How Science and Technology Are Developing Super-Athletes
Consider this: athletes are faster and stronger now than they’ve ever been. This statement is easily proven by studying baseball or football players, sprinters or swimmers, or simply a passing glance at the array of new world records set every four years in the Summer Olympics. Brooke Borel, in an introduction to a discussion on how science and technology are transforming sports, wrote that it’s because “sports evolve over time” – and these changes aren’t going to stop anytime soon.
As we gain a better understanding of genetics and biomechanics, and develop improved technology such as virtual and augmented reality, athletes will continue to improve their abilities and become capable of achievements that were unimaginable decades ago.
Technology Enhanced Training
Coaches have focused on the improvement of athletic form for decades, but new technologies are giving coaches a better understanding on what exactly to focus on. In days gone by, a coach would watch an athlete or team to find problems, but now, newer three-dimensional motion capture technology can do far more. Between the 3D modelling and biometric feedback on things such as heart and respiratory rates, can expert can get a far better understanding of what’s happening with an athlete’s body. Being able to tell exactly how the athlete is moving in real time can offer greater insight into what should be adapted in order to enhance performance.
Personalised Biology and Genetics
Researchers are learning how genes interact to code for different traits and behaviours, and this information can be adapted to transform sports along with almost everything else – even possibly live sports betting! David Epstein, author of The Sports Gene, states that “we’re finding genes that make some people more trainable to particular training programs than others”. Simplified – your individual genes may make you more responsive to certain types of workouts and a genetic counsellor could develop an individualised training program based on this information. While we haven’t as yet realised the full potential of this type of information, there are already genetic markers that can tell a person how well they will respond to weight training.
Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality
AI, VR, and AR might sound like a bunch of gibberish to those not in the know, but to tech fans, these technologies are opening doors many never thought possible. Chris Kluwe, former NFL player, says that he expects to see virtual and augmented reality start to play a much bigger role in sports within the next ten years. The game of basketball has already started to embrace a VR-driven game specifically for fans by coming up with ways for fans to see what’s happening, and the University of Michigan is now using VR to help recruit players by giving them a virtual perspective of a ‘day in the life’ on game day.
The Fairness of Comparison
Naturally, some of these innovations – particularly technological ones – incite questions about the fairness of comparison. Modern runners and climbers benefit greatly from shoe technology that is suited to their sports, but is it right to compare the speed of someone wearing a potentially drag-reducing swimsuit to someone without one? However, despite whether we believe that it is fair or not, technology is going to continue to improve performance, no matter what, in ways big and small.