Sports technology today is having a huge impact on the way that athletes perform and train. We have cameras that analyze movements to detect whether they are susceptible to injuries, GPS tags that can record exactly where a player is on a pitch and even wearable tech that can show if an athlete is dehydrated.
However, I believe that new sports technologies are not just about making our top athletes perform, it is also about allowing people to take part in sport who otherwise may not be able to.
I recently checked out the Shimano Steps electric bike system at an event in London which showed how far electric bikes have come. Rather than feeling like riding a slow motorbike, it allows you to pedal like a regular bike but with considerable assistance, up to 15mph. It allows people who may not otherwise enjoy cycling to still enjoy the sport, those with heart conditions, the elderly or simply don’t like hills.
We have seen significant strides forward in the perception of athletes with disabilities too, with Oscar Pistorius becoming the first athlete to compete in both the Olympic and paralympic games. This came from his use of prosthetic limbs for his legs, which allowed him to run at the same speed at able-bodied athletes.
We have seen the increased use of carbon in sports equipment to help paralympians and we are even beginning to see the use of exoskeletons to allow those with disabilities to perform tasks they would never have been able to previously. EKSO are a company based in Richmond, CA who are transforming the rehabilitation of patients and in the future may even allow people to play sports again.
We often discuss the use of sports technology from a performance perspective, but when we see the kind of impact that it can have to simply allow people to partake in sport, it is arguably even more important. It is great seeing analytics pushing the boundaries of human capabilities, but I would say that giving the gift of access is arguably the biggest thing that sports technology can give us.