Physical, Societal & Economic Effects of Sports Wearables

Wearable technology has permeated the sports world throughout the last couple of decades because of the numerous advantages of collecting ample device data. The benefits of wearable devices, or wearables, in sports are extensive data analysis on performance, injury mitigation, and encouragement to monitor one’s physical health.

A recent study, entitled ‘A Review of the Physical, Societal, and Economic Effects of Wearable Devices in Sports,’ was authored by Ashley Smith, a graduate student at Virginia Tech, and published in The study highlighted just how much impact sports wearables have had on multiple planes.

wearablesBelow is an excerpt of that study.

Physical effects include increased general fitness and injury prevention, whereas societal effects encompass ethical changes, unprecedented privacy concerns, and added stress on mental well-being. Economic effects consist of additional career opportunities as well as lucrative avenues for professional organizations and sports companies alike. This review of these various consequences helps guide the decision-making process for those investing in existing wearables and those developing novel devices in this nascent industry.

Physical Effects

Sports wearables are not just for elite athletes – several products exist that are tailored toward improving fitness for the average or beginning user. In a world where low physical activity is an impending issue, the long-term effectiveness of wearables can improve the overall fitness of the public.  The World Health Organization claims that 25% of adults and 80% of youth do not reach their recommended weekly minutes of physical activity.

In a study involving physical activity and wearables, it was concluded that interference and consistent notifications from these devices were effective in encouraging physical activity in adults, and especially found increased benefits for the more sedentary.  A sedentary lifestyle leads to unhealthy weight gain, reduced sleep, and increases mortality rates in adults, so reducing this behavior is a massive value of wearables.

Societal Effects

Wearables greatly affect the daily lives of athletes by influencing their identities and social interactions and revealing an abundance of their personal data. The data sharing of wearables can place added emotional and cognitive stress on both athletes and staff. More broadly, wearable devices also influence the world of sports as a whole, questioning its paramount values of fairness and trust.

Economic Effects

At the highest level, talent among athletes is relatively the same, so other solutions must be found to guarantee as many wins as possible. Coaches can adjust their techniques in practice and competition based on their understanding of the data provided by wearables, strengthening their potential for success and reducing chances of job loss. Athletes’ careers are also salvaged due to coaches’ adjustments in tandem with advanced injury management.

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Most all wearable devices in sports convert data from its raw format to digestible information, but many give too much data without proper conclusions and meaningful visualization of the relevant statistics. Because of this shortcoming, the field of sports analytics is rapidly expanding so data can be condensed and presented in rudimentary formats to coaches and athletes. There has been significant growth in the hiring of these analysts because there is evidence that data analysis in sports both improves performance and yields a positive economic impact. Today, almost every major professional sports team has some form of analytics staff, and those that do not are significantly disadvantaged.

To read the full study from, click here