NFL Hopefuls' New "Smart Shirts" Know Them Inside & Out

By Patrick Morgan | February 25, 2011 4:36 pm

The game may be the same, but the gear is different: This Saturday, as NFL prospects try to impress coaches at the Combine workouts, a few players will don smart shirts–souped-up sports attire that measures everything from players’ heart rates to g forces of acceleration.

Designed by Under Armour and Zephyr, this sophisticated shirt is called the Under Armour E39. It weighs less than 0.3 pounds and boasts a load of sensors that sit just below the athlete’s sternum; the sensors include a triaxial accelerometer, a heart-rate monitor, and a breathing-rate monitor. As an athlete practices, trainers can follow the player’s vital signs on their smartphones, laptops, or any other device that can receive Bluetooth data. As Wired explains:

“What we have is something very close to the body’s center of mass that’s measuring the accelerometry data from that center of mass,” Under Armour vice president Kevin Haley told Wired.com.

This smart shirt innovates trainers’ and coaches’ performance evaluation by allowing them to see exactly how runners accelerate–and whether a player’s stride can be improved to gain speed. It does this by separately measuring acceleration and direction change on the left and right sides of a player, allowing trainers to see whether a player’s two sides are working together as best they can during sprints. If these movements aren’t in sync, the sprinter can experience braking forces that slow him down. According to Wired:

“If you’re looking at acceleration or maintenance of top speed, one of the things that happens in the running mechanics is a period of time when your foot contacts the ground and you’re braking — decelerating — until your foot gets through the hip, at which point you can re-accelerate,” Haley said, adding that 80 percent of acceleration is derived from the time the foot hits the ground until it’s just behind the hip.

During this weekend’s workouts, as many as 30 prospects will wear the E39 as they dash their 40 yards and complete their jumps. And while this new gear could lead to more efficient football players, the product won’t be commercially available until a year from now. Until then, only a select group of teams, trainers, and athletes–such as award winning quarterback Cam Newton–will get the chance to try out this new gadget. The rest are stuck with plain old top-of-the-line sports gear.

Related Content:
80beats: Is Playing College Football Enough to Damage a Brain for Life?
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Discoblog: Penn State’s Football Stadium: Now 50% Louder!
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