The availability of wearable technologies that allow individuals to monitor a variety of body functions, including but not limited to, heart rate, blood pressure, pace and distance traveled are readily available and cost effective. Nearly all these wearable technologies can both transmit and receive collected data from other mechanisms. This data can be used to evaluate how the body is performing, and the user can adjust as needed based on that data.
This type of technology is being incorporated into watches, garments, shoes and jewelry and, in most cases, is nearly impossible to distinguish from the same item type that does not include the technology (e.g., Apple watch vs. traditional watch).
NFHS Track and Field and Cross Country Rules do not prohibit the use of wearable technologies, but Rules 3-2-8a and 4-6-5d state that no competitor may receive electronically transmitted data from a coach or other third party. If such communication is observed by an official, the competitor should be disqualified.
While preventative officiating helps to avoid issues in any event, it is obvious that those trying to police wearable technologies by restricting what can be worn by competitors is asking event officials to perform an impossible task. Restricting the wearing of a watch because it contains GPS capability is futile when the same technology is available in the shoe, the sports bra they have on or the ring they are wearing.
The market for wearable technology is forecasted by most sales and marketing experts to continue to grow – some estimate that nearly 500 million wearables will be sold by 2021. This massive expansion creates the potential for more coaches and athletes to be “connected” through some type of wearable technology. It is important that all involved (administrators, coaches, parents, student-athletes) understand the privacy and legal issues surrounding the sharing of personal biometric information. Discussions and steps should be taken to ensure that compliance with any Federal and State policies or laws are addressed appropriately.
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