Questions about the application of technology in sports.

Technology is defined by Wikipedia as

...the making, modification, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems, and methods of organization, in order to solve a problem, improve a preexisting solution to a problem, achieve a goal, handle an applied input/output relation or perform a specific function.

The use of tools, usually simple ones, is central to many games. Implements such as bats, sticks, clubs, balls, posts, gloves etc. form the primary equipment of most games, and protective equipment such as helmets, masks and pads are equally important for safety in many full-contact sports.

The evolution of such tools is generally closely regulated by the governing bodies of their respective sports. The overall goal is to avoid a player or team using a novel design or technology to gain an unfair advantage over a competitor, and to prevent the form and style of the game from changing in such a way that the basic spirit of the game is altered. However, the advancement of new materials and manufacturing techniques has often been combined with the traditional aspects of the game's equipment to form an acceptable compromise that increases the quality, consistency and durability of the resulting implements, without drastically changing the characteristics or performance of the equipment.

In cases of protective equipment, virtually any advancement that can make the players less likely to suffer injury is typically viewed positively and encouraged by leagues; conversely, players sometimes argue against such changes, as the updated equipment might reduce visibility or range of motion, affecting their performance in the game, until the efficacy of the new equipment in preventing injury is shown to be worthwhile.

The acceptance of changes in equipment by players, coaches, team others and the governing bodies vary depending on the sport and the nature of the change. Governing bodies typically advocate for a level playing field and reduced costs, lowering the barriers to fair competition between players and teams. Players and teams typically advocate for any performance advantage they can get. Safety of players and spectators is usually advocated for by both sides, however both sides will balance these concerns with those of performance, fair play and cost, and may advocate against a proposed equipment rule change if it has a significant impact on these other aspects of the sport.

An example would be engine horsepower and basic design in motorsports; major racing teams generally advocate for more engine power, through more cylinders, increased displacement and mechanical aspiration, providing better acceleration and higher maximum speeds. Smaller teams, most drivers and rules committees typically advocate the opposite, which reduces costs, increases fuel efficiency and slows racing speeds, increasing the safety of drivers and spectators in the inevitable event of a crash.

history | excerpt history