A View from Brittany Sauser

A Sensor to Improve Athletic Performance

By gathering biomechanical data, a novel sensor worn behind the ear could better an athlete’s technique.

  • September 14, 2007

Technique plays a significant role in an athlete’s performance–a baseball batter’s stance can determine whether he grounds out or hits a home run, while a quarterback’s footwork in the pocket sets him up for either a touchdown pass or a sack. To help athletes optimize their performance, coaches use their eyes or a video camera to study their movements and find where they can improve. Now researchers at Imperial College London, led by professor Guang Zhong Yang, say they have a device that can improve sporting performance by gathering biomechanical data.

From the press release:

Cufflink-sized and clipped behind the wearer’s ear, the sensor is unique in two key respects. First, it does not hinder performance, yet can gather unprecedentedly wide-ranging and useful data about posture, stride length, step frequency, acceleration, response to shock waves traveling through the body etc.

Second, when worn by an athlete during training, it can transmit the information for immediate visual display on a handheld device or laptop used by their coach at the trackside. The coach can then harness the data to shape the on-the-spot advice and instruction they give the athlete regarding technique. By instantly adding to the value of every training session, the sensor can therefore deliver better sporting performance.

The sensor, which researchers say will enter widespread use within 12 to 18 months, is currently undergoing trials with U.K. athletes and is initially going to be worn by sprinters. The technology was presented yesterday at the BA Festival of Science in York, England.

As a former collegiate athlete and in light of all the performance-enhancing methods that both athletes and coaches are now using, I am anxious to see the results of Yang’s studies.

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