NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Report: NBA looking into wearable technology for players in games — In recent years, the NBA has been looking for ways to use technology to both measure on-court performance and provide data to teams, fans and players about the game that was once unattainable. From SportVU cameras in every NBA arena to the rise of advanced stats, looking at the game from a deeper angle is more and more a regular occurrence in the league. Grantland.com’s Zach Lowe reports the next step in this trend may be GPS technology players would wear in games to further track their movement and health:
The NBA is putting its own money into the study of wearable GPS devices, with the likely end goal of outfitting players during games, according to several league sources. The league is funding a study, at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, of products from two leading device-makers: Catapult and STATSports.
The league declined comment on the study. Most teams already use the gadgets during practices, and Catapult alone expects to have about 20 NBA team clients by the start of the 2015-16 season. The Fort Wayne Mad Ants wore Catapult monitors during D-League games last season in an obvious trial run for potential use at the parent league.
Weighing less than an ounce, these devices are worn underneath a player’s jersey. They track basic movement data, including distance traveled and running speed, but the real value comes from the health- and fatigue-related information they spit out. The monitors track the power behind a player’s accelerations and decelerations (i.e., cuts), the force-based impact of jumping and landing, and other data points. Team sports science experts scour the data for any indication a player might be on the verge of injury — or already suffering from one that hasn’t manifested itself in any obvious way.
The devices can show, for instance, that a player gets more oomph pushing off his left leg than his right — evidence of a possible leg injury. They will show when players can’t produce the same level of power, acceleration, and height on cuts and jumps. Those are typical signs of fatigue, but there is near-total consensus among medical experts that fatigued players are more vulnerable to all sorts of injuries — including muscle tears, catastrophic ligament ruptures, and pesky soft-tissue injuries that can nag all season.
At a basic level, the NBA wants to be absolutely sure the products work before going to the players’ union and arguing players should wear them during games as part of a push to keep players safe — remember, this was why the league reduced the number of times a team plays four games in five days. Having data from practices and shootarounds is nice, but there just aren’t enough of those during the dog days of the 82-game slog for teams to compile a reliable database. The league can plop this study on the table and say, “We paid for this, and now we know for sure these things do what they are supposed to do.”
Several GMs and other team higher-ups have privately pushed for in-game use, but they understand the league has to collectively bargain that kind of step with the players’ union. Team executives want to know as much as they can about player health, and also whether guys are going as hard as they can during games.