Recent strides in technology enable athletes with physical conditions to reach peak performances. Unlike most sporting gear designed for typical bodies and playing styles without disabilities, Assistive Technology (AT) is customisable to meet the specific needs of individuals with disabilities.
Keep reading to explore more about assistive sports technology and how it’s transforming the sports industry.
What is Assistive Technology in Sports?
Assistance Technology encompasses a range of technological solutions, including hardware, software, and product systems which allow people with disabilities to participate and perform well in different sports. Some key examples of assistive technology in sports are wheelchairs, prosthetic limbs and various customised equipment.
Why is Assistive Technology Important?
Currently, technology is playing a crucial role in sports, significantly contributing to the performance enhancement of athletes across various sports disciplines during training and competitions. Assistive technology encompasses tools, devices, and services created to aid individuals with disabilities in their everyday tasks.
Assistance Technology in Golf
There are two main types of assistive technologies in golf: physical assistance technology and digital assistants. One of the most impressive technologies created for golfers with disabilities is something called the Paramobile, which was released by the Stand Up and Play Foundation, allowing wheel-chair golfers the ability to stand in a supported, up-right position for the game.
AI Golf Assistance
In the realm of golf, digital assistants leverage sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to adapt and offer a tailored, conversational interaction. They integrate historical data, including details like swing patterns, distance travelled, club speed, ball speed, smash factor, and more. These analyses are facilitated through the use of a golf simulator.
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Assistance Technology in Racing Chairs
Most racing wheelchairs are primarily crafted from aluminium.
Still, there’s a growing trend among manufacturers to incorporate carbon fibre technology, aiming to achieve a lighter and more stable design. Similar to other sports equipment, wheelchair seats can be personalised to suit the athlete’s body. Additionally, the wheels of racing wheelchairs often feature a 10-15 degree camber to enhance lateral stability when athletes are moving at high speeds.
3D Printed Gloves
Wheelchair racing gloves usually take the form of sturdy 3D structures held in a closed fist, aiding in propelling the wheelchair by pressing the glove against a rotating rail connected to the wheel, propelling the wheelchair forward. Recently, there’s been a trend toward creating customisable gloves through 3D scanning techniques.
However, at present, there are no affordable commercial options that facilitate product customisation without being excessively costly.
Designed to endure impacts and collisions, rugby wheelchairs are constructed using either aluminium metal or titanium. The choice of a fifth or sixth wheel is determined by the athlete’s impairment, enhancing stability and manoeuvrability. Offensive chairs feature aluminium metal ‘wings’ on the front wheel, while defensive chairs are equipped with a front hook designed to trap opponents.
Para badminton made its first appearance at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo. The wheelchairs utilised by athletes are equipped with backrests and extra caster wheels, enabling increased mobility. This design allows players to spin or lean backwards without the risk of falling. The wheelchairs facilitate a range of pulls and push, allowing athletes to practice effective stopping and recovery techniques conveniently.
Lightweight, resilient, and compact, prosthetics, commonly known as running blades, serve amputee athletes by replacing the calf and ankle. Crafted in a J-shaped design using carbon fibre—a durable and lightweight material, these blades assist athletes as they move forward, be it during a sprint, a vertical lift, or a long jump.