Bionic Technology in Sports: Changing the Game for Sports Injuries - by Sarah Daren

From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
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Sarah Daren is a featured writer on the Today Show website and has been a consultant for organizations across a number of industries including athletics, health and wellness, technology and education. When she's not caring for her children or watching the New York Yankees play, Sarah enjoys practicing yoga and reading a good book on the beach.

Sarah Daren
Sarah Daren

In the not-so-distant future, coaches may find that bionic technology makes fields and courts safer and more competitive for players.

As researchers continue to blur the line between man and machine, the buzz is growing about how discoveries in bionics and biometrics may radically transform sports.

In the past, some sports circles have viewed technology with suspicion. Now, however, scientists are finding new and innovative ways to integrate technology into athletic competitions.

Bionic and biometric technologies - as well as real-time data - are the latest innovations that are enhancing competitive athletics.

Bionic Technology as a Solution for a Growing Problem

Amputations have risen dramatically in recent years, surging to nearly 5 for every thousand adults. Because of this phenomenon, researchers have made tremendous strides in advancing bionic technology while learning a lot about merging man and machine.

Almost 2 million American citizens have lost limbs. The group faces many challenges in resuming a satisfying life. However, cutting-edge innovations such as the bionic LUKE arm, promise to restore not only mobility - but also the sense of touch.

Soon, scientists hope to develop prosthetics that patients can control using their thoughts. For now, however, researchers face challenges in improving prosthetic control and reducing costs for patients.

Recently, researchers have developed prosthetics that consumers can control using muscle signals. The quality of these devices, however, depends significantly on the precision of the sensors.

Also, researchers have made breakthroughs in using pressurized gas to improve knee and ankle movement. In the future, engineers will use these developments to improve socket based technology as well as the sensory feedback of prosthetics wearers.

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Leveraging Bionics and Biometrics to Reduce Sports Injuries

In competitive arenas, real-time data analytics enable athletes to improve their performance and dramatically reduces injuries. This new wellspring of information may also enable many athletes to extend their careers.

By 2025, player monitoring may become the status quo, according to leading futurist Tom Cheeseright. According to the thought leader, organizations will collect data from sensors worn by players. Coaches will then have the ability to pull players from the court or field before excessive fatigue sets in or injuries occur.

Using artificial intelligence, researchers can detect patterns in fitness records and video analyses. Already, sports organizations leverage data analytics to assess performance, train athletes, scout for new talent and forecast injuries.

What's remarkable at this stage in athletic data analysis, is that organizations can now evaluate player performance in real-time. For instance, FIFA recently revised regulations allowing players to wear wearable technology during competitions, and in football, organizations that use algorithms to evaluate footage will gain access to an entirely new source of data.

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Bionics, Technology and Ethics

A recent survey of adults reveals that 86% of consumers want to know when companies collect their information. In a world where a growing number of devices collect sensitive user data, how do consumers know who has access to their confidential information?

In the healthcare field, the question surrounding big data technology eclipses the many benefits of innovation. Lawmakers cannot keep up with the breakneck pace of technological developments.

Resultantly, a massive gray area exists regarding ethics and consumer data. However, organizations that fail to keep consumer data safe suffer the consequences in the form of lost consumer trust and revenue.

In the competitive arena, bionic technology raises another type of ethical concern. As an example, former South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius was born without fibulas. Resultantly, he wore a prosthetic called Flex-Foot Cheetahs. The prosthetics enable Pistorius to compete against the top sprinters in the world.

Pistorius's achievements, however, started a substantial debate. Some argued that his prosthetics gave him an unfair advantage, while others argued that his physical limitations created a competitive equilibrium.

Although Pistorius no longer competes, emerging technology may breathe new life into this debate. For example, engineers have developed exoskeletons that enable mobility for patients who use wheelchairs.

It's not much of a leap to envision an exoskeleton that can augment individuals' abilities beyond that of other people. In athletic circles, such technology is sure to spark a new round of heated discussion.

A half-decade into the future, it's possible that the Olympics and Paralympics will cease to function as separate events, according to ethics in technology thought leader Andy Miah. In the future, postulates the bioethicist, athletic events may reveal how capable humans are of using their technologically enhanced bodies. Resultantly, the playing courts and fields of the future may look very different from the arenas of today.

Articles by Sarah Daren