The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and it’s European tour partner the Ladies European Tour (LET) have announced that in an effort to help ensure the safe return to play they will be using the WHOOP biometric smart band to track the vitals of players and personnel on tour.
The two organizations will secure over 1,000 of the bands — covering the $30 per month fee — in order to use the biometric data to try and predict the early onset of possible COVID-19 symptoms. By monitoring metrics such as changes in breathing and heart rates, as well as sweat levels and sleep patterns, the WHOOP bands could provide valuable extra time in diagnosing the virus before visible symptoms can manifest.
Speaking to the LPGA’s efforts to develop a set of guidelines to protect those on tour, LPGA chief tour operations officer Heather Daly-Donofrio said that the WHOOP bands give them “a layer we didn’t have right in our back-to-play protocol,” adding that the WHOOP band has “given us a new added layer of health and safety for athletes, and that provides us an additional comfort heading into starting to play.”
The move to utilize the WHOOP bands comes after PGA player Nick Watney removing himself from the RBC Heritage event before testing positive for COVID-19 when he noticed an elevated breathing rate measure by the WHOOP band he had been wearing for a year prior.
Despite the affiliation with the biometric bands, the LPGA stresses that players and personnel will be left to their own discretion about whether they choose to wear one or not.
“They are not mandatory and WHOOP has … distributed over 1,000 straps on-site to PGA TOUR Players, Korn Ferry Tour Players, Caddies, and operational staff,” a Tour spokesman said to The Athletic in an email. “WHOOP is continuing to be on-site to assist with distribution and support at PGA TOUR events [though] I haven’t heard of anyone beyond Nick Watney who credited his device with detection of a symptom related to COVID-19.”
This is yet another example of the professional sports world looking to biometric wearables to help keep their athletes, coaches, and support staff safe. Last month the NBA announced it would be making the Oura smart ring available to whomever wanted to use it to monitor the wearer’s vitals in an effort to detect early symptoms of COVID-19.
In the NBA’s case, the league was careful to point out that the data collected from the smart rings would not be shared with anyone outside of the NBA’s medical personnel, with the aim of protecting the players’ privacy; however, it is unclear whether the LPGA has similar plans for their partnership with the WHOOP bands.
The LPGA is set to return to play on the weekend of July 31 to Aug. 2 at the Drive On Championship at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.
Sources: The Athletic, LPGA
July 16, 2020 – by Tony Bitzionis