Using smart sensors to understand athletic prowess

Professor Pankaj Vadgama is looking at ways to improve athletic performance

22 October 2011

Knowing more about what is happening in athletes’ bodies may ultimately help to improve their future performance.

Professor Pankaj Vadgama is working with colleagues at Imperial College, Loughborough University, and UK Sport on Project ESPRIT – Elite Sport Performance Research in Training – to carry out a range of smart monitoring in athletes.  

“One of the biggest challenges facing sport technology today is understanding precisely how elite athletes achieve their feats,” Pankaj Vadgama explains. He is using biochemical tracking technology to extract detailed information about the way athletes bodies operate – both in normal training and competition environments.

The data can be used to create a biochemical profile of body fluids sampled or measured during training. A detailed laboratory analysis of this profile gives a full picture of the proteins, hormones and metabolites involved.

Getting under the skin: biosensors

Pankaj Vadgama has developed minimally invasive, subcutaneous biosensors. The sensors are designed using a needle-structure for easy insertion, with a gold or platinum sensing electrode placed inside a stainless steel tube.

“The advantage of this approach is its structural simplicity,” says Pankaj Vadgama, “just two electrodes are required, it’s small, easy to manufacture, and most importantly, it can be configured into a portable product. The basic needle format is ideal for in vivo testing, and it can be easily translated for use in the healthcare sector.”

Although the ESPRIT programme is focusing foremost on the way that athletes performance can be understood and improved, its legacy extends beyond sports towards technological transformations in healthcare, wellbeing and chronic disease management.

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