Visit the annual Consumer Electronics Show and you’ll likely see a man scoping out any number of technological advances. He’s always looking for an edge. It’s his job. While the venue may be a bit of a surprise considering his position, Charles Leddon — the director of Sports Science Initiatives for the Cincinnati Reds — told an audience at Ohio University that he looks everywhere for tools that can increase his players’ performance.
Leddon, PhD, ATC, CSCS, spoke inside Walter Hall Rotunda on Jan. 25 as part of the College of Health Sciences and Professions’ (CHSP) Grover Lecture Series. The series was established by Ann O. Grover and her husband, Brandon T. “Tad” Grover Jr. and brings nationally recognized speakers to OHIO to address health-related topics.
Leddon spoke to a room filled to capacity about technological advances in the field of athletic training. Although his mention of using the Consumer Electronics Show as a breeding ground for ideas to apply to his profession initially drew some chuckles from the audience, Leddon quickly explained his rationale.
“It’s the one conference I make sure I go to every year because I have to know what’s coming next. If I don’t know what’s coming next, I’m behind,” Leddon said. “The stuff that comes from the Consumer Electronics Show, is amazing. Eye trackers on virtual reality systems that can tell us where somebody is looking when they’re doing tasks and suits that you can put on that have printed circuit boards on them … It’s amazing the things you have to learn and keep up with to live in this world.”
He addressed students studying to become athletic trainers, physical therapists, strength coaches, or even university professors, as examples of professions that must keep up with technology.
“You’re going to have to know how to deal with all of these different devices in all of these different fields because they’re all going to integrate,” Leddon said.
Leddon’s lecture was comprised of technological subjects pertaining to general sports science, including athletic training, orthopedics and strength and conditioning. His discussion completely resonated with the audience while referencing referencing CHSP pillars Larry Starr and Frederick “Fritz” and Marge Hagerman. The three helped change the landscape of Major League Baseball with groundbreaking ideas and techniques surrounding athletic training, exercise physiology and nutrition. They were also part of World Series championships with both the Reds and the Florida Marlins.
“Our history has driven us to where we are now, and we are expanding on what those pioneers did to help drive us to the next level,” he said.
The audience listened intently as Leddon discussed how NASA technology can be utilized to track biological systems on baseball players, how wearable trackers deliver real-time information on athletes and how sleep studies have vastly improved efficient and peak performance ability.
With virtual reality advancements, baseball players can learn to see different types of pitches, speeds and angles without the use of an actual pitcher. A virtual bat can be placed in the hands of the user, and computers can track the speed and angles of contact with a baseball and identify how the user’s body was positioned at the point of contact.
Leddon cautioned that technology has its drawbacks. He said many companies will claim a device can do things it simply cannot do with scientific accuracy. Many are not properly vetted which is why he invests time in determining the products that have the highest probability of successful integration at the professional level.
“Keep your eyes open,” he said. “You don’t always know where its coming from, but the next big thing is usually always just around the corner.”