Welcome to the Sports Technology Blog monthly shoutouts! I hope everyone is doing OK. As I started putting this together, it just happens to be R U OK day in Australia. The whole point of ‘R U OK day’ is to encourage conversations and try to catch people who are on the slippery slope towards depression and suicide. All we have to do is check in on our family, friends and colleagues, ask if they are OK, start a conversation and try to connect with them. Making connections and providing a listening ear helps people feel that they are not alone in whatever journey they are going through.
Switching to sports, August was a great month with the finishing of the Olympics and then the start of the Paralympics which went into the first week of September. The Paralympics was extraordinary with lots of amazing performances and stories. I was particularly amazed by the Women’s T12 Marathon event (Visually Impaired athletes). I was blown away when I found out the age of the competitors – the youngest competitor was 28, the winner was 44, the oldest was 66 and the average age of all 10 competitors was 44. Not only had most of these women pushed forward despite their visual impairment, they pushed forward despite of their age and still achieved tremendous results in a gruelling event such as the Marathon. I now also have a new found respect for the running guides, who perform such an important role for their runners.
Blind Assistive Tech
From a tech perspective, I was wondering if there could be any assistive tech for visually impaired runners that could allow them to run independently. I did a bit of a search and found out there are quite a few projects out there that had been in development. They are mostly not commercially available although one or two of them might be. Most of them consists of these three features: 1) some form of tracking or data capturing technology, 2) processing that data that is relevant to the blind runner and 3) a means of providing directional feedback to the blind runner which is mostly either through (haptic) vibrations or (audio) sound. I probably won’t go further here but it’s worth expanding it more in another post.
Moving on to our main content, it is all about “measuring” in this edition of shoutouts. In a nutshell, our three shoutouts include:
- Measuring and assessing your strength for baseline testing or rehabilitation, instead of relying on subjective evaluations;
- Measuring your glucose level to work out exactly what and when to eat, so as to maintain optimal performance; and
- Measuring a youth soccer player’s training and skill level to better understand where they are at, and helping them improve better.
Strength By Numbers Wants More Allied Health Practitioners To Measure Rather Than Guess
Strength By Numbers (SBN) is a health tech startup based in Melbourne Australia. The founders (a pair of Osteo and Physio), who having been in practice for a number of years, quickly realised that there is a lot of estimating and guessing when it comes to assessing movement using traditional methods. They first founded MAT (Movement Assessment Technologies) – an assessment method and tool that is quantifiable and evidence-based. They have had great success with it, even coming up with their own program to teach and coach many other practitioners locally and overseas to adopt this objective approach.
With that same motivation of wanting objectivity (vs guessing), they started to look into technology for strength and other functional assessments. Their focus was not on high-end instruments that are super precise and expensive but economical and user friendly solutions that a regular community practice could utilise. They were disappointed by what they found on the market. Coincidentally, they were in touch with a few of their old mates who were working on a prototype device that potentially could do what they needed. One thing led to the next and the group prototyped a couple more devices to form a complete system – the AxIT System, which consists of the Pull-IT, Push-IT and Stomp-IT devices.
The names of the individual devices are all pretty intuitive. The Pull-IT is for measuring pulling strength or where tension is created. The Push-IT is for motions where the athlete can push against and it captures the compression force. And the Stomp-IT is like a force plate where you can step, jump, or push against it with your full body weight. The end product that we see today took over two years of development with input from various expertise including research, health, engineering and design. The devices were designed with portability and accessibility in mind, so that Allied Health practitioners can take it with them for client visits. The accompanying tablet software was also designed to ensure a smooth workflow and to facilitate effective assessments. The main message that SBN really want to get across is this: Allied Health professionals need to start using objective measures and stop guessing. They are currently working towards TGA (medical device) certification and also planning to launch into the UK and Europe. If you are an Allied Health professional or sports practitioner and considering tools for your practice, do check out their offering. Also, check out the founders’ intro video below:
Supersapiens Wants To Help Athletes Optimise Their Fueling Using Continuous Glucose Monitoring
Athletes with Type 1 Diabetes need to monitor their blood glucose regularly to know when they might be at risk of hypoglycemia (when blood glucose level is too low) or hyperglycemia (when blood glucose level is too high). Then they can plan or take the necessary action based on the measure. Typically, they will have to take a finger prick test to measure their blood glucose level and it can feel a bit troublesome (and painful) when they have to do it 4 or more times a day. Abbott developed a wearable (stick-on) biosensor (Freestyle Libre) that could continuously monitor blood glucose for up to 14 days. Users just need to use a scanning device to wirelessly scan/read the data on the sensor, have a quick glance to see if the levels are normal or if they need to do something about it.
