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Tech and Sports Injury Prevention
There have recently been a number of significant developments in sports injury prevention technologies as rights holders and athletes become increasingly mindful of the damaging effect that injuries can have on the financial and sporting success of leagues, clubs and individuals.
Much of the interest surrounding technology in sport relates to the ways in which fans are now able to consume elite sport through new media, performance enhancing equipment (such as lightweight football boots, polyurethane bodysuits for swimming and even data-collecting tennis rackets) and officiating (such as goal-line technology in football and line-calling technology in tennis). However, a fast-emerging theme is the development of injury prevention tech.
For most professional sports clubs and leagues, the players are their most important assets. This is evidenced by the huge transfer fees and salaries associated with footballers competing in Europe’s top leagues. Players’ wages account for the vast majority of Premier League clubs’ expenditure and continue to grow in line with the staggering fees which the likes of Sky and BT Sport have been prepared to pay for the UK rights to broadcast live Premier League football. Without such an abundance of footballing talent, it is unlikely that the Premier League would be able to secure such lucrative media rights deals. Furthermore, at the very highest levels of sport, the availability of a team’s star player(s) can mean the difference between winning and losing the NBA Finals, the World Series or qualifying for the UEFA Champions League.
Given the wages that can be commanded by today’s sporting superstars, it can be incredibly costly for their employers when they become injured. It was reported in 2014 that the global financial burden of injuries in elite sport was roughly $16 billion per annum.
It is therefore unsurprising that rights holders are increasingly willing to invest more in injury prevention technologies, with both entrepreneurs and more established players in the sports tech space working to develop products to satisfy this growing demand. Recent innovations include Samsung’s Brainband (a headband developed with American Football, Australian Rules and both codes of rugby in mind which is equipped with sensors that measure the force of an impact and transmits data to coaches, team doctors and referees in real time), Storelli’s specialist range of protective clothing for footballers and the SuperSonic Imagine Aixplorer (an ultrasound system aimed at improving the way athletes can rehabilitate and stay healthy which is 200 times faster than conventional ultrasound). After having witnessed an unprecedented number of players suffering from musculoskeletal injuries in the 2014-2015 season, the NBA partnered with GE for the Sports Medicine and Orthopedics Collaboration, demonstrating the seriousness with which it now takes injuries to its players.
It will be interesting to observe the extent to which other professional sports leagues follow the NBA’s lead in partnering with major players in the healthcare sector in the pursuance of new and improved injury-prevention techniques and technologies.
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