Using technology to improve football

Understanding what footballers do in a match and then planning the training that players need, used to be down to the views of the manager and his coaches. The choices that they made were usually a result of their own instincts. In recent years scientific information has increased our knowledge about what players actually do in games.

Premier League stadiums are now fitted with sophisticated camera systems that can track the activities completed by all 22 players on the pitch. From these images, the amount of walking, jogging, running and sprinting can be measured and analysed.

The majority of the 10-12km that players will cover will be done using movements that are low in intensity (e.g. walking and jogging). Sprints and running make up less of the total but are really important as all of the key events of the games are done when the players are moving fast. The specific skills that players do are also important, although these are smaller in number than you think as players spend most of their time trying to move to get the ball or win it back for their team.

Modern technology has also been applied to the day to day training that players complete to help guide the type and amount of exercise that players should do between matches. Such modern technologies include things such as global positioning systems (GPS) and heart rate monitors. GPS is especially used if you are interested in the types of movements that are included in training.

In addition to distance data you can see how many accelerations, decelerations and changes in direction that each player completes. Heart rate can show us how the body is actually responding to movements that the players are doing. This is really important as training sessions that are too hard will reduce the energy levels of individuals and lead to them not being prepared for the games.

You can read more about the research behind the use of GPS in sports here:

But it’s not only the footballers who are using technology to improve their game, it is actually being used more and more to make sure the referee makes the correct decisions. Goal-line technology could soon be used in all games to determine when the ball has completely crossed the goal line. Nine systems are currently being tested in different stadiums throughout Europe with all testing being completed by March 2012. If FIFA allow goal-line technology to be used it could be applied by the 2012 World Cup in Brazil.

Click here to find out more on goal-line technology:

If you think this is an area that you could make your mark, you could be:
  •  A physiologist – examining the acute responses and chronic adaptations to athletic performance in a variety of environments
  • An anthropometrist – studying and measuring the human body
  • behavioural neuroscientist– studying attention, learning and memory to see how these factor alter behaviour
  • sports nutritionist – ensuring that athletes are eating the right diet and nutrients to enhance their performance
  • biomechanist – studying the mechanical parameters of human motion to improve performance
  • sports psychologist – enhancing sport performance by helping athletes and coaches develop mental skills to become better at what they do
  • football coach – training their teams and develop the knowledge, techniques and motivation of football teams and players
  • performance analyst – providing objective feedback to athletes trying to get a positive change in performance
  • sports engineer – designing, developing and testing sports equipment


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