⭐ ⌚ Upside: HRV Ecosystems Analysis: Latest Research, Trends, Key Vendors & Where We are Heading
HRV is a key metrics used by many pro teams these days. In fact, HRV guided interventions have been shown to improve health, wellbeing and fitness, but it has also helped reduce athletes’ fatigue, and even blood pressure. Pro teams are now using HRV devices in various shapes and forms (Smart rings by Oura, smart bands by Whoop, smart patch by Lief, etc). Similar to GPS, AMS or HR systems, pro teams and leagues have to pick the right HRV system that fits their requirements, use cases, budget, and requirements. In this analysis we will discuss the latest research focusing on HRV, the current and future market trends, VC/M&A investment trends, the HRV vendor ecosystems, and the key HRV vendors. We will also provide recommendations to pro teams looking to adopt a HRV solution.
What are HRV monitoring systems?
Generally speaking, Heart rate variability (HRV) is the physiological phenomenon of variation in the time interval between heartbeats. It is measured by the variation in the beat-to-beat interval.
Other terms used include: "cycle length variability", "R–R variability" (where R is a point corresponding to the peak of the QRS complex of the ECG wave; and RR is the interval between successive Rs), and "heart period variability". Teams typically use HRV monitors to assess players’ sleep quality, stress and fatigue level.
HRV is a holistic measure of total load
Research increasingly shows that high HRV indicates good health and a high level of fitness, while decreased HRV is linked to stress, fatigue and even burnout. HRV is a holistic measure of total load, i.e. it reflects the impact of multiple sources of stress on the athlete, not just training, but sleep, nutrition, mental and emotional stress.
The idea behind using HRV in training is quite simple: monitor your HRV every morning and train as normal. If your HRV drops significantly, take this as an early warning that you may be overloading the system. A small drop is normal as long as you recover because training is, after all, about stress and recovery. A hard session, especially on top of accumulated fatigue, will lower your HRV.
According to some research, HRV also tracks closely with important physiological changes such as sleep quality, phycological wellbeing, longevity, inflammation and pain.
According to EHRV, HRV guided interventions have been shown to improve health, wellbeing and fitness. For example, as shown in the picture below, studies have shown that HRV guided interventions resulted into:
A -26% decrease in anxiety (Source here)
A decrease in blood pressure.
A -14% decrease in LDL Cholesterol (Source here)
An -13% decrease in fatigue (Source here)
A -60% decrease in injuries (Source here)
A +40% increase in overall fitness (Source here)
A -26% decrease in time spend exercising (Source here)
Not surprisingly, as shown below, the number of published research and studies on HRV have also increased over the past years, which is great news.
Source: EHRV, 2022.
HRV devices being used by pro teams as part of players’ rehab process and to train athletes to remain calm in high stress environments.
Over the years, a growing number of pro teams have started to use HRV devices as part of their players’ rehab process. This is what Karam Al-Hamdani, Head Athletic Therapist at CF Montreal FC (MLS), explained during an interview with the Upside: “HRV has been around for quite some time, its validity cannot be dispelled. Due to multiple factors that may influence HRV, we as a medical staff have chosen to use it with our injured players so as to best enhance how we individualize their rehab routines. I am in no way a specialist in HRV, I rely mostly on the research out there by companies like Oura, Whoop, Lief etc”.
But HRV devices can also be used to help players remain calm especially in high stress environments. “What I do know is that HRV should not just be limited to professional athletes, it should be marketed to everyone. HRV can be trained, you can transform how you feel, with the various technologies out there we can train our bodies how to remain calm and stay focused when we need it the most, and that would benefit everyone especially athletes in high stress environments”.
Also, one of the key benefits of some of those HRV biofeedback devices is that they enable athletes to get real time data and see how factors like fitness level, level of fatigue and readiness, might impact their performance.
This is what Rohan Dixit, CEO & Founder of Lief Therapeutics explained during an interview with the Upside: “HRV biofeedback exercise aids faster physiological recovery for athletes, helping them get more out of their training. HRV also serves as an objective data point that helps athletes take into account critical factors that impact their performance, such as trends in their fitness, levels of fatigue, and relative readiness to compete. In essence, HRV is a bellwether for the state of your physiology on any given day, which you can use to tailor your training to your unique, evolving needs ”.
