NFL Combine Use Shirts Loaded With Sensors

The NFL Combine is the place where top college football prospects showcase their skills with hopes of being scouted for a top flight team.

10 to 30 prospects will sport an Under Armour E39 compression shirt this Saturday that has a removable sensor pack attached at the user’s solar plexus. It weighs less than 4.5 oz and is made from the same material as the rest of the company’s line of compression-based apparel. Inside the pack is a triaxial accelerometer, processor and two gigabytes of storage, along with Bluetooth connectivity that allows data to be broadcast to the smartphones, tablets and laptops of scouts and trainers.

The idea is to not only work in conjunction with heart rate and breathing rate monitors, but also to be able to put numbers on a prospect’s potential.

The triaxial accelerometer inside the sensor pack measures acceleration and change of direction. It breaks down an athlete’s movements along a sagittal plane, which is a vertical plane passing from front to rear that divides the body into left and right sections. It provides a glimpse at how each side of the body is moving in sync — or out of sync –with the other during a sprint, for example.

Rather than rely on 10-yard increments as analysis for a football player’s acceleration and explosiveness during a sprint, each player’s stride can be dissected to assess where he excels and where he can improve to maximize effort.

Behind the technology is Annapolis, Zephyr Technology, a data software firm that specializes in remote physiological monitoring for the defense and healthcare industries.

It’s an interesting application of technology. On one hand, sensors can help offer scouts insights by breaking down a player’s stride to determine places for improvement. On the other hand, does an athlete have enough granular control over his or her body to make necessary changes?

“What we have is something very close to the body’s center of mass that’s measuring the accelerometry data from that center of mass,” Under Armour vice president Kevin Haley said.

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