Measuring team chemistry, literally

The Portland Timbers wear heart rate monitors but don’t measure team chemistry. Img credit: oregonlive.com

More athletic teams than ever before are monitoring the heart rates of their players. With a constant feed on players’ pulses, teams try to gauge player effort, training intensity, workload, fitness, fatigue, stress, strain, and more.

But how far can heart rate be stretched? The latest heart rate monitoring systems, like Polar and Zephyr, compute a variety of metrics from heart rate that teams believe will enable them to avoid player overtraining and soft tissue injury and ultimately maximize speed, power, and overall performance. And teams are using these metrics to:

  • make decisions about how intense and long each player should train
  • make predictions about the likelihood of player injury and
  • even pull players out of games (case and point)

18 of 19 MLS teams monitor heart rate. Whether heart rate monitoring systems can provide this degree of insight or not, they are gaining popularity. Soccer recently joined the club following endurance sports like cross country skiing and distance running. With players running upwards of 10 miles in a game and recent deaths due to heart conditions, MLS teams have good reason to monitor player health with more sophisticated and objective tools.

How much further can heart rate be stretched? One thing no one has measured from heart rate yet is team chemistry. Believe it or not, the “chemistry” between people can be decoded from biological signals like heart rate. In the lab, when people’s biological signals and behavioral patterns change in lockstep, they benefit in a variety of ways ranging from reading each others’ emotions more accurately and communicating more effectively to regulating stress better and performing better in cognitive and physical tasks.

Measuring team chemistry, literally. What if we could translate these analytic methods from the lab to the field to measure team chemistry from heart rate?  It could help coaches decode the hidden factors that dictate team performance and health, such as the:

  • strength of cohesion between players
  • length of time to recover from failures
  • effectiveness of the team captains
  • players who bring down the rest of the team

Interested in measuring team chemistry?

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