Lief user & performance coach, Bob Soulliere further explained, during an interview with the Upside: "I view HRV as a window to yourself, so you can see what’s going on at the physiological level. It’s life-changing to see things happening in my body that I can’t even feel, but that I can see in my Lief’s HRV data. We don’t always grasp the damage we do to ourselves when we don’t eat well, sleep well, move well, etc. Many factors impact our physiology, which can then impact us mentally."
HRV tracking enables training program optimization in a much more dynamic way to maximize training response and avoid injury and overtraining.
HRV tracking enables training program optimization in a much more dynamic way to maximize training response and avoid injury and overtraining. This is what Chief Scientist, Dr Franco du Preez at LifeQ, explained during an interview with the Upside: “Having a 360 degree, quantitative lens not only into the performance levels of athletes, but also into their physiological state, enables another layer of objective performance management previously unavailable. In the world of elite sports, where athletes and trainers have to take advantage of every available opportunity, management through data as seen in Industry 4.0 organizations, has been on a steep increase ever since the release of "Moneyball" in 2011, and with the emergence of high fidelity ambulatory physiological monitoring, the 'IOT connected athlete' is becoming a reality that competitive organizations can not ignore”.
Mr du Preez further explains: “To make this more concrete, consider the importance of objectively monitoring the amount and quality of every night of sleep leading up to crucial sports events and tracking the recovery through the sustained heart rate variability increases seen during deep sleep. Overtraining, mental stress, alcohol consumption are but a few factors capable of significantly impacting this process and affecting event day performance. Even more directly applied, the relationship between the physiological strain created by a training program as measured by HRV, and the performance of athletes, follows an inverted U-shaped curve, where low training load as well as excessive training load result in suboptimal performance. By tracking the body's real time state through HRV day over day, training program optimization can be done much more dynamically to maximize training response and avoid injury and overtraining”.
32% of athletic trainers plan to invest in HR/HRV systems, according to the 2020 Upside Global survey.
As shown in the graph below, 32% of the athletic trainers we surveyed in 2020 are planning to invest in HR/HRV monitoring systems in the future. This compares to 48% of the athletic trainers looking to invest in sleep trackers in the future. 44% of them are also planning to invest in GPS systems and neurotech & mental health devices in the future. This does not come as a surprise as being in quarantine likely affected some players’ sleep and mental health and trainers want to make sure that they can address any mental issues moving forward. 32% of them also planned to invest in video analysis systems and temperature sensing & screening solutions.
Hydration/electrolyte monitoring solutions also gathered a lot of interest with 24% of the respondents indicating their plan to buy hydration/electrolyte monitoring solutions. Lastly, 16% of athletic trainers also indicated their plan to invest in connected fitness (Peloton, Tonal..) in the future.
Source: Upside 2020 Top Coaches Sports Tech Budget Survey Results, April 2020.
HRV devices need to be more accurate
Today there is a growing appetite for HRV devices but many agree that HRV devices need to improve in terms of accuracy. In fact, according to some experts, currently some of the HRV devices on the market lag in terms of accuracy. This is what Rohan Dixit, CEO & Founder of Lief Therapeutics explained during an interview with the Upside: “In order to measure HRV accurately, the method of measurement is of supreme importance. While watches and rings can measure HRV overnight while the wearer is not moving around as much, the photoplethysmography technology these watches and rings use is not as robust as ECG-based wearables when it comes to measuring real-time HRV throughout the day while people are in motion. Thus, as more wearables expand their offered metrics to include HRV, it's important that they prioritize the accuracy of the data collected, in addition to comfort and wearability. Otherwise the data will not be particularly useful”.
Future HRV devices set to use more advanced algorithms and provide real time interventions and recommendations.
Moving forward as algorithms become more advanced, many experts expect HRV devices to become more advanced and capable of providing custom recommendations to athletes. This is what Rohan Dixit, CEO & Founder of Lief Therapeutics explained during an interview with the Upside: “I see HRV devices becoming more and more sophisticated in terms of the granularity of the data captured. As datasets become richer, this will enable more sophisticated machine learning algorithms that can provide real-time interventions and personalized recommendations that actively help the wearer self-regulate and train more effectively”.
