The Roar
The Roar


Tracking technology is great, but is it causing injuries?

Roar Rookie
19th April, 2012

Electronic gadgets are giving spectators huge insights into the sports we love. But at what cost? As a physio I have done quite a bit of reading on electromagnetic radiation (EMR), as well as a four-year study on the effects of battery-operated wrist watches on the muscles of the body.

I am interested in how these modern monitoring methods are utilised in sport.

We are constantly reminded of the GPS monitoring being used on players to see how far they run. We watch to see what speeds they attain, their heart rate and other statistics.

But do these fitness gurus ever stop to think about what EMR is doing to the players?

When I was still living in South Africa we had an ultra marathon called the Comrades, about 90 kilometres in total.

On one occasion in the late ’90s, three runners – all of whom had run the marathon many times before and were often in the top echelon of finishers – were part of an experiment to track their vital statistics during the race.

They had heart monitors strapped to their chests and mobile phones on their hips to relay the information back to a monitoring centre. Now, this is where it gets interesting…

One runner, who usually had a resting heart rate of around 50 beats per minute, could not get his heart rate below 120bpm. And this while he was waiting for the race to start! Yet there were no nerves involved as he had done it many times before.


None of the runners completed the race, which was highly unusual for them all.

There was a lot of surprise and conjecture, but no mention of the possible effects of all the gadgets strapped to their bodies, the EMR and radio waves passing through their bodies and how this affected their function.

My own study on the effects of wrist watches, run by batteries stimulating a quartz crystal, showed that all those wearing one were affected negatively in the muscles (caused muscle weakness).

The main muscles affected were the hamstrings and the tensor fascia latae (the muscle that forms the Iliotibial Band-ITB), two common problem areas in runners.

From an acupuncture viewpoint, this affects the large intestine meridian. This showed me that these watches, compared to kinetic watches, were not very useful for sportspeople, let alone anyone else.

On a positive note, we did find the effects reduced if the person wore the watch with the face on the same side of the wrist as the palm of the hand.

They were even better when worn in the same way on the right wrist (if normally worn on the left, as is common).


So what about all these modern sports players who use all these monitoring devices – such as GPSs and heart monitors – which are pumping EMR into the person?

How does this affect their performance? What does it do to their muscles?

Can it be responsible for muscle/soft-tissue injuries? Is EMR weakening muscles and forcing the body to compensate?

It is common that injuries occur where we compensate and not where the original weakness/stiffness may have been. But how are they monitoring the negative effects of these devices?

Maybe this is worth some research?

As I know from experience, testing is very simple. Anyone can find out if their monitoring devices are causing muscle weakness or other physical problems that may lead to poor performance or injury.