Hidden underneath their jerseys during the Ohio State-Michigan football game, a microchip tracked the Buckeyes' speed, distance and direction in real time. It's one of three devices the players are wearing to improve their performance.
The football players, and now Ohio State wrestlers and lacrosse players, are wearing the devices because they are the test subjects for Wright Patterson Air Force Base researchers looking to adapt human performance monitoring on the battlefield.
Dr. Josh Hagen with the 711 Human Performance Wing at Wright Pat is leading the study. He says, "Just from some of the advances in microelectronics and nanotechnology we can start embedding these sensors on the human body, embedding things into compression shirts or watches or on band aids."
Here are the wearable devices he's using to track Ohio State athletes:
- Zebra- microchip tracking speed, distance and direction traveled in real time worn in games and practices.
- Zephyr- a wireless heart monitor worn in practice.
- Omegawave- tells whether athletes are in a recovered state, worn when the athletes are not practicing.
Mickey Marotti, the Assistant Athletic Director for Football Sports Performance, was all in at the beginning but he says players had to warm up to the idea. "At first they were like, 'Why we doing this?' There are a lot of why questions and then once we explain why we are doing it and how it's going to benefit them they're all in."
Researcher Josh Hagen gets data on exertion, daily readiness and heart rate variability daily. "We have a bunch of scientists up at Wright Pat. Everything from exercise physiologists, engineers, computer scientists, research psychologists, biochemists and we all come together under that common theme."
The goal is to help the military monitor the health of its fighters such as special ops members who consistently train hard and are always prepared for a mission and know when they are fully recovered to go back into the battle.
Division 1 athletes are also benefiting. OSU Football Coach Urban Meyer posted on Instagram that "Ohio State is a very evaluation friendly program and that means if it's not the very best, including hydration, nutrition, training, then we're going to get the very best."
Some of the technology is already in use at the professional level. The NFL has equipped every player with the Zebra microchip. Major League Baseball is using a Zephyr bioharness measuring speed, distance and rest and recovery.