Wearable technology is arriving in Major League Baseball, and it could help teams and players in their battles to prevent injuries. The MLB playing rules committee has approved two wearable devices for games this season—the Motus Baseball Sleeve, a device that detects stress on the throwing elbow, and the Zephyr Bioharness, a monitor for breathing and heart rate.
Made by Motus Global, the Motus Baseball Sleeve is a direct response to elbow injuries, in particular torn elbow ligaments that lead to Tommy John surgery. While that procedure has been a part of the game since it was introduced decades ago, it has become more common over the last several seasons, particularly among pitchers.
From baseball to the academic and medical communities, there have been numerous research endeavors to pinpoint the reason behind the increasing number of surgeries. What could make the Motus Baseball Sleeve crucial is its ability to collect data, and provide information that digs deeper into the workloads and stress for individual players.
Zephyr Bioharness is intended to detect fatigue and stress. Like the sleeve, it will track data throughout its use and can be used to gain insight into the health and energy level of individual players throughout the game.
The AP—which broke the story earlier this week—reported that it may take some time before these devices can be fully measured for their impact on the game. For starters, data will not be available in real time and can only be obtained through a post-game upload. While another recent rule change allows for the use of iPads for in-game scouting reports and data tracking , the iPads will not be compatible with Bluetooth, thereby preventing teams from obtaining information from either device during the game.
Furthermore, the AP reported that the Players Association has expressed some concerns about the use and availability of information from both the sleeve and the bioharness. For now, the data will only be available internally—to players and their teams—but talks between the association and MLB over the course of this year could lead to additional policies.
It should also be noted that two other wearable devices were approved for limited use. Batting swing censors from Blast Motion and Diamond Kinetics are now permissible for batting practice and other workouts, but cannot be used in-game.