Wearable tech helps prevent injuries
Data collection may be invasive, but it’s had an effect on player health
Data is pored over by coaches and staff of the Orlando Magic on a regular basis. They’ll dissect how far a player runs during practice, how quickly that player accelerates and decelerates, how his performance changes as the workout goes along, biometric measurements such as his heartbeat or when his workload is particularly heavy.
The charts and graphs are detailed and precise.
But how it’ll help the Magic win, that’s still an unknown.
Wearable technology — chips worn during practice to collect information that analysts churn into reports — has been around the NBA for the past several seasons. It’s not permitted on game nights, and anything specific about processes the 30 teams are using falls into the category of closely guarded secrets. And when it comes to coaches deciding what play to call with a game on the line, it doesn’t seem to have an impact quite yet.
“It’s all very beneficial stuff,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said. “But I can only digest X amount of information. And it has to be the right amount of information.”
Regardless of what hardware a team is using, everything basically tracks the same things: distance of movement, speed of movement, acceleration and deceleration, workload and heart rate. Teams work on their own, largely without NBA oversight except for some rules laid out in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
It’s already been a boost in how teams monitor a player’s recovery from injury or surgery.
But some also have wondered if the data collection is too invasive, or could be used against a player — something that isn’t supposed to happen under league rules.
“It seems inherently geared to advantage the team,” University of Illinois law professor Michael LeRoy said on his blog last year. “When it’s not linked to performance and not actually linked to injury, just correlation ... it’s hard to see where that data can be used to the advantage of a player.”
The NBA has put together a list of what brands and types of products that teams can use. Teams aren’t mandated to share the data they’re collecting from the wearables with the league, although that may change once devices are permitted to be used during games.
“Data collected through wearable devices has the potential to have a number of applications to improve player health — but it’s not a silver bullet,” said Dr. John DiFiori, the NBA’s medical director. “Information from wearables can add more detail on each player’s loading, which, together with a team’s overall toolkit, can help develop more individualized injury prevention programs.”
The league and the NBA Players Association are working on finalizing a validation program will be in place to ensure that devices are measuring what the manufacturers say they’re measuring, and that they do so accurately.
“At this level, they worry and care so much more about your body,” Atlanta rookie Kevin Huerter said. “The technology monitors how tough practices are and how tough you’re pushing yourself … So I think a lot of it is making sure guys stay healthy and listening when guys are hurting a little bit one day.”