“Russia vs. Lativa – Men’s Hockey” by Chase N. is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
The evolution of technology has greatly impacted the world of sports. Technology has changed the way athletes train every day and has evolved to benefit athletes beyond how they train. The improvement of technology in sports has allowed a drastic improvement in safety measures taken as well. The most notable ways technology has improved is with hockey and football helmets. The most common cause to improve helmets is due to increasing cases of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, commonly referred to as CTE. Athletic ability has also improved with the advancement of technology. Athletes now have better training methods available to them. Equipment has also evolved which not only improved safety but allowed players to become better at the sport they are playing. Hockey has come a long way in sports, improving the overall quality of skates, making them more durable and giving them more ankle support, as well as improving balance. Sticks have also changed, using composite materials rather than wood, which allows the player to shoot the puck harder and faster. The rest of the equipment, especially for goalies, have also been improved to keep pace with the overall increase in athletic ability in the sport. With increased safety, better training methods and improved athletic ability, it also increases the athletic potential of all athletes. Having to worry less about serious injury and being able to prevent serious injuries before they happen with technology has allowed athletes to have a higher ceiling for improvement in their sport. The use of technology has improved all sports and made all athletes far better players than before the evolution of technology in sports. Looking back in past decades of the overall talent in sports has shown how far they have come and improved. Technology is a major reason behind these changes. Not only has technology improved athletes, it has also enhanced the entertainment and scouting aspects of sports. With the ability to track a baseball or a hockey puck, it allows fans to see how far a baseball was hit or how hard a hockey player’s shot was. Scouting in sports has also improved in sports because people no longer have to travel long distances to foreign countries to evaluate players and can now easily pull up a video of the player to see their performance. This makes the process much easier in all sports and also increases the ability for a foreign player to get recognition and improved chances of them being able to play a sport professionally in North America. While there are many positives to technology in sports, a major issue surrounding it is an increased possibility of cheating to gain an advantage over other players. Technology has greatly improved in sports, and has positively impacted athletes by improving safety, athletic ability and athletic potential.
Safety is the biggest aspect of sports that technology has improved. Improving safety has allowed players to endure longer careers, while also avoiding major injuries that can impact them long after their careers are over. One major issue that has been brought out was CTE. CTE affects the brain and is caused by constant head injuries. A few early symptoms of CTE include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgement, impulse control problems, anger and depression. Due to rising concerns with CTE, sports have made larger efforts to improve the overall safety of players, and technology has allowed them to make these improvements. When comparing a normal, healthy brain to that of a person who suffered from CTE, the brain was shrunk and deteriorated. This has caused a number of issues among players mental health, with the biggest issue being the development of dementia. This disease has been found in many professional football and hockey athletes and can only be found in the person after they have died, making it difficult to diagnose and treat. Increased safety measures have been added with modifications to rules, as well as changes to helmets to try to better protect athletes from these head injuries. Most notably in football, a player cannot lead with his helmet in order to make a hit, and instead must use his shoulder to lead a hit. This prevents helmet to helmet contact, thus reducing the chances of a player suffering from a concussion. In hockey, a new rule has been implemented that states that two players that engage in a fight cannot remove their helmet, and the only possible way for the helmet to come off is if the other player in the fight manages to knock it off. By adding these two rules to their respective sports, this can help reduce head injuries and prevent major issues with CTE for athletes’ lives beyond the game. Improving other equipment also can improve the safety of the players because as athletes get stronger and games become faster paced, equipment needs to keep up with these changes as well to keep players more protected. Another improvement that has come about with technology advancements is the testing of equipment. With better ways to test equipment, it allows them to see better results in the impact of wear and tear on equipment and how well it will protect a player from injuries. Through these advancements in technology, it has improved overall player safety and provided more in-depth analysis onto what happens to players and how injuries can be further prevented without entirely compromising a sport.
