Fitbit, Stanford Medicine Project Uses mHealth to Track College Athletes

Stanford Medicine is partnering with Fitbit to study the value on mHealth wearables in identifying and tracking infectious disease like COVID-19 among college athletes.

The connected health study, announced today, will run through 2021 and involve some 1,000 student-athletes from participating Pac-12 Conference schools who are participating in sports such as basketball, football, soccer and volleyball and are frequently tested for the coronavirus. They’ll be wearing a Fitbit Sense smartwatch during the study.

“Our research shows that day-to-day changes in key health metrics have the potential to signal the earliest signs of illness,” John Moore, MD, PhD, Medical Director of Fitbit Health Solutions at Google, said in a press release. “This project will provide more insight by contributing valuable weekly COVID-19 testing data to correlate with health metrics from wearables.”

“What we learn has the potential to help us better monitor and control the spread of illness, which remains critical as research continues to explore the possibility of COVID-19 transmission after vaccination and the impact of emerging variants,” he added.

The project is one of many that’s using mHealth devices and telehealth platforms to try and get a handle on the pandemic, often by identifying early indicators of the virus so that those infected can be treated more quickly. Other studies have focused on the impact of the virus on front-line health workers, hospital employees, members of the military and those who have already been infected.

Stanford and Fitbit, in fact, are part of a consortium with the Scripps Research Translational Institute that’s gathering data from a variety of mHealth platforms to study how the technology can be used to address the pandemic. And Fitbit launched its own study in May 2020 that’s showing promising results in the use of wearables to detect the virus.

This latest project, coordinated through the Pac-12 Conference’s Student-Athlete Health & Well-Being Initiative (SAHWBI), aims to test whether connected health can serve as a foundation for monitoring athletes as sports programs make their return.

“We are dedicated to ensuring a safe continuation of education and athletic play during the pandemic and our hope is that what we learn will not only help mitigate the risk of outbreaks on Pac-12 campuses, but will positively impact other educational and athletics communities across the country,” Maggy Carlyle, general counsel for the Pac-12 Conference, said in the press release.

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