the audience at home get a better sense of how elite sporting competitors have super-close timing and technique. For example, we got to see technology from Stromotion that captures ski jump athletes’ performances frame-by-frame and allows people at home to compare techniques, times and distances by overlaying previous skiers’ attempts.
While it’s not very likely that umpires and other referees will soon be replaced by robots and smart tech, what we already have is these experts relying on some technological help. For instance, in tennis, in 2001, we got an electronic computer system that tracks the ball and displays on the screen its path and bounce as a moving 3D image. Thanks to high-performance cameras that track the ball from different angles, we can see exactly what happened on the court. In 2006, this tech called Hawk-Eye started being used in competitions and allowed players and umpires to correct many wrong calls.
When it comes to sporting clothing, many technological advancements contributed to better times, easier practice and more comfort even during grueling matches. For instance, modern athletes have light and specially-designed track shoes that provide superior grip and maximum comfort. A decade ago, we also got apparel with wearable tech that can measure heart rate, respiratory activity, posture and speed. New clothing can even wick away sweat from the body and provide better comfort and safety. One of the biggest advancements comes with high-tech EMS training and the invention of special suits that use electric impulses that activate specific muscle groups and aid the user in weight loss, muscle tone and rehabilitation. This tech is suitable for both high-performance athletes and amateurs who want to be better.
Neuroscience for brain preparation
In 2017, Halo technology emerged. This tech is designed to prepare the brain of the athlete for training and competition using electric pulses that help all neurons work together and achieve complete focus. Putting the 2019 Halo version on your head 20 minutes before physical activity can result in better athletic performance.
Virtual imaging also affected the world of sports. For instance, Orad Hi-Tech Systems gave us the virtual world record line in timed competitions, mainly swimming. This VR tech creates a line on the surface that shows how much faster or slower the WR is. But VR technology has much more potential, and we can expect to see the emergence of new possibilities in real-time with 5G internet and other tech improvements.
At first, athletic prosthetics used to be big and heavy, but today, Paralympians and other athletes with disabilities can get custom-fit and 3D printed prosthetics with maximum comfort and efficiency. Some models even include microprocessors that measure different parameters and adjust to users’ stride.
It’s truly exciting to watch what technology did to sport and to think about what kinds of sporting spectacles we’ll be able to witness thanks to future tech advancements.
Diana Smith is a full time mom of two beautiful girls interested in topics related to home improvement, DIY and interior design. In her free time she enjoys reading and preparing healthy meals for her family.