America at work
GOAL! How Tech Businesses are Helping Athletes Score
Takara Small | April 13, 2016

These days technology and engineering are playing a bigger role in sports. Their contributions to athletics aren’t always easy to identify with the naked eye, but improved uniforms, behind-the-scenes wizardry and better communication is helping athletes run faster, last longer and stay healthier.

In honor of the 2016 Boston Marathon, here are some of the North American businesses making technologies that help both professional and amateur athletes reach new heights.

Under Armour

Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank oversees a sports performance apparel, footwear and accessories line.

The company is already well known in the fitness industry for its high-performance apparel, including a microthread collection designed to prevent clinging or chafing during exercise, and so-called slingshot shoes made of high-tech materials that it claims can help athletes run faster.

Last year, UA turned heads with a new line called CoolSwitch, designed to keep athletes dry even during the most strenuous activities. The fabric activates cooling technology that pulls heat away from the body and increases airflow whenever a person begins to sweat. Its one-of-a-kind technology has obviously been a hit with athletes: The company recently announced that CoolSwitch will be used in Team USA boxing and Team Canada rugby uniforms at the Summer Olympics.

Kinduct Technologies Inc.

curry-warrior

Record-breaking basketball player Stephen Curry is one of Kinduct’s sports clients.

A good defense is a good offense, right? A little-discussed company called Kinduct Technologies Inc. is making a name for itself in the sports world using data technology that helps athletes do better before they ever step foot in front of fans.

Though a Canadian company, Kinduct already works with an impressive roster of American clients that include the New York Knicks, the Chicago Bulls and the New England Patriots. One of the company’s most famous clients is the indomitable Golden State Warriors, home to record-breaking basketball player Stephen Curry.

Kinduct’s software collects data from wearable tracking devices as athletes work out. That data is then analyzed to glean insights into everything from athletic performance to training intensity and nutrition. That information is then used to improve a player’s overall performance.

VICIS ZERO1 helmet

The VICIS ZERO1 smart helmet is designed to reduce head trauma.

Vicis

Smart helmets aren’t helping players score more points, but they may just save more lives. In recent years, both the NFL and NHL have implemented new policies in recent years to prevent traumatic brain injuries.

Will Smith’s recent movie Concussion shone a spotlight on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)—a progressive degenerative disease caused by repeated hits to the head—but startups were already working on solutions to address the problem. Seattle-based Vicis (pronounced VYE-sis) is leading the pack in this area with its new helmet ZERO1.

The company received approximately $10 million in funding, including $500,000 from the NFL, to create the device. The helmet has a flexible outer skin that acts like a car bumper and can better absorb shock, while its inner layers distribute pressure uniformly throughout the head, rather than concentrating it all in one spot.

Dow Chemical

erin-hamlin

Olympic winner Erin Hamlin with her sled that was designed by Dow Chemical scientists.

A few seconds can make all the difference between taking first place and going home empty-handed. Dow Chemical has made a name for itself with its agriculture solutions and plastics, but did you know it also works with the U.S. national luge team?

The company created a special sled for luge athletes competing at the 2014 Winter Olympics, re-engineering the shape of the team’s sled and replacing fiberglass and wood with carbon fiber. The redesign resulted in faster sled times and may have helped Erin Hamlin earn the first-ever singles luge medal for the United States.