Jan 29, 2015
GPS Helps Curb Future Injuries

By Patrick Bohn

As technology advances, strength and conditioning coaches are gaining more tools for their toolbox. One of the most recent changes has been the use of personal GPS systems to track how athletes are performing in practices and in turn help identify those who might be at increased risk for injury. Among those taking advantage of this technology are some of the nation’s elite college football teams–including defending National Champion Florida State.
The GPS craze actually got its start seven years ago in Australia, where Catapult Sports used them to track the performance of rugby players. But it gained popularity in the United States starting in 2011, and the Catapult GPS is now used by 15 college football teams, including Florida State University, the University of Alabama, and the University of Oregon.

The system monitors 1,000 unique data points per second on things such as a player’s maximum speed, the distance they’ve run, and their total workload. At Florida State, the team originally rented 30 units, at a cost of $25,000 a year. This year, they have 95 units and has two full-time assistants–one of whom is a data analyst–to look at the data.

While collecting, analyzing, and storing the information can require a lot of work, doing so has numerous benefits. Florida State says it has seen a dramatic decrease in soft-tissue injuries and Head Coach Jimbo Fisher uses the information to plan his squad’s weekly practices, cutting back in the middle of the week to get the most from the players on game day.

And with a better understanding of when players are giving their maximum effort, practices become sharper.

“Historically, there was no way to get a max for what a typical Tuesday is [at practice],” Florida State Head Strength Coach Vic Viloria told ESPN. “Now we can do that for every single athlete we have.”

The University of Minnesota has seen similar benefits.

“From my standpoint, it’s raised our ability to train guys to the expectation that the game places on them,” Minnesota Strength and Conditioning Coach Eric Klein told TwinCities.com. “We go hard. But now when we want to back off, we can look at it and say ‘You’re going at this a little too hard. Let’s scale back a little bit.”

For Florida State, the devices also helped prevent tragedy.

“We’ve been able to stop five or six heatstroke situations by monitoring players’ heart rates during practice,” Fisher told Men’s Fitness. “We’d go grab a guy, get him cooled down, then get him back out there.”

Patrick Bohn is an Assistant Editor at Training & Conditioning.

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