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The Good, the Bad and the Unknown

Hillary Cyril

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The term “sports technology” brings to mind visions of sweaty, garish gear and tacky-looking devices strapped to an athlete’s torso. Such images have been a staple of sports coverage for decades now, but modern advances in technology mean that today’s sports equipment is sophisticated enough to be both comfortable and discreet. For instance, many sports watches now come built with heart rate monitors, which can be used by professional athletes to keep track of their fitness routines. More impressively, though, are the computers and other electronic gadgets that can replace traditional exercise equipment. As well as being able to provide resistance training, such devices can also measure heart rate, speed, and other factors.

Athletes are not the only group of people who can benefit from sports technology, though. Those who participate in extreme sports, including mountain climbing and snowboarding, may find themselves in situations where access to traditional meters and instruments is impossible or too cumbersome. With innovative new GPS (Global Positioning System) and remote-assistance devices, athletes are now able to analyze and record all of their data – from heart rate, speed, and distance – in real-time, which they can then analyze in real-time during their climb or snowboarding mission. As well as helping them analyze their own performance, these tools can also help other climbers and skiers (and even enthusiasts) to get more out of their adventures.

Of course, there is no denying that technology has had huge benefits on the recreational side as well. In this respect, technology and sports medicine are joined by an ever-increasing amount of common sense. With athletes getting better at their sport, there comes a greater need to keep abreast of the latest developments and athlete-specific improvements. As well as improving athlete training methods and workouts, such innovations have helped to create better conditions for sportsmen and women. For example, sports technology and medicine have helped to identify some of the physiological reasons why some people can ski or snowboard longer than others. Ski goggles that offer superior vision and sound are far better than those that offer less.

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But what about athletes in other sports? How do sports technology and medicine match up with the common sense side of things? The answer to this question lies in the fact that athletes are by nature very conservative in their beliefs and practices. It is not just about the equipment, skills, and tricks; it is also about being ‘green’. This means that most athletes will be reluctant to switch to new technologies that could, in one way or another, influence their performance. While some will welcome such changes, most will resist them strenuously.

One way in which sports technology matches up with the athlete’s ‘green’ attitude is in the form of athlete GPS and other remote-assistance devices. Such instruments enable athletes to monitor and record many different aspects of their athletic movements. They can measure heart rate, pace, body temperature, blood flow, and force during a workout. If an athlete wants to maximize his or her performance, then these devices should be used to their fullest extent.

However, many athletes may not feel comfortable having their movements monitored by a device. If that is the case, then good, old-fashioned supervision is probably the way to go. Sports coaches can employ sports training methods that involve teaching, motivating, and testing the limits of every athlete’s abilities. It would be a mistake to discount the role that innovative sports technology plays in today’s athlete’s lifestyle.

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