Pac-12, Fitbit and Stanford Medicine team up on COVID-19 research effort to help prevent spread of illness in student-athletes
SAN FRANCISCO - As part of its Student-Athlete Health & Well-Being Initiative (SAHWBI), the Pac-12 Conference today announced a research collaboration with Fitbit and researchers at Stanford Medicine that will invite student-athletes from all Pac-12 universities to participate in a new voluntary study using Fitbit devices to further investigate whether data from wearable devices can be used to help detect, track and contain infectious diseases such as COVID-19.
The study, expected to run through 2021, will recruit 1,000 student-athletes from participating Pac-12 Conference spring athletic programs and other sports practicing for their upcoming seasons. The project will focus on students participating in sports such as basketball, football, soccer and volleyball who receive frequent COVID-19 testing as part of their athletic program. Stanford Medicine researchers will compare wearable health data from Fitbit SenseTM smartwatches against results from COVID-19 testing and weekly surveys about potential exposure and symptoms to help provide insights into the active student population.
“The Pac-12’s number one priority is the health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes and staff. We are excited to be able to work with Fitbit and Stanford Medicine on this innovative project, which we hope will advance important COVID-19 research,” said Maggy Carlyle, General Counsel of the Pac-12 Conference. “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.”
While the study is specific to student-athletes, it may help to develop broader solutions to help people stay healthy and detect early signs of illness. Researchers hope that learnings from this young adult age group can be applied to larger populations and will add to the growing body of knowledge around the potential for wearables like Fitbit to help control the spread of illness, especially in higher-risk communal settings.
Michael Snyder, PhD, professor and chair of genetics at the Stanford School of Medicine is principal investigator on this study. The study builds on research from Snyder’s Healthcare Innovation Lab at Stanford, which has explored key metrics from wearables to address the current pandemic as well as future emerging infectious diseases. The collaboration with Pac-12 and Fitbit will aim to provide researchers with more information about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on teammates, students and faculty across campuses and then allow them to apply those learnings to new populations.
Results from Fitbit’s COVID-19 study show that breathing rate, resting heart rate and heart rate variability are all useful metrics for indicating onset of illness, which is important because people can transmit the virus before they realize they have symptoms or when they have no symptoms at all. Similar research from Stanford Medicine further validates the potential of wearables to detect COVID-19.
“Our research shows that day-to-day changes in key health metrics have the potential to signal the earliest signs of illness,” said John Moore, MD, PhD, Medical Director of Fitbit Health Solutions at Google. “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.”
Student-athletes must be 18 years or older to participate. Eligibility will be prioritized based on those who will actively participate in a sport over the next six months and will receive regular COVID-19 testing. If a Pac-12 student-athlete is interested in participating in the study they can go here to learn more.
The research collaboration is part of the Pac-12 SAHWBI’s continuous efforts to protect and improve the health and well-being of student-athletes amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Created in 2013, SAHWBI is a collective effort between the Pac-12 Conference and all 12 member universities to find ways to reduce injuries, share current best practices and the emerging knowledge, and conduct research to uncover new ways to keep student-athletes as safe as possible.
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