Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman might look old-school in his minivan with fuzzy dice hanging from the rearview mirror, but he is sold on modern technology as it pertains to keeping players healthy and getting maximum performance.
Last season, the Panthers began using global positioning system technology for tracking a player’s heart rate, pace, speed, force of a collision and other data that might be attributed to better health.
The system also tracks the player’s position on the field and how far and how fast he traveled to help monitor performance. Most NFL teams are starting to use it.
The GPS tracker fits under a player’s pads in the back and is so small that it fits in the palm of your hand. It allows teams to monitor a player’s vitals in real time, the way runners measure improvement, the way engineers in NASCAR monitor the performance of an engine.
Data gathered by some football teams has altered practice schedules, and in some cases playing time, to enhance better health and performance.
The Panthers assigned intern Brett Nenaber to monitor their GPS system and report his findings to head trainer Ryan Vermillion.
“He’d say, ‘Listen, [Player X] has been working too hard this week. We’ve got to back off,’" Gettleman said. “And we did it."
Gettleman referred to a rash of hamstring injuries early in the year to key players such as running backs DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Fozzy Whittaker before the team began to fully utilize GPS.
“As soon as we got on that GPS and really understood what it was telling us ... we were pretty stinking healthy at the end of the year," he said.
Gettleman said GPS definitely is a tool the Panthers will use going forward.