Technology Innovation and Guardrails in Elite Sport: The Future is Now


October 2023


A growing number of companies are developing or using wearable sensor technologies that can monitor, analyse and transmit data from humans in real time that can be used by the sporting, biomedical and media industries. To explore this phenomenon, we describe and review two high-profile sporting events where innovations in wearable technologies were trialled: the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games (Tokyo 2020, Japan) and the 2022 adidas Road to Records (Germany). These two major sporting events were the first time academic and industry partners came together to implement real-time wearable solutions during major competition, to protect the health of athletes competing in hot and humid environments, as well as to better understand how these metrics can be used moving forwards. Despite the undoubted benefits of such wearables, there are well-founded concerns regarding their use including: (1) limited evidence quantifying the potential beneficial effects of analysing specific parameters, (2) the quality of hardware and provided data, (3) information overload, (4) data security and (5) exaggerated marketing claims. Employment and sporting rules and regulations also need to evolve to facilitate the use of wearable devices. There is also the potential to obtain real-time data that will oblige medical personnel to make crucial decisions around whether their athletes should continue competing or withdraw for health reasons. To protect athletes, the urgent need is to overcome these ethical/data protection concerns and develop wearable technologies that are backed by quality science. The fields of sport and exercise science and medicine provide an excellent platform to understand the impact of wearable sensors on performance, wellness, health, and disease. Sports Med (2023) Epub ahead of print