Miniaturization of sensors, integration into smart fabrics, AI, set to play a key role in next HRV devices
Moving forward, HRV experts also expect the miniaturization of sensors, the integration into smart fabrics, and AI, to play a key role in next HRV devices. This is what Chief Scientist, Dr Franco du Preez at LifeQ, explained during an interview with the Upside: “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it is about the future. There are some trends that we can tap into though. Miniaturization of sensors, energy harvesting devices and integration into smart fabrics are on a trajectory to provide long term ambulatory monitoring that can support 360 degree views on human physiology in a form-factor that goes beyond today's top wrist worn wearables. Body-wide networks instead of single body monitoring devices seen presently, are also on a path to provide much richer context for interpreting the myriad of factors influencing human physiology and HRV on a day-by-day basis”.
Mr du Preez further explains: “As medical knowledge becomes digitized and actionable, it is likely that human behavior and diet will be significantly influenced by AI assistants (simple smartphone apps at present) to decelerate the ageing process itself, where measures like HRV that change in response to ageing, will be increasingly used to expose a person's "Biological Age" and will be used to manage risk. When it comes to managing not only the body, but also the mind, the combination of HRV along with the additional environmental and physiological context through AR, VR and genomics, has the potential to drastically improve the precision management of mental health, which is one of the world's top contributors disability adjusted life-years as determined by the latest Global Burden of Disease study and key to athletic performance”.
Not all major sports leagues use HRV monitoring systems
Despite the growing interest towards HRV devices, the reality is that HRV monitoring systems are not commonly used across the major sports leagues. For example in the world of pro soccer, not all major soccer teams use HRV monitoring systems. However, in some other sports leagues such as the NBA, the NHL or the NFL, it is pretty common to use HR/HRV monitoring systems. The point here is that not all leagues and teams see the value of using HR and HRV monitoring systems. And sometimes when teams have to choose between HRV/HR and GPS systems they would tend to favor GPS systems over HRV/HR monitoring systems due to budget constraints.
M&A activities in the HRV monitoring market likely to accelerate. Economic Slowdown set to have an impact.
As we mentioned before, in the coming years, like with the outdoor GPS market, we expect to see some major sports performance companies (GPS vendors, Peloton, etc.) going on an M&A spree and acquire some HRV monitoring vendors in order to further differentiate their product offering. So with that in mind, moving forward we expect M&As to accelerate in the HRV monitoring vendor space.
Also, we expect the economic slowdown to continue to affect some HRV vendors. For example, Whoop, which raised $400M, recently laid off some employees, and we expect this trend to continue as some of those vendors are trying to save cost and improve their margins. Of note, according to our intell, Whoop is now downsizing its consumer division to focus on its enterprise/corporate wellness business.
The HRV monitoring market ecosystem: From HRV monitoring vendors to data analytics companies:
The HRV monitoring market is comprised of the following subsegments:
HRV vendors: Typically those include companies manufacturing HRV monitoring systems. It includes HRV vendors such as Polar, Firstbeat, Suunto, Garmin, Apple, Scosche, Wahoo Fitness, Lief Therapeutics, Fullpower Technologies, Whoop, and Oura, just to name a few.
Algorithms vendors: This includes companies who build advanced algorithms to make sense of data such as HRV. Companies like LifeQ are specialized in this area.
Source: Upside global, Confidential 2022
Key HRV monitoring vendors
HQ: Boston, MA (USA)
Amount money raised: $404.8M
Investors: WHOOP has raised a total of $404.8M in funding over 9 rounds. Their latest funding was raised on Aug 30, 2021 from a Series F round. WHOOP is funded by 35 investors. Thursday Ventures and SoftBank Vision Fund are the most recent investors. WHOOP has acquired PUSH on Sep 2, 2021.
Total employees: 578
Customers / partners: Lebron James (NBA/LA Lakers), Steph Curry (Warriors/NBA), Chris Paul (LA Clippers/NBA), Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs/NFL), Alex Killorn (Tampa Bay Lightning/NHL), Michael Phelps (Olympic champion), Dylan Frittelli (Pro Golfer), Nick Watney (Pro Golfer), Navy SEALs, NBPA, NFLPA, MLB, PGA, Premier Lacrosse League, just to name a few.