Technological advancements in sports have allowed overall athletic ability to improve. A big factor in this improvement has been better training equipment. Athletes now have more in-depth analysis on what muscles groups are being worked out and how they can better train a specific muscle group that would benefit them the most. Many sports have also added sensors to jerseys and other equipment to help track a player’s performance. Some examples include how fast the athlete’s heartbeat, how much they were sweating, and how fast they were running or skating. This allows athletes to get a better look at how they are performing and find ways that they can improve and become a better athlete. Performance tracking can also help cater better training methods, and break down where a player needs to improve, as well as training options to help them improve that area of their game. Tracking performance can be made easily available for access on a smartphone, helping a player see their performance in real time. Having access to this information can greatly increase the way an athlete trains and can help to cater to individual training regiments as opposed to having all athletes training the exact same way. Having individual training plans can improve all athletes, since not every person is built the same way or needs to train the way everyone else does.
Many improvements in technology have improved athletic potential as well. The enhancement of technology has greatly improved, with the most recent additions being headsets inside player helmets. This has been very common in the NFL and the XFL, which has allowed players to have better communication with coaches and offensive coordinators from the sideline to assist with play calling. Having direct communication with the coaches on the sideline allows players to perform better and execute better plays in various situations on the field. Nutrition and weight room tracking are also important to achieving maximum potential. With technology, athletes can now better track caloric intake, as well as being able to see foods that may contain lots of protein, or have low carbs and sugar, and be able to create a better diet that fits their training and lifestyle to stay healthy. Having a poor diet will result in less desirable outcomes in training, thus decreasing athletic potential. Weight room tracking is also important and ties together with nutrition. Being able to track progress in the weight room is important and can help an athlete set goals for themselves and push themselves harder to get where they need to be. A major factor in determining an athlete’s potential is genetics. Through advancements in technology, there are more advanced ways to test an athlete’s overall fitness capabilities, which include slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers, and aerobic capacity. Slow-twitch muscles allow for greater endurance, which can allow an athlete to run farther distances without being tired. There are also fast-twitch muscles which are better for activities like sprinting and other various activities involving more power and strength rather than endurance. Aerobic capacity, which is the ability to get oxygen from the heart and lungs to muscles, is also an important factor for athletes as this determines endurance, which is key to an athlete’s success. “Studies focused on similarities and differences in athletic performance within families, including between twins, suggest that genetic factors underlie 30 to 80 percent of the differences among individuals in traits related to athletic performance” (Genetics Home Reference). These factors are important to athletic potential, as they are important to help an athlete reach their maximum potential and ability and make it to the professional level.
Not only has technology improved to help athletes, but advancements have also led to general improvements to sports as well. One factor that has been implemented in sports is ball and puck tracking. For example, in baseball, technology can now track the distance that a homerun was hit and how fast the ball came off the bat when it was hit. Just recently in hockey, the National Hockey League will be implementing puck and player tracking, which can determine how fast a player’s shot was, and factors for players that include top skating speed, average speed, and current speed in real time. “Sensors in pucks and on players send signals to antennas in the rafters, creating millions of data points and mountains of real-time information” (Cotsonika). This can allow fans to have a more immersive experience watching games on TV and give them the opportunity to see just how fast the game is and how quickly players are moving on the ice. The current plans for the NHL are to be able to fully implement this system by the time the playoffs begin, which starts in April and runs until June. Another experimentation in baseball is the idea of robotic umpires. This idea has its pros and cons, with the general reasoning behind the idea is so that pitch calls can be more accurate and remove the human error aspect of the game. A major con to robotic umpires is devaluing the role of the catcher outside of catching the ball when the pitcher throws it. Catchers will often attempt to frame a pitch to look like a strike in order to get a call to go their way, but with robotic umpires, they will not be able to frame a pitch because it will be able to track the ball and determine the proper call. Removing the human error factor of umpires in baseball will remove the chances of a missed call. Another aspect of sports that was improved by technology was player scouting. This has been able to reduce travel while also creating more exposure to athletes around the world with the availability of game film and the ease of sending it to various sports teams for evaluation. An interesting story from the NHL draft, which shows how far technology has come, occurred in 1974, when international player scouting wasn’t as developed as it is today. Due to the long and tiring process of the NHL draft, Buffalo Sabres General Manager George Imlach decided to make up a player named Taro Tsujimoto, who did not exist, and draft him. “Sending a secretary to find some common Japanese names, Imlach soon came up with the imaginary Taro Tsujimoto of the Tokyo Katanas – literally translating to the Tokyo Sabres” (Pollina). Since the league scouting was underdeveloped, they assumed that the player existed, and it wasn’t revealed that he did not exist until training camp 5 months later. This is a perfect example to show how far player scouting has come and how technology has allowed the process to be less tedious and more efficient.
