In an age where technology rules the world, are our aspiring athletes in an environment where they have greater access to performance enhancing technology and as such is the expectation of higher performance that much greater because of it. From swimsuit technology that became so good it was frowned upon like performance enhancing drugs and eventually banned. Think back to the 2008 Beijing Olympics where 94 per cent of the gold medallists were wearing Speedo's new LZR Racer swimsuits.
It wasn't long before FINA banned full length suits from international swim meets. To equipment improvements in field athletics as studied by Steve Haake, a sports engineer at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK in 2009. He found that while better equipment had allowed 100m runners to go just 4 per cent faster in the last hundred years, both pole vault and javelin performance had improved by about 30 per cent. Fibreglass poles introduced in the early 1960s allowed athletes to break the world record 19 times in just a decade, raising the maximum height from 4.8 metres to about 5.5 metres. Javelins had to be redesigned to reduce performance. They were being thrown so far by the 1980s that authorities, fearing for public safety, ordered that their centre of gravity be brought forward by 4cm.
It's not just equipment technology, it's software enhancements as well. We have software programs for almost anything these days and they all speak of making life easier. Do they make performance better for our athletes?
From Sportlyzer to Smartabase to Edge10 these software packages will manage your players, tell you if they are about to get injured, track an athletes training load and prescribe programs to suit. Do they make better athletes? We are well on our way to doing so.
What is certain is they make better educated athletes and better informed coaches. The massive amount of data that can be collected, analysed and reproduced by these programs theoretically should be able to more accurately plan, develop and implement higher quality programs for athletes which should in turn improve performance.
How easily accessible are these programs and are the sub professional athletes getting the benefit. Absolutely. Lets look at a case study to see.
TheScreeningLab.com is the brain child of Ascend Phsyio's, Peter Gregory. It is a medical screening software program designed to identify flaws in athlete’s strength, technique and biomechanics in order to address them before injuries occur and to improve performance. The beauty of it is that it can be administered by a person who has been trained in using the software but without being a qualified physio or sports doctor. And so, it can be rolled out to more athletes in a more efficient and effective way. Should this improve performance? You would think so, AND it allows for more athletes to be exposed to a higher level of performance service.
"Every organisation is striving for ways to decrease injury rates, improve participation and productivity, and TheScreeningLab offers an easy to use solution for this," says Gregory.
"The WA Police Tactical Response Group has just started using TheScreeningLab to assess and track their officers". It goes to show the digital technology is not specific to sport; it can be utilised in other elite environments.
SkyPlay is a Basketball Academy run by former NBL star CJ Jackson and they are using TheScreeningLab as one of a number of ancillary services for their academy players besides high level basketball skills.
"TheScreeningLab is a very important tool for SkyPlay with analysing and assessing the players strength, conditioning and flexibility and general basketball skills", Jackson says.
Definitely a level of medical servicing they may not otherwise get access to.
TheScreeningLab can screen players in a series of tests and then report based on age and gender. From those screening results an automatically generated athlete specific exercise program is prepared to address any problematic areas and decrease the likelihood of injury.
Jackson is keen to ensure he is ahead of the game with services that enhance his athletes ability to reach their potential. "To my knowledge no other academy is using this program which separates us from all academies". That's not to say that other basketball academies aren't using some kind of software but it does say that sub-professional athletes are getting access to these services and you would be naïve to think that those athletes aren't gaining a performance advantage.
"There is an ever growing utilisation of digital technology and analytics, and those organisations at the forefront of this are likely to gain the most benefit," says Gregory.
Asymetry is not a word you readily hear in sub-professional sport but it has big implications if you are a strength and conditioning coach in a professional sporting environment. Weaknesses in certain areas of a sportspersons body can spell disaster when training loads increase, so to be able to screen for imbalances, implement specific programs to rectify the asymmetry, and reduce greatly the chance of injury is invaluable.
How far can we go with technological advances that aspiring athletes can get access to. Making software programs cost efficient so more sub-professional sports clubs and organisations can use them provides greater opportunity for our next generation of athlete. And if our next generation of athlete is better prepared for elite level sport then do we see world records continue to be broken. Will we be able to produce better balanced athletes, with less chance of injury, and more potential to be bigger, stronger and faster than ever before.
Bring on a generation of super athletes.
Ascend Physio are based in Perth and operate out of HBF Stadium.
SkyPlay Basketball are based in Perth and offer a fully serviced basketball academy.