Company/product description: WHOOP is the performance optimization system that tracks recovery, training, and sleeping hours. The company provides athletes, coaches, and trainers with a continuous understanding of strain and recovery to balance training, reduce injuries, and predict performance. It creates a product that makes individuals and teams perform at a higher level through a deeper understanding of their bodies and daily lives. The WHOOP Strap 3.0 collects physiological data 24/7 to provide an accurate and granular understanding of the body. Whoop also recently entered the smart clothing market with the launch of Whoop 4.0. Aurelian Nicolae, John Capodilupo, and Will Ahmed established WHOOP in 2012 and in Boston, Massachusetts.
Picture: Whoop band
Picture: Whoop app
Picture: Whoop’s web dashboard
HQ: Oulu, Finland
Amount of money raised: $148.3M
Investors: ŌURA’s latest funding round was announced in April 2022 at a $2.55 billion valuation. The Company’s investors include Lifeline Ventures and Forerunner Ventures.
Total employees: 400
Customers / partners: NBA, NASCAR, UFC, Red Bull, LA Dodgers (MLB), Mariners (MLB), just to name a few.
Company/product description: ŌURA is the company behind the Oura Ring — the smart ring that delivers personalized health data, insights, and daily guidance. ŌURA believes health is a daily practice and, with personalized insights and guidance, you can control the course of your health to live a more balanced life. The Oura Ring measures HRV and temperature, as well as tracks all stages of sleep and recovery.
Picture: Oura ring
Founded in 2013, ŌURA Health is headquartered in Oulu, Finland, with offices in Helsinki, San Francisco, and San Diego.
Picture: Oura ring app.
HQ: Dublin Ireland with offices in Alpharetta, GA USA, Utrecht Netherlands, and Stellenbosch South Africa
Amount money raised: $47M
Investors: LifeQ has raised a total of $47M in funding. Their latest funding was raised on May 26, 2021. LifeQ is funded by a premier range of investors including Invenfin, 4Di Capital, Allectus Capital, Mogul Capital, Tenhong Holdings, Analog Devices, Hannover Re, Convergence Partners, Stellar Capital Partners, Nedbank Corporate and Investment Bank, Delos, OneBio Seed Investment Fund, Virgin Group, Lireas, Allen & Co, and Acequia Capital
Total employees: 120
Customers / partners: Xiaomi, Fossil, Samsung, Suunto, Tag Heuer, Motorola, Mont Blanc.
Company/product description: LifeQ has a mission to help people age well by delaying biological aging, maximizing physical and mental performance, and reducing the probability of disease. To do this LifeQ uses an easily accessible technology wearable devices enabling users to early detect chronic and acute disease, and gain a deeper understanding of their own unique bodies and health,. Through powering a range of popular and affordable consumer brands, LifeQ delivers connected health solutions that extend from helping people make better lifestyle choices every day to full clinical solutions that enable both self-management and direct connection with virtual care providers.
HQ: San Francisco, United States
Amount money raised: $3M
Investors: HAX, SOSV, Trend Forward Capital, Evolve Ventures
Total employees: 16
Customers / partners:
U.S. Consumers interested in health and wellness trackers
Biohackers interested in optimizing their mental and physical health
Performance coaches working with athletes
Company/product description: Lief monitors and improves heart rate variability, the gold-standard biomarker of autonomic nervous system health. The platform consists of a discrete ECG biofeedback wearable, connected smartphone app, and one-on-one coaching from a dedicated, HRV biofeedback certified health and wellness coach.
Here is a picture of the Lief HRV smart patch.
Here is a demo video of Lief device:
4. Fullpower Technologies (Sleep monitoring)
HQ: Santa Cruz, CA
Amount money raised: $55M, growing, cash-generating, profitable
Sector: Sleep monitoring, Biosensing, AI-powered IoT
Investors: Philippe Kahn, Alsop-Louie Capital
Total employees: 55
Customers / partners: Nike, Tempur-Pedic, Amazon (AWS), Google (Google Cloud), Microsoft (Azure), Oracle, NXP, Bosch, ST, TI, TE Connectivity, Qualcomm.
