The Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles made news this offseason by attaching a GPS unit to every player, tracking their workouts and exertion levels during spring and summer practices.

A few other teams have followed suit. In fact, NFL officials recently said all players will be wearing non-obtrusive tracking devices in practices and games within the next few seasons to better chart their health.

Now, it appears, the NBA will do so as well. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who is known for his involvement in cutting-edge technology, told that he will have his players wear the GPS devices this season, along with three other teams.

The San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets and New York Knicks, plus four other teams that have chosen to keep their identities secret, have invested in these complex GPS tracking devices created by the Australian company Catapult Sports, the self-professed leader in “athlete analytics.”

“We just want to be able to get smarter about our players and how to train them and how to put them in a position to succeed,” said Mavs owner Mark Cuban. “So that’s just one component of a lot of different things that we’re doing.”

The device, called OptimEye, is roughly the size of an oldfangled beeper and athletes wear it inside their jerseys on the upper back between the shoulder blades. The device records literally every movement the player makes, accurately measuring exertions such as distance, velocity, changes of direction, acceleration, deceleration, jumps, heart rate and more.

These physiological and physical performance parameters are then uploaded to a computer to be analyzed, allowing coaches, trainers and the players to understand their individual workload levels. These are conclusions that once could only be subjective, say, by reading a player’s body language, to now being totally objective. By wearing the devices during practices, teams can monitor their players’ physical output and closely watch their load levels to ensure each player is not being overworked and ensuring ultimate preparedness to play in each game when performance counts.

Captapult spokesman Gary McCoy said the devices provide a “dashboard” for the player. The Spurs wore them during Las Vegas Summer League games, though the NBA has not approved the devices for use during regular-season games.

Cuban said he’s considering using it during the NBA’s preseason in October. He said he has not yet been advised against it by the league. A league spokesman did not respond to an email Friday inquiring if the NBA would allow the technology to be used during preseason games.

Allowing the technology to be used in regular-season games might require a green light from the players association. Such data can cause uncertainty among players associations, agents, front offices and others involved in contract negotiations.

Yet, with so many clients around the world and the technology only to become more refined, these tracking devices might soon become as commonplace during games as the Gatorade cooler.


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