Football Players? Or Lab Rats Who Can Run and Pass?

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As college teams collect more and more data to improve performance, a player may be asked to swallow an electronic pill to monitor body temperature or wear goggles that track eye movement.ImageGabby Arancio, an athletic trainer for Louisiana State’s football team, demonstrated the team’s Argus Science performance goggles.CreditCreditEmily Kask for The New York TimesPublished Sept. 19, 2019Updated Sept. 21, 2019, 9:44 a.m. ETBATON ROUGE, La. — The new training room in the $28 million football operations building at Louisiana State features jetted tubs, antigravity treadmills and sodium-infused water coolers. A room nearby holds another piece of equipment tucked out of sight: a centrifuge.It is another example of how modern efforts to improve performance in big-time college athletics have moved beyond smoothies and sleep monitors. The centrifuge is used for blood work for injury treatments such as platelet-poor plasma therapy and stem-cell injections. L.S.U. players also regularly have their sweat analyzed for nutritional deficiencies. They swallow digestible electronic pills that monitor body temperature. This summer, a dozen athletes wore neuroimaging headgear for the first time to get a peek at how their brains function in simulated athletic conditions.Colleges have long boasted about world-class research laboratories and world-class athletic programs. Lately, the chances are greater that the two will intersect.The rapid increase in slick gadgetry dedicated to collecting and analyzing biometrics now factors into the recruiting arms race for the top programs in college football. It has also prompted questions about player privacy and, in some cases, criticism over athletic spending — for everything but player compensation. Last fall, Clemson opened its Applied Sports Lab right in its football facility. It features a green screen and motion imaging technology that can capture detailed movements of each player. Two years earlier, Alabama unveiled an interdisciplinary center for health science and athletic training. ImageL.S.U.’s pill and a monitor used to monitor body temperature.CreditEmily Kask for The New York TimesThe University of Oklahoma collects urine samples from athletes for hydration studies, and football players at the University of Memphis sometimes wear sensors as they walk around campus to measure the amount of daily force exerted on their legs.The University of Nebraska’s Athletic Performance Lab has a system to measure blood flow in the brain. West Virginia has added far-infrared heat therapy pods, float

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