MLB Turns to Tech to Prevent In-Game Injuries

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A multiple exposure of starting pitcher Chris Young #32 of the Kansas City Royals as he pitches during the 5th inning of the game against the New York Mets at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri.Jamie Squire / Getty Images

Major League Baseball, the sports institution so conservative that it only instituted instant replay rules in 2014, has now given its players permission to use wearable technology during games.

Only two wearables have been given the go: the Motus Baseball Sleeve, which monitors elbow stress as players throw the baseball, and the Zephyr Bioharness, which captures “comprehensive physiological data” like breathing and heart rate via a strap worn around the chest. The de facto consumer wearable devices, like the Jawbone and the Fitbit, are still off limits to the pros.

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The MLB’s predominant motivation here is that the gadgets will be invaluable in detecting early player injuries. As the pros play while wearing the gadgets, the data from their habits and practices get downloaded to a computer at the end of each game for further study. In reviewing the data, trainers and managers can get a clearer picture of what is going on every time a pitcher pitches and a hitter hits.

Any steps the MLB can take to prevent injury are worthwhile steps. Though it’s easily dismissed as seeming like a low-impact sport, try to read this description of “Tommy John surgery” without wincing. It’s a surgery noted for restoring function and power to an injured pitcher, but man, it sounds awful.

Outside of these two devices, the MLB has also signed off on “wearables” for bats to monitor swinging power and the like. But they’re only legal during warm-ups.

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