You may not have heard of it, but the Internet of Things looks set to take over. The idea of imbedding technology like sensors in previously ‘dumb’ equipment and monitoring their output is predicted to revolutionise everything from how our cities run to how we turn the lights off in our living rooms (thanks Alexa). This has translated directly to sports and sports performance, for fighters this includes a number of trackers you can fit into your handwraps to analyse your performance (We’ve reviewed the ones from Hykso, Everlast/PIQ and Corner), to receive details on what strikes and combos you’re using, how hard you’re hitting and how much work you’re getting done each round.
Whilst more and more data is being collected and analysed with the goal of improving our lives through technology, we’re also gaining more and more insight into the impacts of our choices on our health. The condition catching all the headlines at the moment is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (better known as just CTE) which has been linked to early onset dementia and alzheimer’s (among other serious medical issues) in people who take repeated blows to the head. The main focus is on American Football, but CTE is also ringing a number of alarming bells for boxers and other striking martial artists. We’re now a lot more aware of what’s happening inside a ‘punch drunk’ fighters head, and what we’re seeing looks scary.
But now we’re seeing technology start to turn its attention towards CTE, and the impact may change training and competing in a big way.
The SISU Sense is the latest development from the mouth guard giant, who’s ultra-thin mouthguards we already have a high opinion of. The Sense incorporates a impact detection system which monitors impacts sustained during sports, categorising them as minor and major impacts. The data is then synced to a mobile app, creating an ongoing picture of how much head trauma an athlete is taking during the course of their training.
Having this information available for coaches could have a huge impact on a fighters training camp – you take some major hits during sparring on a Monday and you can have your training for the rest of the week altered to allow for recovery time. John Kavanagh (Conor McGregor’s head coach) once said the key to training is to ‘upgrade the software without damaging the hardware’ – you need to improve your skills and abilities without breaking down your body, and the SISU Sense and other similar products could make this approach available to head trauma as well. The potential for extending fighters careers is huge.
“Upgrade the software without damaging the hardware”– John Kavanagh, SBG Dublin Head Coach
In competition a mouthguard that can monitor impact would have a range of benefits. For example it can guide medical treatment of the fighters after the fights, helping to inform medical suspension durations to ensure that fighters aren’t getting back in the ring or cage too soon after taking concussive impacts. The UFC have already trialled using glove sensors to provide data on strikes landed, but while this only includes strikes with the hand the data from a mouthguard would include all strikes that land to the head. If the data is accurate enough it could even be provided to judges, ref’s and the fight medical staff in real time, which could help guide when to stop a fight to prevent someone taking excessive damage. The possibilities are pretty massive.
While the technology is still in its infancy (the SISU Sense is currently only available for pre-order) it’s an exciting development and an innovative use of tech in sports. We may be looking at a technology that not only adds years to a fighters career, but adds years to their life by helping them avoid head trauma through their training and competition. Technology like the SISU sense may signal the end of the punch drunk fighter once and for all.