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Wearable Technology from Weekend Warrior to Professional Athlete

Until recently, the average fitness enthusiast had only a scale and pedometer to track exercise progress. Advancements in wearable technologies now provide active individuals, coaches, and sports medicine professionals advanced measures for tracking exercise, performance, and health. Wearable technologies are accessible for everyone from the weekend warrior to professional athlete.

Entry level wearable technologies focus on basic fitness measures, including step counts, calories burned, heart rate, and activity time. These models can reveal helpful information on the user’s basic health measures. For example, if their heart is consistently beating too quickly this may be a sign for the patient to see their doctor. Additionally, by providing information on calories consumed or burned, the devices provide information that can help users drop down to a healthy weight. These systems can be synced to personal computers or smartphones and allow for progress tracking and comparisons with others. Examples of models in this line include the Fitbit Zip, Misfit Flash, and the Jawbone UpMove.

More advanced devices offer many additional features. GPS watches and similar technologies allow consumers to track average/current speed, split/lap times, stairs climbed, route traveled, and even sleep quality/quantity, in addition to the metrics reported by the entry level models. These additional measures help users track and attain fitness goals and make certain lifestyle tendencies evident, thus helping to facilitate changes in potentially detrimental habits. Furthermore, these additional measures may provide early indications of over training, which may prove detrimental to your training and overall health. Popular models include the Fitbit Surge and Blaze, Garmin Vivofit HR, and TomTom Spark.

Wearable technologies have recently been incorporated into garments.These advanced technologies utilize accelerometers, GPS, and gyroscopes. The Under Amour E39 shirt, a sensor-fitted shirt unveiled at the 2011 NFL Combine, tracked athletes’ accelerations, G forces, heartrates, and breathing rates. Since the Under Armour E39 shirt was introduced, there has been an influx of sport-specific wearable technologies. Real-time assessments of athletes in their native environments provide coaches and sports medicine professionals information on workout efficiency and injury risks. Major League Baseball recently approved the use of the Motus sleeve during game play. The sleeve utilizes accelerometers and force sensors to measure arm speed and slot angle and estimates strain of the elbow's ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) strain, which assists in avoiding injury and subsequent Tommy John surgery.

Similarly, the Catapult OptimEye provides real-time analysis of jumping forces, turn rates, collision forces, and sprint efforts which can reveal trends that are indicative of future injury risks. This system is currently used by a number of MLS, NBA, and NFL teams and has helped reduce injuries. The continued development of wearable technologies highlights the movement towards tailored athletic optimization with a focus on injury prevention. As these technologies continue to develop, they will become more accessible and their benefits will be realized by all active individuals.

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