Wearables are becoming commonplace in practice games and training, but have received a lukewarm response from athletes, unhappy with the lack of advice or instructions.
Athletes see the advantages of using wearables, according to a report from Lux Research, but want to see wearable providers take more of an active role on the advice side.
That would include analysis on training performance, how to avoid injuries, and how to be healthier. Fitbit, the largest wearable vendor, currently provides limited analytics, outside of a weekly rundown of your efforts alongside heart-rate level and calories burnt during a workout.
“Most wearables today do a great job of reporting factual information but fail to educate consumers on how to modify their behavior to achieve their health and performance goals,” said Noa Ghersin, a Lux Research associate that penned the report.
“The 2016 Rio Olympics have highlighted how wearables can provide technique tracking, not just fitness monitoring. However, other major applications for sports wearables – like team strategy and safety – deserve more attention, too.”
In the MLB, two wearables, the Zephyr Bioharness and Motus elbow sleeve, provide coaches and physicians with detailed performance analytics and data on how hard balls are thrown or hit.
From there, coaches can inquire about lack of practice performance and physicians can check on health issues that need to be addressed before a big game.
Pro sports are embracing wearables warily
Other American sports are embracing wearables, albeit slowly to avoid oversaturation of tech on the field. Unions have also pushed back, worried that coaches will use the analytics as justification for benching or removing a player from the team.
Lux Research spoke to a number of athletes and coaches on three wearables, HTC and Under Armour’s HealthBox, Xmetrics swimming wearable, and Vert’s wearable clip.
For HealthBox, athletes said it needed more “instructive insights” to be a potential replacement for the personal trainer. Xmetrics has to make its metrics easier to understand. Vert should have alerts and recommendations to avoid injuries.
All of these are valid complaints, but part of the reason for low level insights and lack of medical advice is mostly due to regulation. The FDA has come down hard on wearables that attempt to be medical products, something that Apple reportedly found out when it filed its original Watch to the FDA, and had it swiftly denied.
For athletes to receive better insights and advice, U.S. and foreign regulatory bodies need to be more open to wearables outside the traditional healthcare market offering medical advice.