Hearts and hoops

By: Dylan DeWitt
Email: dewittd@findlay.edu
Twitter: @dd_witt

At the University of Findlay men’s basketball games this year, fans might have noticed the players adjusting something under their jerseys. These players seem to be readjusting their shirt as if they were riding up on them. However, fixing their jerseys is the least of their worries, fixing their heart monitors, is.

Last spring the University’s strength staff was approached by a company called Firstbeat to try out the heart monitors for one of the athletic teams, according to UF Head Basketball Coach Charlie Ernst. The company typically services DI schools but asked UF, a DII university to participate in a six month trial.

Since basketball is a sport known for plenty of running and other types of conditioning, and the cost of each monitor may be an issue, the UF strength and conditioning staff chose the basketball team for the trial.

Each team member wore their own personalized heart monitor for every practice and scrimmage for six months as a trial.

The monitors are able to read the student-athletes entire bodies and are not just limited to the heart alone. The monitors are able to track the condition the players are in throughout all activities. Even after the practices and games, the team is tested on their recovery rate. All ratings from the heart monitor chest straps are read through a sensor and kept on the screen of a tablet used by trainers, and even the computers of the coaching staff. These ratings are then given a total score of heart rate activity that completes the monitoring process.

Ernst says when the trial period ended in the fall, they had to make a decision.

“I felt it benefited us in our basketball program,” said Ernst.

“They could potentially protect someone from pushing themselves too hard, or even if they had strange heart activity,” said UF junior basketball player Alex White. “It definitely makes me feel that our coaches go above and beyond to get us one step ahead.”

The technology impressed the staff and a donor was found to pay for each of the $250 monitors.

“All the numbers come in to a laptop with software that tells us how quickly a player’s heart gets back to normal rate. The quicker it goes back to normal rate, the better shape they’re in,” said Ernst.
Ernst says the players also have a sleep monitor that is shared amongst the players. He says that information has been instrumental as well. It shows the players how much sleep, diet, and water intake effect their performance.

What may have reassured the staff they made the right choice was the scrimmage against Ashland University on Oct. 25 when Ashland junior Nick Bapst collapsed on the side line suffering a cardiac arrest.

Ernst says the data coming in during activity is not under a strict monitor but if Bapst had been using the monitor previously, the staff might have become aware something was off sooner.

“If Ashland had them, they might have noticed some numbers over the week, two weeks, or month leading up to the event that let them know, something is not right,” said Ernst.

The staff believes UF is one of only four or five DII teams with a program like this. But the information has been invaluable.

If the team is on the road, the strength staff can monitor the players from campus. If they notice something does not look right they may call the coaching staff and ask if the player has not been feeling well.

Ernst says traditionally coaches have to determine if they are pushing the team too hard in practice or need to push them harder to get them in shape.

“Coaches used a gut feeling as opposed to scientific data. Now we’re basing it more on science,” said Ernst.

Although only a small percentage of athletes are affected by cardiovascular issues, White believes it would be beneficial for all of Findlay athletics to be on the same regimen.

“I definitely think it’s a good idea for other athletic teams to start wearing these,” said White. “Although, the monitors are not the most comfortable, they are a good way to show how healthy and in shape a person is.”

The basketball team has proven that in taking this precaution, they have been able to stay one step ahead of other institutions. This year, the Oiler men are in the top 20 national rankings, have a 20 plus win season, and they look forward to success in the postseason while working towards a conference championship and an opportunity to compete for the Division II National Title.

Ernst says the program works for them and they will keep using it.
“We’re just scratching the surface on how to really benefit from this program,” Ernst said.

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