Company/product description: Fullpower is a Santa Cruz, California-based privately held developer of cloud-based IoT and wearable product technology used for activity tracking and sleep monitoring. Fullpower specializes in wireless technology, microelectromechanical systems, and nanotechnology. The company holds over 125 patents for its intellectual property, which it licenses to manufacturers.
The company was founded in 2005 by entrepreneurs Philippe Kahn and Sonia Lee. Fullpower-AI provides an end-to-end B2B infrastructure for AI-powered algorithms, remote contactless biosensing, and engineering services.
One of its key product is Sleeptracker®-AI Monitor, which analyzes sleep cycles, breathing rate, heart rate, and movement to offer personalized suggestions for better sleep. Sleeptracker accuracy commensurate with gold standard polysomnography is validated by Stanford Medical research as per the following publication.
Photo: Fullpower Technologies. Tomorrow’s non invasive contactless biosensor.
Picture: Fullpower Technologies. Tomorrow’s non invasive contactless biosensor.
Amount money raised: TBD
Total employees: 1200
Customers / partners: VFL Wolfsburg, South American soccer teams, Asian soccer teams, just to name a few.
Company/product description: Polar is a manufacturer of sports training computers, particularly known for developing the world's first wireless HR monitor.
The company is based in Kempele, Finland and was founded in 1977. Polar has approximately 1,200 employees worldwide, it has 26 subsidiaries that supply over 35,000 retail outlets in more than 80 countries. Polar manufactures a range of heart rate monitoring devices and accessories for athletic training and fitness and also to measure HRV.
Picture: Polar H10
HQ: Jyväskylä, Western Finland, Finland
Amount money raised: TBD
Total employees: 118
Customers / partners: Over 23,000 athletes representing over 1,000 teams around the world use Firstbeat: 10 national soccer teams (Belgium, England, Spain, Portugal, etc.), 10 MLS teams (LA Galaxy, LAFC, Austin FC, Seattle Sounders FC, etc.), 45 NCAA teams, Premier League teams (Arsenal FC, Liverpool FC, Manchester City FC, Manchester United, Tottenham Spurs FC, etc.), German (Bayern Munich..), French, Brazilian, dutch, Italian (AS Roma, Inter Milan, Lazio, Atalanta, Fiorentina, etc.), Spanish (Atletico Madrid, Sevilla FC, Espanyol, Valencia, etc.) soccer teams. They also work with 19 NHL (Penguins, Bruins, SJ Sharks..) teams, 5 NBA (Chicago Bulls, Warriors, NY Knicks, Orlando Magic, Sacramento Kings) teams.
Company/product description: Firstbeat is the leading provider of physiological analytics for sports and well-being. First Beat was founded 20 years ago in Finland. The innovative use of HRV evolved into the advanced performance analytics that Firstbeat provides today. First Beat works with more than a thousand professional sports teams, millions of consumers, and employees in over 40 countries.
Picture: Firstbeat chest strap, dashboard and app.
HQ: Vantaa, Southern Finland, Finland
Amount money raised: TBD
Total employees: 300+
Customers / partners: Mercedes-Benz (Formula E)
Company/product description: Suunto was born in 1936 when Finnish orienteer and engineer Tuomas Vohlonen invented the mass production method for the liquid-filled compass.
Suunto's headquarters and manufacturing plant is in Vantaa, Finland. Employing more than 300 people worldwide, Suunto products are sold in over 100 countries. The company is a subsidiary of Amer Sports Corporation along with its sister brands Salomon, Arc'teryx, Atomic, Wilson, Precor, Mavic and Nikita.
Suunto is a Finnish company that manufactures and markets sports watches, dive computers, compasses and precision instruments.Suunto employs more than 300 people worldwide, and its products are sold in over 100 countries. Although globally active, the headquarters is placed next to the factory, in which most of the work stages are still handcrafted. Suunto is a subsidiary of Amer Sports, owned since 2019 by the Chinese group Anta Sports, with sister brands Wilson, Atomic, Sports Tracker, Salomon, Precor, Arc'teryx.
