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Future Tense: Sport in 2049

Bond University marked the 30th anniversary of its founding in 2019. Five of the university’s leading academics predict how their areas of expertise will change in the three decades leading up to the 60th anniversary in 2049.

Professor Peter Reaburn, Head of Program - Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science(CRICOS 080641D), gazes into the future world of sport.

Picture this: It’s late in the 2049 Rugby League World Cup final and the Kangaroos are pressing to take the lead.

The team’s star half is putting in a huge performance. His coach knows this because, on the sideline, he’s receiving a flood of real-time data from the player’s jersey – fatigue levels, body temperature, blood acid and blood glucose readings.

Suddenly the player goes down in an illegal tackle and there’s new data – he’s been concussed and needs to come off the field immediately. Suddenly, the game has changed.

Sound like the stuff of fiction? Perhaps not. The future of sport is coming, and it isn’t as far away as you might think.

Thirty years from now, digital technology will drive what sportspeople do, and give direct information to the user of that technology.

And it won’t be just for the professional athlete. Professional sport drives the technology, the technology developers see potential in the mass market, and it permeates down.

Professor Peter Reaburn

One part of the sports sector that’s already heavily influenced by technology is e-sports.

E-sports is booming, and will continue to do so – it’s already affecting sports like netball, swimming, football, and rugby, which have all witnessed a downturn in the number of kids signing up.

While this trend is partly driven by kids wanting to spend more time in front of screens than on a field, extreme and alternative sports are also having an impact – mountainbiking, BMX, snowboarding and the like.

‘Mainstream’ sports don’t need to panic just yet – kids still love watching them with mum and dad, and that leads on to wanting to play them -- but they’ll have a lot more future competition for players.

Some sports will even go down the same route as cricket, which created Twenty20 as a faster and more exciting version of its sport, to keep fans interested.

The growing popularity of e-sports has also partly contributed to our children’s growing waistlines.

In the past 20 years there’s been a trebling of childhood obesity in Australia, and about 25 per cent of kids in this country are now classed as overweight or obese.

Adults aren’t doing much better -- over the same time period, the number of adults who are overweight or obese has doubled.

Parents have a major influence on their kids’ physical activity and health, and thankfully the current generation of parents are being educated about obesity and are beginning to understand their role in keeping their kids active, and managing their screen time.

Public health programs still have a part to play, and creative thinking is also required. As our cities grow, urban designers need to think about incorporating public spaces for recreation – and it doesn’t have to be an outdoor gym. Maybe it could be a skate park, with a coffee shop nearby?

As sports adapt and change for the future, so too do athletes.

Athlete performances under the current regime of training and fitness testing are beginning to plateau, and the next great leap in performance will likely come through genetic profiling of athletes. Some countries are even rumoured to be producing athletes based on the genetic profile of their parents.

I think that is the future, although sports ethics bodies will be working to manage and control that, just as they tried to control steroids and supplement use.

And sports fans can relax – I think Australia will continue to punch above its weight on the international stage.

While we’ll face challenges to keep up with the technological advances being made by other countries, sport is a massive part of our psyche, and our image internationally.

Read: Future Tense: Cities in 2049

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