Sports apparel and equipment manufacturers are constantly tinkering and experimenting with new ways to enhance their athletic gear in an effort to make it lighter, more durable and better performing, with the goal of shaving seconds off their users’ times and giving them an advantage over the technologically moribund competition.
Technology’s role is obvious in the case of some sports (particularly auto racing) or excessively played up in the promotional efforts of other sports (think golf clubs, whose manufacturers love to throw around high-minded and convoluted-sounding technical advancements related to their latest clubs and how they smack that golf ball like no other).
However, technology plays a much greater role in all facets of sports than most armchair quarterbacks realize. Theres five pieces of sporting equipment on technology’s cutting edge are the proof of that.
Just how much room can there be for technological advancements for an item as seemingly innocuous as a baseball bat? Quite a bit actually. While composite aluminum bats get the most technological attention, there’s an abundance of science behind the relationship of a wooden bat smacking the ball too. Everything from the weight and shape of the bat is continually tested and evolved in an effort to give bats the greatest center of percussion (COP) and ideally positioned sweet spot, which can further be tailored to the individual hitter in the case of professionals.
Like with baseball, the equipment used to smack the object of interest (in this case a frozen puck) receives a great deal of attention from manufacturers. Everything from the length, flex, and weight of hockey sticks is considered. Some sticks are specifically tailored for defensemen keen to let loose booming slapshots, while others are better-suited for snipers looking to pick the top corner with a precise wristshot.
Not just the sticks themselves receive upgrades however; everything from the skates to the padding equipment the players wear is constantly evolving. As an example of the intense level of development behind some hockey products, Bauer recently unveiled the OD1N line, which was two years in the making and touted as the most advanced hockey equipment on the market yet.
While many wouldn’t suspect the swimsuit to have any major importance in the lap times of swimmers, they do in fact have a tremendous impact thanks to the depth of study of hydrodynamics. Speedo’s LZR Racer was said to improve a swimmer’s times 1.9 to 2.2 percent and led to a slew of swimming records being broken and medals won upon its release in 2008. The gear was eventually banned from FINA swimming competitions for the decided advantage it provided.
More than the just the sleek appearance the average layman would think of, surfboard design extends well beyond aesthetics into the realm of performance. Not only are the boards themselves designed with exceptional performance in mind, surfboard fins provide even greater flexibility in how boards ply the waves and allow unprecedented control.
Equestrian riding boots
When companies like Nike get involved in the boot business, you know there’s more to the design than meets the eye. While the potential benefits of enhanced riding boots aren’t quite on the necessity level of the other equipment mentioned (and even received a great deal of skepticism within the industry itself), they do provide riders with enhanced stability and control over their equine partners, while also enhancing comfort. The fact they look like “the stripper boot of the horse world” according to one rider is just an added benefit (at least in our minds).