More recently, Abbott released a variation of the biosensor for the wider sports population – the Libre Sense Glucose Sport Biosensor. In terms of the hardware and how it is applied, it seems to be identical to the Freestyle Libre. There’s maybe three main differences between them: 1) the Libre Sense is not a medical device and only measures between 55-200mg/dL (i.e. not helpful for diabetics), 2) the data is automatically sent to the smartphone app every minute without needing to scan, and 3) the user interface (app) is designed to let athletes understand how the food they consume is directly affecting their performance. Instead of doing it themselves, Abbott has partnered with Supersapiens to come up with an athlete-centred solution.
Supersapiens developed what is basically an energy management app, that when paired with the Libre Sense, provides real-time data of the wearer’s glucose level. With that continuous stream of data going to the smartphone app, athletes can see trends of their glucose level from different foods that they eat, when they train or compete and when they are resting or in recovery. From those trends, athletes can adjust their nutrition to see what gives them stable levels of energy, or when exactly they should refuel during long training sessions to maintain an optimal level of performance. Besides currently integrating with Garmin, Apple Health and Training Peaks, Supersapiens is also planning to release their own Energy band that connects directly to the biosensor. You can learn more about how the biosensor is being used in this interesting article by Alex Hutchinson: link. OR check out the video below of the co-founder explaining energy management:
Jogo Wants To Help Youth Soccer Players Improve Using Their Insole Sensors & Talent Development Platform
Jogo is a startup based in the Netherlands that wants to help youth football (soccer) players reach their full potential. They believe that every youth player is different and training every player the same way doesn’t produce an optimal outcome. They also recognise that there are many talents that are undiscovered, and they confirmed that through a FIFA report, that more can be done in terms of providing better access to resources (education), scouting and identifying talents, talent development, and having more playing opportunities. Jogo wants to be part of the solution to help discover and develop talents.
Jogo developed a football training app that allows a youth player to practice football drills, keep track of their progress and even compete with friends. All they need is a mobile device. Some of the practice exercises include ball control, dribbling, juggling, shooting, wall work and strength and conditioning exercises. The app utilises the smartphone camera and computer vision to track those football drills and the player gets a performance rating for each skill and the smarts in the app provides tips for improvements. It reminds me of what Home Court is trying to do for youth basketball players.
In addition, clubs and coaches can also access a dashboard to manage their players’ training. Coaches can create custom assignments for individual players according to their level and set goals for each of them. When each player accepts the assignment and performs the tasks using their own device, their activity is tracked and recorded. So coaches can review it, provide individual feedback and monitor their progress at an on-going basis.
Then to add a cherry on top, Jogo has recently launched their Insole sensors to capture kinematic data of the players when they are training on the field or having a football match. The sensors can provide data that are running related (distance, speed, acceleration/deceleration) and ball control related (ball touches, passes, kicks) and overall load/effort. All these on-field data combined with the computer vision tracking for drills, plus their club/trainer dashboard for managing players, might just provide a truly comprehensive platform to track, analyse and improve the next generation of soccer talents. The Jogo sensors are now being crowdfunded on Kickstarter. You can learn more about them here: link. Or check out their promo video below:
And that is our sports tech shoutouts for Aug 2021. If you would like more information about any of the above, or maybe you caught on to something and would like to chat about it, feel free to reach out or leave a comment below. If you enjoy our content, please do share on the socials using the links below or subscribe to our blog here: link. Thanks for spending time with us!