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The NBA’s COVID-19 prevention plan includes unproven technologies



Not surprisingly, James Gilmore heard that the NBA turned to intelligent rings to deal with the risk of COVID-19 in its “bubble” at Disney World, where the league hopes to end the rest of the season. “The NBA and the NBA Players Association have been leaders in introducing wearable technology to single players,” said Gilmore, an assistant professor who studies the use of wearable technology in everyday life at Clemson University.

All players in the bladder have the option to wear an Oura ring, which is usually marketed as a sleep and activity tracker. The health data collected by the ring is used to identify changes that could indicate that someone has symptoms of COVID-1

9 even when they are not feeling sick.

The catch: It is not clear whether the Oura ring can actually do this.

Research is ongoing, but no published data show that the ring can detect symptoms of a disease, including COVID-19. It is still experimental. The company does not explicitly claim that the ring alone can identify diseases – but if you’ve followed the story online, it’s easy to believe that it did. After the NBA announced it would buy 2,000 rings, the headlines announced that the league was using “COVID-19 detection rings”. Now WNBA athletes have the opportunity to wear the ring as part of a recently announced partnership with Oura.

Professional sports leagues have turned to previously unproven technical solutions. In recent decades, top sports have turned to data to optimize athlete performance, and athletes have been looking for ways to gain a competitive advantage. Often, the products they use don’t have a lot of data to back them up.

However, introducing these products into a pandemic increases their use. “There is a danger of promoting what we sometimes call technological solutionism: the idea that technology in and of itself becomes a solution to something if the jury is not yet aware of it,” says Gilmore.

Find out more about this strange interface between sport, illness and the pursuit of a technological lead in our latest video on The edge.


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