Panel Discusses Benefits of Wearable Technology

Just like the world of ordinary people and professional athletes, wearable technology is beginning to make headway in Thoroughbred racing.

Speaking at the 10th Racehorse Summit’s Wellness and Safety Conference in kenland On June 22, panel members saw many of the same applications of this technology and the data it produces that people are testing from a myriad of devices such as Fitbits, Oura Rings, and the Apple Watch. Now they want to see it used to help keep horses healthy but also to generate revenue for the industry.

Dr. Scott Palmer, medical director of the New York State Gaming Commission, believes that using such technology will allow stakeholders to get a better view of what puts horses at greater risk of injury and work on preventive measures.

One such product, StrideSafe, uses a color-coded system — green, yellow, and red — to show when a horse is moving from its individual medium. Red symbolizes when more research is needed. The greater the deviation to red, the worse it may be. The color scheme is meant to make it easier for less tech-savvy users.

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During an experimental study in Saratoga Race Course Last year the horse ran second in the race, but his readings were in red. Only after the cool-down period was he found to be lame. After being returned to the stable for examination, a fracture was discovered.

“These sensors are practical and scalable for screening devices,” Palmer said. “They are not diagnostic tools, but they are screening devices that can detect … a kind of lameness.” “None of these horses were lame before the race, and they obviously weren’t allowed to run, but we were able to see things happen during the race.”

Palmer believes that implementing the Horseracing Safety and Health Authority next month may speed up the use of wearable technology due to the focus on reducing injuries.

But how much data is sufficient data?

The CEO of Comprehensive Performance Data, Will Duff Gordon, wants all data to be made available.

“You want to have every horse in every race, and provide the same information so that you have a consistent set of performance data to judge each horse as you assess who is going to run well, poorly, or form a safety net,” he said.

Team manager Joe Appelbaum, president of the New York Thoroughbred Riders Association, used a comparison with baseball that contains studies showing that performance efficiency was associated with injury prevention.

Palmer said, “I’m confident we’ll learn things from this technology that will help us not only in terms of coaches making individual decisions, but in racetracks, paper races, and race scheduling.”

Unlike professional sports like soccer and baseball, access to this information is up to the individual. Allowing it to be shared with third parties comes at a much greater financial cost than it does with horse racing.

In the National Hockey League, for example, collective bargaining between the league and the players’ union had to be allowed for T-shirt trackers so broadcasters could see how fast players skate.

Gordon said such technology can currently be found on 20 tracks in the US and 80 worldwide, with plans to expand it to 100 by the end of the year. However, the trade-off is that the system needs to be achievable. If only a limited number of tracks can afford such a system, limiting the number of horses that can provide data, what value does it provide?

Another aspect is having data scientists who, using dedicated computer programs, are able to decipher what the information means. Gordon believes that horse racing “is really on top when it comes to working with these huge data sets.”

In addition to helping to care for the horses, it also becomes a tool for betting on the sport. The data will provide bettors an opportunity not necessarily to bet on the winner, but who is the fastest in part of the race as well as other unconventional conditions.

Citing how soccer and soccer teams invest in staff to analyze the numbers and decipher what they mean for sports betting, Gordon believes horse trainers are moving in the right direction and will have to find a way to afford that extra salary to someone to smash it. Information provided by horses equipped with wearable technology.

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