With positive impacts of technology in sports, there’s also negative consequences that come with it. Two major scandals, which both occurred in Major League Baseball, involved the use of performance enhancing drugs, commonly referred to as PEDs, and the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal. The PED issue, which tainted much of the 1990’s and early 2000’s, were negative aspects of improved technology. This allowed for better research into drugs and other medication that could enhance a player’s performance by making their recovery times faster, and also increasing muscle mass to be able to hit baseballs farther. This led to baseball making a banned substance list, and if players tested positive for any of these substances, it would be met with harsh punishments and lengthy suspensions from the sport. The other major scandal, which just recently came out, was that the Houston Astros cheated during the 2017 season on their way to winning the World Series. The scandal involved the team using a camera in center field to steal the opposing teams catchers signs and relaying that information to a monitor behind their dugout, which was then decoded and relayed in real time to the batter at the plate by banging a metal trash can with a bat to signal a certain pitch was coming. While sign-stealing has always been around in baseball, the use of technology to do so was against the rules. This caused major backlash from both players and fans and tainted the integrity of the sport. These are major issues with the evolution of technology in sports and show just how far it can go to give a team or player an advantage over others.
Overall, technology in sports has greatly benefited athletes more than it has negatively impacted sports. Technology has allowed for major improvements across all sports and has resulted in better athletes and better on-field performances. Along with better performances, sports have taken increased measures to greatly improve safety measures in order to prevent injuries and allow athletes to have better lives after they have stepped away from the game. With the increase in athletic ability, safety measures were taken to preserve athletes and help cater better training methods. Being able to prevent injuries before they happen has allowed athletes to train better and be able to see strengths and weaknesses and analyze where they need to improve and where they can focus less on to become better. The biggest factor that technology has been able to assist was the diagnosis and hopeful prevention of CTE, so athletes don’t struggle later in life with these issues. Outside of issues like performance enhancing drugs and sign-stealing scandals, technology has been able to improve all sports and increase not only the athletes ability and potential, but also create more immersive experiences for fans that want to watch the games for entertainment.
Cotsonika, Nicholas J. “NHL Puck and Player Tracking Has Trial Run at All-Star Game.” NHL.com, NHL.com, 27 Jan. 2019, www.nhl.com/news/nhl-puck-player-tracking-system-trial-run-at-all-star-game/c-304264280.
Delgado, Rick. “Sports Training Gets Smart: How New Technology Helps Athletes Reach the Next Level.” Social Media Today, Industry Dive, 20 Jan. 2015, www.socialmediatoday.com/content/sports-training-gets-smart-how-new-technology-helps-athletes-reach-next-level.
ESPN. “Everything You Need to Know about MLB’s Sign-Stealing Scandal.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 13 Feb. 2020, www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/28476282/everything-need-know-mlb-sign-stealing-scandal.
“Is Athletic Performance Determined by Genetics? – Genetics Home Reference – NIH.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, 2020, ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/traits/athleticperformance.
Pollina, Erin. “THE LEGEND OF TARO TSUJIMOTO.” NHL.com, NHL.com, 29 June 2009, www.nhl.com/sabres/news/the-legend-of-taro-tsujimoto/c-438557.