Sports scientists in Australia are proposing that football, or soccer as it’s referred to in the US, coaches begin using GPS tracking devices on athletes in order to prevent injury. Researchers estimate that nearly 80 percent of all sports injuries are preventable, and many believe GPS tracking devices could provide a solution. The grueling intensity and frequency these athletes undergo, particularly during championship tournaments toward the end of the season, is responsible for most injuries. Hopefully, by monitoring the players, coaches will be able to properly rest the athletes before an injury occurs.
In 2011, a study of two international rugby union players was published, stating that “GPS data provides important performance indicators, assists in the development of conditioning and training protocols, as well as injury management.” The hang-up in implementing GPS tracking for athletes lies with football’s ruling body, FIFA, which doesn’t recognize GPS as basic equipment allowed on the field.
“Football needs to legalize its use to enhance player welfare,” explained Dr. Craig Duncan, head of human performance at soccer club Sydney FC, to CNN. “It’s in the interest of clubs, fans, players and the game itself that we do everything possible to maximize the performance of the player while doing our bet to minimize the risk of injury.”
“We have substituted players in preseason when this numbers start getting outside normal zones and also to monitor loads in training to ensure injuries are prevented,” he said. “If we could use it in games, I do think we could prevent more, as many injuries are fatigue related. However I also realize many managers would not make subs based on this.”
FIFA doesn’t currently allow GPS devices on the field, but a spokesperson points out that on page 65 of the rulebook, FIFA states: “A player may use equipment other than the basic equipment provided that its sole purpose is to protest him physically and it poses no danger to him or any other player. … All Items of clothing or equipment other than the basic equipment must be inspected by the referee and determined not to be dangerous.” This may be a loophole big enough to fit a GPS tracking device through.