How Tech Is Making Football Safer On & Off the Fie
According to Statista, the average NFL career lasts just 3.3 years. Why not try to maximize the quality of that time? The added focus on safety and technology is having a positive impact on how athletes perform on — and off — the field.
When you’re watching football on TV, do you ever wonder how they get the stats they show on each player?
Football is often described as “a game of inches.” The advancement of on-field tracking has only furthered that belief — teams can now see how far a player runs on a given play, or how close a defender is to his opponent (or the ball itself). Sometimes, that distance between two players is, quite literally, an inch.
Launched in 2014, the NFL’s Zebra Sports Solution, the official on-field player-tracking provider for the league, is bringing these moments to players, coaches and fans. Stadiums install tracking devices to keep tabs on players wearing radio-frequency identification chips in their shoulder pads. These RFID chips offer insight into player movement like speed, acceleration and distance traveled.
If data reveals that a defender tends to lean towards the center of the field, for example, a coach could call for a play down the sideline. Zebra has tracked more than 2,500 players and 180 billion bytes of data. Broadcasts can now present that data to fans as it’s collected. Ahhh, so that’s how they do this …
This data can also help reveal injuries. Does a running back normally take half a second to get past the line of scrimmage, but now it’s taking a full second? He may have a leg injury slowing him down. Wow, huh?
At youth, high school and college levels, Riddell’s InSite Impact Response System is being used to monitor Head Impact Exposure (HIE), which could affect a player’s life beyond football. And it may recognize symptoms of brain injury a player or coach can’t see on their own.
InSite collects and analyzes impact profiles for every player using helmet sensors. It alerts coaches if a player sustains significant single or multiple impacts, identifying training opportunities for the player — such as an adjustment on tackling form, or participating in lower impact drills — that could reduce HIE.
Players must also take care of their bodies off the field. Most athletes have coaches or trainers to help with exercise and nutrition. That’s what makes time away from the team so critical — and it requires players to think about sleep in new ways.
“Sleep is a 24-hour activity. Everything we do while we’re awake affects the timing and quality of sleep at night,” explains Pete Bils, vice president of sleep science and research at Sleep Number. “Sleep isn’t what happens at the end of the day; rather, it impacts your next day. The quality of sleep you get won’t just determine your quality of play, it will impact your performance in every role of life.”
With that knowledge in hand, Sleep Number is now the NFL’s Official Sleep + Wellness Partner, rolling out Sleep Number 360® smart beds with SleepIQ® technology inside to all NFL teams. The technology tracks metrics like heart rate, respiration, restfulness, and total movement during the night. Whereas other smart beds require wearing sensors or connecting to power sources to work, the Sleep Number® bed has a more simple request: just go to sleep. Each day, NFL players receive a sleep performance report card.
“Over time, players learn how their daytime habits and routines might affect their nighttime sleep,” Bils notes. “They know when they eat something wrong, or when they have a poor workout. But seeing how sleep affects the whole ecosystem of their overall performance metrics, that’s where the power comes in. Even just a few minor changes in an athlete’s sleep environment can make a giant difference on the field.”
We’ve come a long way from wool jerseys and leather helmets. With technology on their side, players can thrive from the time they wake up until they go to bed — and every second of slumber, too.
Sleep Number is the Official Sleep + Wellness Partner of the NFL. Whether you’re an elite athlete or an everyday all-star, sleep is a vital component to help you recover and perform physically and mentally. The Sleep Number 360®smart bed with SleepIQ® technology inside senses your movements and automatically adjusts to keep you sleeping comfortably. Find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night’s sleep.