Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Sports Engineering Ethics

As a sports engineer, regular ethical considerations such as respecting my peers and their ideas, not sharing company information, and respecting the tradition of sports are all a part of my job. Ethics in sports engineering can be tricky because what some people consider a technological advancement to the game, others will consider cheating.

The main ethical standpoint against sports engineering is that many people see it is as cheating, and fans of every sport want the game to remain as pure as possible. It is true, sports engineering can enhance an athlete's abilities and allow them to perform better, which is why I believe many people misunderstand what sports engineering really is. In today's world, more and more athletes fail drug tests and get caught using performance enhancing drugs [PEDs]. It seems as if many people think sports engineering is creating new PEDs, but that is not true at all. PEDs derive from human enhancement technologies [HETs], which is completely different from sports engineering. HETs are created to enhance a person's natural abilities both on and off the field, while sports engineering only enhance the equipment that athletes use; it has nothing to do with their physical abilities. Cheating is always an ethical topic no matter what type of environment you are in. People will claim sports engineering is cheating because only the rich can afford it, leaving poor athletes at a disadvantage.
Countries like the United States will always have top of the line training facilities designed by sports engineers, while poor countries like Kenya, may not have any facilities at all in some areas.

Any great competitor will tell you, when they play their sport, it is like going into war against the other team, and it only makes sense to go into war with your best weapons. In his article, "The Ethics of Using Engineering to Enhance Athlete Performance", David James explains why sports engineering is beneficial for any sport and why it is not cheating. The main cause of sports engineering is to enhance the equipment, or the weapons, that athletes will take into war with them. For example, the first bicycles used in the famous Tour de France, were made out of wooden frames. Although they were top quality for their time, it cannot compete with today's carbon-made and aerodynamic frames.
Image result for first tour de france bicycle

Image result for best tour de france bicycle 

An ethical obligation of sports engineering is also to make sure all of the equipment they make is safe to use. The safety of your consumers is always an ethical priority. Regulations of amateur sports is always changing and sports engineers have to adapt quickly. In amateur baseball for example, bat regulations have changed five times over the last thirty years. The most recent regulation change was in 2011, when they switched from BESR approved baseball bats to BBCOR approved bats. The problem with BESR bats is that they had too high of a ball exit velocity off the bat when hit, making it extremely dangerous for pitchers. A baseball would come off the bat too fast for a pitcher to even react and caused many serious injuries as a result. In this case, sports engineers had to reduce the power of their bats in order to improve safety for all players. The new BBCOR standard provides hitters with less power but is a lot safer in the end, but it just goes to show that safety is always a main ethical obligation.

Image result for BBCOR vs BESR chart

Just like many other professions, the main ethical obligation for sports engineers is to ensure safety. The safety of your colleagues and consumers should always be put at the top of the list. Along with safety, ethical obligations of engineers are to respect the sport in which they work in, respect their peers and their ideas, and keep company information private. 


  1. Pablo, I really enjoyed your blog. Not only did I learn the ethical considerations you are obligated to follow but I learned about your profession. I liked how you provided an example and backed up all your arguments. Your last picture caught my attention because I was able to follow what you were talking about in the last paragraph. Maybe you can restate the ethical consideration at the end of your paragraph to remind your readers what your job focus is on but your paragraphs are also fine without it. Of course there is always room for improvement but I don't see any error I can point out, Good job!