The company's name comes from the Finnish word suunta, meaning "direction" or "path", or in navigation, "bearing" or "heading".
Picture: Suunto 5 Peak watch
Picture: Suunto app
HQ: Schaffhausen, Switzerland
Amount money raised: Garmin is registered under the ticker (NASDAQ:GRMN). Garmin has made 2 investments. Their most recent investment was on Mar 31, 2006, when Networks in Motion raised $10M. Garmin has had 1 exit, which was Networks in Motion.
Investors: Public company
Total employees: 7,238
Customers / partners: TBD
Company/product description: Garmin is a manufacturer of marine, aviation, and consumer technologies suitable to run on the Global Positioning System (GPS). It has delivered more than 100 million products, most of them enabled with GPS, which is far more than any other navigation provider. It also offers HR monitors (smart watches..). Due to their development in wearable technology, they have also been competing with activity tracker and smartwatch consumer developers such as Fitbit and Apple.
Pictures: Garmin smart watches
Amount money raised: Wahoo Fitness has raised a total of — in funding over 1 round. This was a Private Equity round raised on Jul 28, 2018. Wahoo Fitness is funded by Norwest Equity Partners (NEP). Wahoo Fitness was acquired by Rhone Group on Jul 7, 2021.
Investors: Wahoo Fitness has invested in Supersapiens on Apr 27, 2021. This investment - Venture Round - Supersapiens - was valued at $13.5M. Wahoo Fitness has acquired The Sufferfest on Jul 8, 2019.
Total employees: 267
Customers / partners: World’s class pro cycling teams (INEOS Grenadiers, Bora Hansgrohe, AG2R Citroen Team, Cofidis, Team DSM, etc.).
Company/product description: Wahoo Fitness is a fitness technology company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Its CEO is Mike Saturnia. Founded in 2009 by Chip Hawkins, Wahoo Fitness has offices in London, Berlin, Tokyo, Reno, Boulder and Brisbane.
Wahoo's portfolio of cycling industry products includes the KICKR family of Indoor Cycling Trainers and Accessories, the ELEMNT family of GPS Cycling Computers and sport watches, the TICKR family of HR Monitors, SPEEDPLAY Advanced Road Pedal systems and the Wahoo SUF Training App.
Picture: Wahoo chest strap.
Recommendations to teams and leagues looking to adopt an HRV monitoring solution
Here are some recommendations for teams or leagues looking to adopt a HRV monitoring solution:
Ask yourself some key questions and assess your ideal game style: Teams need to ask themselves some key questions (squad goals, requirements in terms of quality/accuracy, types of data needed, monthly or annual budget) before adopting a HRV monitoring solution. Teams also need to find out if athletes would be willing to wear the HRV monitoring system depending on the form factor (e.g. chest strap, arm band, smart patch etc.) used.
Use a wearable that can provide moment-to-moment feedback about your HRV with clinical-grade accuracy: Rohan Dixit, CEO & Founder of Lief Therapeutics, explains during an interview with The Upside that: “HRV biofeedback is an evidence-based breathing technique that helps activate your parasympathetic mode on demand, aiding faster recovery from physically strenuous activities. Along with engaging in HRV biofeedback, real-time HRV tracking helps build greater awareness of the state of your nervous system throughout the day, so you can be empowered to make decisions that optimally support your health. It's especially important to use a wearable that can provide moment-to-moment feedback about your HRV with clinical-grade accuracy. Then, you can use these personalized, data-driven insights to help you achieve your health and wellness goals more efficiently”.
Adopt a HRV system that fits your actual needs: It is critical for teams to pick a HRV system to meet their needs. If an HRV monitoring system requires the staff members to dedicate too many hours it may not be the right fit for the team.
