Treading the line between MedTech and sports-tech

11 Feb 2022 4min read

Fitness trackers and heart rate monitors have grown in popularity in recent years and have had a huge impact on the fitness industry, medical device development and digital health. These consumer devices help individuals to track their health throughout the day in different ways, from simple calorie counters to sleeping patterns, stress levels and more. Ultimately though, they are designed to provide information that will help users to improve their personal health and live healthy lifestyles. As technology continues to advance in this area, at what point does sports-tech become MedTech?

Abbott recently announced Lingo at CES 2022, a new category of biowearables aimed to give athletes and fitness enthusiasts insights into their blood glucose levels when performing activities. Based on the successful Freestyle Libre development, Lingo aims to expand monitoring from just sports applications to people looking to manage their weight, sleep and energy levels.

From the outset, a question comes to mind: how can Lingo offer a truly valuable advantage to athletes, on top of the continuous monitoring of nutrition and performance that they already do? It will be interesting to see how app partners for this system – like Supersapiens – develop their products to offer incremental value over time.

Of course, Abbott isn’t the first (and hopefully not the last) to create products that combine sports and medical applications. Here are a few notable products from the last 20 years:


Originally developed by sports scientists and based on the concept of inspiratory muscle training, the Powerbreathe system was certified by the NHS in 2006 to be prescribed to patients with asthma, COPD or heart failure. You could say this product was developed for sports first and medical second, somewhat ironically.

Smart insoles

Essentially an orthotic device, a smart insole provides measurements of pressure points so a healthcare provider or trainer can understand issues or inefficiencies in foot placement. Brands such as Orpyx and Feetme use foot sensor technology to prevent potentially harmful ulcers from forming on the feet of diabetics.

Smart insoles

Example of foot analysis.

AI-driven motion analysis

Kaia Health provides a motion analysis platform based on the video capture capabilities of an iPad, which helps patients rehabilitate themselves when suffering from musculoskeletal conditions. Patients perform exercises in front of the iPad and the app advises them on how to correct their body position, and other helpful coaching advice. Kaia is billed as ‘personal trainer-grade feedback’ so it’s quite easy to see how it would easily transition to the sports and fitness realm. Companies like Gymfitty are already offering this service, although they are likely not as rigorously researched as a system like Kaia. Other products that use AI-driven motion analysis also include Catapult, which analyses the movement of athletes via wearable activity trackers (in the form of vests) and sensors.

Heart rate monitors

Heart rate monitors started out as very low-tech devices (stethoscopes) but have evolved greatly over the years. For example, Polar and Garmin heart rate straps have been stalwarts for years in sports and fitness heart rate monitoring. Compared to EKG/ECG, a chest-worn heart rate monitor as a wearable device can be quite accurate in its measurements.  While some consumer wrist-based, optical monitors can be less accurate, there have been advancements in this type of tech which offer accurate results, such as the wearable, connected blood pressure monitor which Team Consulting worked on with Aktiia.

Aktiia Smart Watch

It’s always exciting to see more innovation in this space, with medical technology and sports technology driving each other forward. The commercial benefits of sports technology, such as greater reach and public retail placement, can improve the visibility of sometimes difficult to promote medical products. High production volumes also tend to drive down costs, which is of course beneficial for everyone.

As a regular user of the Freestyle Libre, I already see the daily benefits of a connected bio-sensor. I say bring on the cyborg revolution.

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