Unpacking the Black Box: Applications and Considerations for Using GPS Devices in Sport

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance

Athlete-tracking devices that include global positioning system (GPS) and microelectrical mechanical system (MEMS) components are now commonplace in sport research and practice. These devices provide large amounts of data that are used to inform decision making on athlete training and performance. However, the data obtained from these devices are often provided without clear explanation of how these metrics are obtained. At present, there is no clear consensus regarding how these data should be handled and reported in a sport context. Therefore, the aim of this review was to examine the factors that affect the data produced by these athlete-tracking devices and to provide guidelines for collecting, processing, and reporting of data. Many factors including device sampling rate, positioning and fitting of devices, satellite signal, and data-filtering methods can affect the measures obtained from GPS and MEMS devices. Therefore researchers are encouraged to report device brand/model, sampling frequency, number of satellites, horizontal dilution of precision, and software/firmware versions in any published research. In addition, details of inclusion/exclusion criteria for data obtained from these devices are also recommended. Considerations for the application of speed zones to evaluate the magnitude and distribution of different locomotor activities recorded by GPS are also presented, alongside recommendations for both industry practice and future research directions. Through a standard approach to data collection and procedure reporting, researchers and practitioners will be able to make more confident comparisons from their data, which will improve the understanding and impact these devices can have on athlete performance.

Malone is with the School of Health Sciences, Liverpool Hope University, Liverpool, UK. Lovell is with the School of Science and Health, Western Sydney University, Sydney, NSW, Australia. Varley is with the Inst of Sport, Exercise and Active Living, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia. Coutts is with the Sport & Exercise Discipline Group, University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Sydney, NSW, Australia.

Address author correspondence to James Malone at malonej2@hope.ac.uk.