In downtown Chicago on Wednesday, the NFL Players Association and SportTechie brought together pro athletes and industry experts. The goal was to discuss how technology can be leveraged to improve the lives of athletes both on and off the field. At Accelerating Change: Athletes Health, Wealth and Performance, Matt Forte, one of the top Bears running backs in franchise history, recounted a recent conversation with Bears rookie David Montgomery.
“They said him that you should do more than what’s expect of you when you come into the league,” Forte said. “If you are doing the same workout as everybody else; you’re going to be the same as everybody else. You’ve got to go above and beyond that. But also, I told him not to pigeon hole himself in just being an athlete. Whatever you’re interest in outside of that, start working on that now.”
Forte was joined by a half-dozen pro athletes from professional soccer and football. Former Colts and Bengals tight end, and Super Bowl XLI champion, Ben Utecht opened up about his five career-ending concussions. New Orleans Saints’ all-time franchise leader in receiving yards, Marques Colston, and former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Mundy, talked about the importance of continuing education.
Evolution of injury
Chicago Red Stars player and president of the National Women’s Soccer League Players Association Brooke Elby discussed the challenges of launching a players’ union and offered tips on how brands should approach pro athletes with opportunities. Robert Smith, who played eight seasons as running back with the Minnesota Vikings in the 1990s and is now a college football analyst on Fox, discussed the evolution of injury assessment and rehabilitation.
Mundy, who now serves as managing director of the VC firm Techlete Ventures, studied for two years at the University of Miami to prepare for what he referred to as “Ryan 2.0,” cultivating skills so that he could succeed after his professional athletic career came to a close. “It’s an interesting time to be an athlete and maximize your brand off the field,” he explain. Colston, the founder and managing partner of Dynasty Digital, said he’d like athletes to work together, particularly athletes of color, to get more minorities into the tech and enterprise world.
During an Athletes Voice keynote, Forte, who earned a finance degree at Tulane University, emphasize the risk of making financial mistakes. “God has blessed me to get a couple of NFL contracts so I know how to take care of my money; but also I want to use that help other people,” he says. “A lot of guys will trust the wrong people who do take advantage of them. They want to be able to educate myself and speak knowledgeably to them about that. I’m looking to give a lot more than I have received.”
The rehabilitate athletes
David Reavy, the founder of React Physical Therapy; has long help to rehabilitate athletes, including Forte; also explained that injuries tend to resurface because athletes overcompensate. “Elite athletes are some of the best compensators,” he said. “And that’s why nobody knows what happened. But if you address the root cause; it changes a lot of things and I think it can extend careers.”
David Gil, the performance lab director of wearable tracking company VERT Technology; argued that more sophisticate assessment tools are making training; performance analysis and rehabilitation more individualize. “When you look at the concept of load management; that idea first started with duration of practice that’s literally how you’d see what that load was for that practice. It was two hours. That was a heavier load than our one-hour practice. Then you start getting a lot more detail. You start looking at GPS systems, distance traveled, obviously heart rate.
Now it’s to the point where we can prescribe individually what a practice should look like for a basketball player; tennis player, a volleyball player.” Sport Techie will be launching our new Pro Day event series next month; discussing the design and innovation of head protection in sports in Washington, D.C., on Oct. The following month we’ll be talking about smart venues in Atlanta; also in December we’ll meet to discuss sports media in New York City. Visit our event site to learn more, or reach out if you’d like to help power an upcoming Pro Day.