Med Tech

Wearables For Sports: A Chat with Netrin Technologies

Along with smart TVs and computers, smartwatches and wearables have slowly crept their way into our daily lives. These devices help with habit tracking, remind us to drink water, track steps and monitor our heart rate. While they do allow us to form good habits, the data obtained from these wearables can help with making major healthcare decisions. Doctors can assess these data and monitor chronic conditions in their patients which in turn helps in prescribing appropriate care. 

Netrin Sports Technologies, a research-focused organisation based out of IIT Madras, utilises wearable technology to not only further its advantages in healthcare but also extend its use in sports and human performance. Teja Prakash Kakarla, co-founder of Netrin Technologies, spoke to JournoMed about why we should make sense of the data from the wearables and how these devices allow real time tracking of an athlete’s performance on the ground to determine what are the best practices for them. 

NOTE: Comments are edited for clarity.

What is the story of Netrin?

Almost everyone has a wearable on their person, whether it be a watch, a ring etc. The users obtain the data from the wearable and they go on with their day. They treat it as any other accessory and not as a medium for understanding various healthcare parameters. The users usually do not know how to act on the data they receive. Hence we at Netrin wanted to bridge that gap. We wanted to help people comprehend the data from the wearable and how it can be applied while making important lifestyle modifying decisions.

Sports Technology in India is still at a nascent stage These technologies could be extremely beneficial for athletes to perform better on a day-to-day basis. Physiology and motion monitoring form the primary aspects of athlete performance. Hence, another pain point we wanted to address was the critical assessment in sports and sports medicine. Usually, these assessments (such as gait analysis) are done in a lab due to limitations in the infrastructural setup. We wanted to get rid of those limitations and help practitioners/experts in sports medicine gauge the healthcare parameters of athletes in real time or when they are on the ground. 

How do you track indicators of chronic conditions or do remote patient monitoring with your technology?

We have a product called Repose, which is a first of its kind physiological lifestyle assessment platform in Asia Pacific that allows to monitor the user’s physiological responses.. We collect and track the ECG data of a person for 24 hours with the help of a chest-based wearable device. After capturing the ECG profiles, the proprietary algorithms will interpret and provide information on how a person’s lifestyle/routine affects their long term wellness. 

We quantify 3 critical wellness parameters from the ECG data:

  1. Stress, (emotional and physical): There is a myth that only when we are tense, our body is in a state of stress. Even while doing daily activities, (including reading this article), the body is in a stressful or responsive state. Stress is not necessarily bad and it only causes us harm after it crosses a threshold.
  2. Recovery patterns: While sleep is an essential part of recovery, any time we are involving ourselves in activities that allow us to enter into a flow or zen state our body is in a state of recovery. 
  3. Physical activity: Because we are humans and we are made to move, physical activity is essential to ensure proper functioning. 

Repose quantifies emotional stress into high, medium, low and no stress regions which will be indicated in the end report after 24 hours. During the assessment, there is the option of ‘tagging’ in the platform. This allows the user to tag the activities being done by them during the assessment that shall help them identify the critical stressors. 

Through Repose, we can identify the root causes of stress and accordingly, which are the recovery activities and hence help people in planning their day efficiently to improve overall well being. Repose also has a sleep quantification feature which helps to determine a person’s quality of sleep. 

Screenshot of a sample part of a Repose Assessment

As the government is providing more support to medical tech organisations and there are several developments in sports, do you think the attitude towards wearable technologies will change?

All these incentives will help boost the use and hence, there will be a positive trend towards the acceptance of wearables from the consumers. Wearable Technology is essential to make healthcare more accessible to people. It helps with keeping ourselves in check and thus plays a key role in preventative care. Wearables also simplify patient care in hospitals. With regards to sports medicine, wearables provide a realistic assessment of an athlete’s performance on the field.

What should we as consumers keep in mind about wearables?

There are various kinds of wearables available and it depends on what are the needs of the consumer. For simple monitoring, any watch giving the heart rate and step counting metric should be enough. To improve on yourself and implement more intense interventions, it is important to consider the accuracy and reliability of the data.

The application for which wearable technology is being used might need absolute metric-based measurements in certain cases and the reference-based measurements would do the needful in other cases. It is advised not to compare the healthcare metrics from these wearable devices with each other. Since parameters like emotional stress and recovery responses are highly subjective. Hence, we should be mindful and cautious while making sense of the data given.

What are some of the cons of wearable technology?

  1. Do not blindly rely on the data that the wearable gives.
  2. Do not connect the dots and jump to conclusions on the data provided by the wearable without knowing the science behind it.
  3. Check on the reliability of the data and how it can help you as a consumer.
  4. Check whether the additional features of a wearable will help you improve yourself or not, instead of buying it just because one product has more features than the other.

When taking the first or the next step towards wearable, ensure that the technology behind the product is good, if the data is reliable and if it is useful to you or not. 

Are there any products you are working on now?

A coach should be scientifically mentored on what parameters have to be tweaked to best suit the athlete. This is where data comes into play. We are launching our new product Conqur in September. Conqur aims to bring focus and mobility to coaching to improve athletes’ performance and beyond. Conqur is made with love for the coaches adding sports science tools to their arsenal. With the core competencies of Netrin in physiological monitoring and motion monitoring, Conqur is built to empower the coaches with physiological and motion-based inputs to provide right nudges to the athletes with data-backed confidence. 

Do you think your platform can go beyond the realm of sports, say into understanding mental health?

Our products have helped non-sports individuals identify how their routine is affecting their daily life. These tools have helped them work toward their goals in a sustainable way. Data keeps people motivated as it fine tunes their interventional processes and be on the right track. Our platforms have also shown people which activities are useful or stressful to them and how the timing of said activities affect their sleep patterns and mental health. This way, we want to venture into individual and corporate wellness.

About Netrin Sports Technologies Pvt. Ltd:

Netrin is a human performance company backed by 7+ years of research at IIT Madras in physiological monitoring and motion sensing. The core team of Netrin hails from a research and product development background in wearable technology for healthcare and clinical applications. The sports tech company works in tandem with the high-performance centres, strength and conditioning coaches, and sports-specific coaches to provide unprecedented insights into athlete performance.

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