Keep eye on the ground breaking high-coverage and high-resolution wrist worn wearable monitoring solutions emerging in today's market: This is what Franco du Preez, PhD, Chief Science Officer and co-founder of LifeQ Inc, explains during an interview with The Upside: "Having had the privilege to be part of one of the first companies to bring long term monitoring of HRV through wrist worn wearables to fruition over the last couple of years, I have witnessed the incredible diversity of perspectives that it can provide on human physical and mental health, disease, behavior and physiological adaptation to training. From causal physiological insights on the changes in deep sleep following increased frequency and intensity of training, to early detection of infections like Covid-19, long term HRV monitoring provides a path toward measuring and managing physiology at a level never before possible. For organizations interested in using cutting edge IOT to obtain a real time 360 degree view on the physiology, behavior and training of their teams, I recommend keeping eye on the ground breaking high-coverage and high-resolution wrist worn wearable monitoring solutions emerging in today's market”.
Make sure to mix the HRV data with other data points to get a better picture of the athletes’ health: As we mentioned earlier, it is critical for teams to aggregate their HRV data and mix it with other types of biometric data such as GPS, HR, hydration level, etc. By doing so, it will give the coach a better sense of the health of his/her players. Lastly, using HRV data is a good starting point but coaches need other reference points such as loads, distance, speeds in order to fully assess players’ health.
Adopt a data visualization software in order to better visualize the HRV data: Sometimes HRV vendors do not offer good data visualization software as part of their HRV offering. This is why it is important for teams to adopt data visualization tools provided by companies such as Rock Daisy, Soccer System Pro, or other AMS platforms, in order to help them better visualize the HRV data. There are also a number of Athlete Management Systems (AMS) on the market that display the HRV data with GPS data and other tracking systems. Those include companies such as Kitman Labs, Coachme Plus, Smartabase, Kinduct, just to name a few.
Adopt a HRV system that fits into your workflow: This is probably one of the most important points. Whatever HRV solution a team decides to adopt the HRV system needs to fit into the team’s workflow, meaning that it should not disrupt the routine of the athletic staff, players and make them less productive. Those HRV systems should be easy to use, intuitive, and easy for the players to wear. Overall, if a HRV system does not meet those criteria it is probably not a good fit for a team.
Make sure to have staff members (HRV/HR analysts, sports scientists) that can manage your HRV systems on a daily basis: Teams also need to have a dedicated person on staff responsible for the HRV/HR system. In some cases a HR/HRV analyst would be required to analyze the HRV data if the HRV system does not provide good insights.
Focus on HRV vendors with great customer service: This is another key factor when buying a HRV system. It is important for the team to adopt a HRV system with great customer service. Some HRV vendors provide staff members who can go on the customer’s site in order to assist teams with any problems. Some HRV vendors even have the ability to build custom data to teams. These are the type of HRV vendors that teams need to work with when adopting a HRV system.
Adopt a biofeedback program to maximize athletes’ performance: Put in place a biofeedback program to help players get in the zone and maximize sports performance. In our interview with Len Zaichkowsky, PhD, and world’s class biofeedback expert, who has worked for many top teams across the world (Penguins/NHL, Sharks/NHL, Vancouver Canucks/NHL, Spanish national soccer team..), explains during an interview with The Upside that: “For nearly 4 decades, I have promoted the use of applied psychophysiology or biofeedback for both measuring and training athlete responses to physical and cognitive workload. The Finnish company Polar (est.1977) enabled me to capture heart rate (HR) in a training environment in the early 1980’s. More recently the measurement of heart rate variability or HRV , again led by the Finnish technology companies as well as others allows sport scientists and athletes to get an excellent glimpse of athlete recovery from intense training and competition, or the balance between their sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. When considering technology for your sport organization, I strongly recommend investing in cardiovascular monitoring.”
Focus on HRV vendors with remote monitoring: In the pandemic world that we are living in, it is also important for teams to work with HRV vendors who can provide remote monitoring, meaning the ability for coaches to remotely monitor their players.
Focus on HRV vendors with value add services: As we mentioned before, working with a HRV vendor that can visualize the HRV data and generate actionable health insights in order to better understand and visualize the HRV data is critical as well.
Bottom line: HRV systems have become a critical part of athletes’ training and recovery. Now HRV devices is still not widely adopted today across many sports. HRV devices also tend to be better suited for individual sports (triathletes, track and field) rather than team sports (soccer, basketball..). Moving forward we expect to see the emergence of a new generation of HRV devices with advanced capabilities, insights, digital coaching as sensors, algorithms, AI continue to improve.
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