New ‘wristwatch’ to boost athletic performance, prevent injury

NEW YORK: In a good news to athletes, researchers have developed a device the size of a wristwatch, that can monitor an individual’s body chemistry to help improve athletic performance and identify potential health problems.

The device can be used for everything from detecting dehydration to tracking athletic recovery, with applications ranging from military training to competitive sports.

“This technology allows us to test for a wide range of metabolites in almost real time,” said study co-author Michael Daniele from the University of North Carolina in the US.

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Metabolites are markers that can be monitored to assess an individual’s metabolism. So, if someone’s metabolite levels are outside of normal parameters, it could let trainers or health professionals know that something’s wrong.

For athletes, it could also be used to help tailor training efforts to improve physical performance, the researchers said.

“For this proof-of-concept study, we tested sweat from human participants and monitored for glucose, lactate, pH and temperature,” Daniele said.

A replaceable strip on the back of the device is embedded with chemical sensors. That strip rests against a user’s skin, where it comes into contact with the user’s sweat.

Data from the sensors in the strip are interpreted by hardware inside the device, which then records the results and relays them to a user’s smartphone or smartwatch.

“The device is the size of an average watch, but contains analytical equipment equivalent to four of the bulky electrochemistry devices currently used to measure metabolite levels in the lab,” Daniele said.

“We’ve made something that is truly portable, so that it can be used in the field,” Daniele added.

According to the researchers, while the work for this paper focused on measuring glucose, lactate and pH, the sensor strips could be customised to monitor for other substances that can be markers for health and athletic performance – such as electrolytes.

“We’re optimistic that this hardware could enable new technologies to reduce casualties during military or athletic training, by spotting health problems before they become critical,” Daniele said.

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