By Gregory Nicholson
When most individuals contemplate buying wearable technology, it is typically a device like the Apple Watch or Fitbit. Even further, the common usages of these devices are for working out, tracking movement, and managing diets. However, the innovation of wearable technology extends far beyond just tracking lifestyle habits and fashion. Companies such as Whoop, Garmin, Nike and Under Armour are creating devices that have changed the industry for wearable technology and for sports.
Whether you watch sporting events or not, you could probably guess that teams and athletes adjust their lineup, game strategy, or tactics, based on the information that wearable technology has given them. What you may not know, is that wearable technology now generates information on players’ performance that is beginning to shape the industry in a way that we are not prepared for. This new wearable technology has sensors, which include pedometers, accelerometers, sleep monitors, temperature sensors, it can track athlete’s workloads, and also, can track biometric markers that can maximize player efficient while also minimizing the injuries.
Due to the fact that this technology generates so much information about athletes, there is a growing concern that there will be many negative legal repercussions. One of the many issues that wearable technology engenders is how college athletes will be protected. Colleges and universities that use wearable technology put college athletes at a disadvantage because there is no collective bargaining agreement to protect the college athlete’s rights.’ So essentially, when there is information gathered about athletes, negative or not, and there is no provision in the athletes’ scholarship that entitles them to this information, the student is put at a disadvantage because the school has essentially leveraged the student into handing over their information about them.
As it relates to gambling, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to legalize sports betting across the country creates an issue of how the data collected can be used to gain a significant advantage over others in placing bets. For example, individuals can use wearable technology to determine how that specific athlete reacts to certain teams or players based on previous matchups. This information can then be used to gain insider knowledge on how a player or team might perform, and as a result, could make a more knowledgeable bet.
Of all the issues that wearable technology creates, the most detrimental seems to be how the individual player’s value will be affected. For the most part, wearable technology can boost the player’s value by showing teams and professional organizations information about that athlete that cannot be seen on tape. However, the information can easily be used against athletes by delving into their privacy and monitoring what players are putting inside their bodies and what they do off the field/court. Any irregularity can be tracked, and if there are any concerning abnormalities, players will be undervalued based on these realities or glitches in the technology. Agents and players will then have to clarify why these inefficiencies are not a large concern and can be balanced by the intangibles that the player brings.
To make matters worse, we are at a point in time where these issues cannot be addressed. The negative implications that wearable technology creates have only recently come about. As Attorney Bradley Shear, who worked for the National Football League Players Association, best described the current status of where we stand when it comes to wearable technology and the law, “[w]e are literally right at the cusp of trying to figure these issues out.” Until that point in time, college and professional athletes will have to hope that they are not being taken advantage of.
Student Bio: Gregory Nicholson, a third-year student at Suffolk University Law School and a staff member of the Journal of High Technology Law. He graduated the University of Connecticut in 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Economics.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are the views of the author alone and do not represent the views of JHTL or Suffolk University Law School.