Over the years, sports have evolved, with performances always becoming more impressive and new records being set each year. These new records are partly made possible by significant technological advancements. In the past, top athletes relied solely on their natural talent to win the top spots. Nowadays, new technologies pop up everywhere in sports, whether it is in training, recovery, care, equipment or competition.
For Giedrius Valincius, graduate exercise science student and runner for the men’s cross-country and track team, the new generation of running shoes incorporating a carbon plate has a significant impact on performance.
“Carbon shoes allow me to run faster,” Valincius said. “These shoes leave my legs feeling fresher after runs and workouts, meaning that I can train faster and take less time to recover before I do it again. Running shoes before this time were significantly thinner and obviously did not have a rigid plate inside of them, meaning that runners had to deal with a more substantial impact.”
Luis Muller, junior business administration major and a player for the men’s soccer team, said he is convinced that soccer equipment such as cleats constantly improves to increase players’ performance.
“The most common changes in soccer cleats over the years are in the upper material, laces, the shape of the cleats, materials and formation of the studs,” Muller said. “For example, different positioning of the studs on the sole can help the player change direction more quickly. The newest version of the cleats enhances my performance because they allow me to feel the ball better due to the thin upper material. Also, changes of direction are much easier compared to my old cleats.”
Technological advancements have not only affected sports equipment, but even how athletes train and measure their performance.
“Using sensors placed on the body or in ‘smart clothing’ (active wear with sensing fibers woven in), sports trainers can measure and track performance in real time,” according to the Ohio Universities Online Masters of Athletic Administration program.
“Almost anything about the athlete can be measured, from breathing and heart rate, to hydration and temperature. These live metrics can help the trainer determine what aspects each athlete needs to focus on more. Athletes are unique, and real-time individual performance measurements can set a more precise and accurate baseline. During practice, trainers can read live metrics and decide when it’s time to rest, stretch or train harder.”
While the benefits of these new technological advances are undeniable, they are sometimes deemed controversial even by the athletes themselves. Valincius gave an overview of the few drawbacks of this new era of running shoes.
“After using carbon-plated shoes, it can be hard to go back to normal shoes,” Valincius said. “People say that wearing super shoes can make some muscle groups weaker than before. For example, thanks to super shoes, a runner can get away with having weaker calf muscles as the shoe is shaped in a way that makes a runner run on the front part of the foot with less effort.”
Muller also shared his perspective on the new Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology. This video system allows referees to review plays that were too close to make without it. It also allows for more accurate calls and dramatically reduces the chances of missed or wrong rulings in the game. It is important because it can affect the outcome of the game, especially with close games.
“Even though it helps the referee make better decisions in tight situations, it sometimes kills the feeling of scoring a goal because you are not sure whether the goal counts or not,” Muller said.
Although technological advancements can be controversial, both Muller and Valincius agree that they improve performance. “Everyone should simply pick up a pair of these shoes to even out the playing field and run faster,” Valincius said.
The adjustments in technology can also make the games more exciting for viewers because of enhanced performance, making some sports more popular.
“The changes in soccer equipment over the years make the game quicker, so it becomes even more attractive to watch soccer games,” Muller said.