More and more data is generated related to sports. Amateur and professional training data, enhanced statistics, real-time monitoring are just some examples of data collection that started years ago in some areas and have bloomed, especially in the amateur environment thanks to the commoditization of wearables. Some of you might still remember those times when it was normal to watch a football match with a blackboard used as scoreboard, with a volunteer handwriting the results.
Today we can’t imagine a world class sporting event without real-time data for results, fan data and general information about the event flowing across multiple channels to a worldwide audience.
Beyond this, data has also increased in the area of life sciences (or, as it is sometimes referred to, Sports Science). We see today more and more investment on technology in order to:
- Improve and track performance by full body monitoring during training sessions, and even for some sports, during competitions; and
- Advanced doping controls taking into account genomics data in order to detect deep alterations in the body to improve athlete results
While it is an established trend to consider the human body as a gold mine of data in terms of predictability and performance improvement for sports, there are now some new challenges on the table in order to take even more advantage from what life sciences can bring to athletes and sports organizations.
Real-time portable body analysis
Athlete biometrics data is ready to leave the training facilities and jump to the competition field, but before this big milestone some challenges need to be solved:
- Portability: A lot of progress has been done to make the sensors more suitable for competition environments. Smart fabrics, low weight wearables and remote sensors are now available to allow for an elite athlete to compete whilst the sensors are being worn. How to deploy the required infrastructure in the field to capture and analyze in real time the data wherever the competition is, is the big challenge ahead us, to be mobile and be able to have a seamless experience in high equipped venues or in the middle of the forest.
- Security: Like the previous challenge, in an open field with a big attendance and multiple athletes competing, how to secure the data flow ensuring privacy and veracity is key in order to embrace mass usage.
Genomics insights for long term predictability
Like the move we’ve seen with body sensors, recent advances in genomics and precision medicine are now being seriously looked into in the field of sports. From injury prevention to personalized treatments to boost efficiency and drastically reduce the recovery time. Genomics data today is already rich enough to give insights on the likelihood of developing certain disease. With this information athletes can adapt their activity and habits to improve performance, prevent injuries and overall ensure a more sustainable path to success.
While biometrics is becoming widely available (at least in controlled environments) genomics are not yet there, being available only to a small sport population, but as we see Life Sciences progressing today, this will soon become widely available.
Main risks ahead
While the major improvements both in biometrics and genomics can greatly contribute to improving sports performance and reduce injuries, these technologies also introduce two important factors to consider.
On one side progress on genomics also allows for new doping techniques and options to cheat. This new threat will come together with the need for advanced doping control mechanisms including DNA verifications along the lifecycle of the athlete, potentially starting at very early stages, to avoid any performance enhancement drugs related to DNA being used along the line.
The other big threat is more on the social aspect. Will we kill the emotion in sports? If we are able, thanks to life sciences application in sports, to better predict the athlete’s results, will this be the end of the uncertainty and transform sports uncertainty into boring predictability?