Technology has paved the way for the modern sport to soar to greater heights, but is sport willing to embrace this change?
Sport is a balancing act between pushing boundaries to the maximum within the confines of the law. But on the field, court, or pool, athletes are forced to push boundaries while fighting limitations.
Sporting governing bodies are designed to regulate and uphold integrity. These regulations mean that athletes and external stakeholders have to focus on the next repetition of the same fundamental product, rather than being able to take a more open viewpoint to a challenge.
It’s known that pro cyclists experiment with legal substances to push their physical limits without breaking the laws. From a design perspective, we have seen how F1 engineers are constantly manipulating regulations to find that extra one-hundredth of a second over the competition.
This begs the question, what if we got rid of the restrictions and removed the boundaries altogether? What if tech experts can come up with innovative ways to help athletes perform at their optimal levels and redefine the ways we understand our bodies.
Technology knows no bounds and could create an ecosystem for a new breed of athletes. Integrating data-driven designs for enhanced capabilities that improve individual performance, range of movement, pace, stamina, just to name a few. This could further be achieved by redefining the tools available from apparel, footwear, and training equipment. The more we can customise products, the more we can support athletes’ individual traits, and increase their overall performance.
English Premier League coach, Jurgen Klopp, speaks countless times about his “machine” full-backs, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson. The pair is widely known for their unrelenting runs from the back to join the team when attacking. Last season Liverpool completed more sprints than any other team in the league. They are well known for their pressing game off the ball. Their ability to outwork their opponents has been their biggest weapon, almost “machine-like” and it has yielded results with the team winning the league for the first time in 30 years. What Klopp subtly notes is that in order to be the best, players have to be operating at their peak every single time, almost as flawless as a machine.
What if engineers come up with a way for athletes to play past their hydration levels? A field of non-tiring players going the full distance of a match without breaking a sweat. This would obviously require body modification to achieve.
The NBA boasts with some of the world’s most physically accomplished athletes, with the likes of Zach Lavine, Zion Williamson, and Russell Westbrook. All of these players are renowned for their sporting prowess. How much better would they be if we can modify their body limbs to produce better speed, agility, power, and handling among other traits? Technology seemingly holds the key to unlocking all of these features. It sounds far-fetched but is it really? The operations that are performed in theatres worldwide suggest that we might not be far away from this manifestation.
In a profession where age plays a dynamic role in performance, athletes can increase the longevity of their careers by replacing and replenishing flailing body parts. The result of this would not only benefit athletes but fans alike. Imagine watching sporting greats such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Dale Steyn, and many others surpass the peak of an average player. Also, affording those once-in-a-generation athletes an opportunity to extend their playing career, can only add to the commercial success for leveraging brands, sponsors, and rights holders.
I’m only scratching the surface of a complex and intricate topic. People will debate what it means for the future, in terms of ethics and the purity of sport. Everything else is evolving and soon enough sport will have to confront this pending reality.