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How Wearable Technology Got Quietly Into Major League Baseball
Sheena Lin | Jun 23, 2017
Title: Editor
Topic category: Sports & Fitness

Of all the major sports, baseball has been the one most closely tied to player performance data. Whether that has been PitchFx, Statcast, or other advanced metrics that are now fully adopted in the game, when it comes to statistics, baseball rules them all.

So, it may come as no surprise that the use of wearable technology has quietly worked its way into Major League Baseball. The league and players reached an agreement on them in 2016, and as part of the labor deal reached on Dec 1, that will continue.

Wearable technology has been a topic between MLB and the MLBPA in recent years. The reasoning centers on the mutual goals of both owners and players: health and performance.

As part of the process of getting wearable technology implemented in Major League Baseball, the Official Baseball Rules require that any new technology be approved prior to use on the field. The league receives suggestions on products for use from clubs in the league, the players, and vendors. Before any wearable is negotiated for use, products go through an extensive testing and evaluation process prior to approval.

The approved wearable technologies for the 2016 season were the Motus Baseball Sleeve which can assist in data around elbow stress in pitchers, and the Zephyr Bioharness, which monitors heart rates and breathing, which then provides data on fatigue.

Based on the agreement between the league and players, data derived from any of the wearable technology products can be taken after a game but not during it. Players can access the information on themselves. There is no mandatory rule in place that says states players must wear them. All use of wearable technology is voluntary.

As of publication, the data to show how many players have engaged in using wearable technology in MLB was not available. Some players may seek out using the technology while others may be opposed to it. It’s unclear how it is being adopted.

It’s also unclear, given the limited use of them for just one season, what benefits have been derived from them. As with all statistical information, there are surly benefits. Getting data regularly on pitcher stress to allow mechanical adjustments, or seeking training for heart rate and fatigue is going to keep players from going on the DL, or worse, see surgery.

If there’s concerns, it would be how data might adversely impact a player’s career. If data supports that a pitcher is on-track for a major elbow surgery, how does that affect contract talks? If something is discovered around heart data, do clubs see them as more of a risk? What is known is that there is a process around wearable technology that one would expect these issues to come to the forefront.

As to whether wearable technologies are something that can only be addressed as part of collective bargaining, much like aspects of the league’s drug policy, changes can be made during the life of the CBA; the current one expiring in 2021. With that, the probability that other wearable technology could find its way into baseball.

SOURCE:
Maury Brown |Dec 8, 2016
FROM: Forbes
Tags: wearable tech, MLB
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