Ross Kelly, CBS Local Sports

The intersection between sports and technology just keeps getting busier and there’s no end in sight.

According to Zach Lowe of Grantland, the NBA has decided to devote its own money into a study of players wearing GPS devices during games. The league is using the Mayo Clinic of Minnesota as the guinea pig for products developed by GPS device-makers: Catapult and STATSports.

These types of devices are quite common within sports, including basketball. The D-League’s Fort Wayne Mad Ants, who recently became an affiliate of the Pacers, wore them during games last season and many teams regularly wear similar devices in practice. It’s even crossed over to other sports as anyone who is a fan of the NFL Combine can attest. Many prospects are outfitted in these devices, attached to their shirts, and it’s able to track maximum speed, average speed, and distanced traveled among other statistics.

The NBA already tracks these types of stats for players thru use of their SportVU technology in association with STATS LLC. Every NBA arena has SportVU cameras set up and after each game, STATS employees in Northbrook, Illinois then tag each player, the refs, and the ball on each play. From there they are able to track distance run, speed, touches, passes, and location to name a few. All NBA teams then have access to these stats and use them regularly for self and opponent scouting.

The proposed newer devices would be able to track health data (if they can find a way around disclosing private medical information). These devices would also be able to monitor advanced movements such as player acceleration/deceleration, jumping and landing, and fatigue-related data.

Assuming the laws regarding privacy and medical records aren’t an impediment; this could be quite the breakthrough within sports technology. I’d like to see it eventually used in other sports as well, particularly sports involving collisions or impacts. Perhaps the devices could eventually monitor neurological functions and could alert trainers/doctors as to when an athlete begins losing some of this functionality. That would be more beneficial to football players than any helmet, rule, or lawsuit could ever be.

Ross Kelly is an Associated Producer for CBS Local Sports. He is from Louisiana and is a fan of all sports, but not of any teams (except LSU). He can be reached at ross.kelly@cbs.com.

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