Is it the Athlete or the Equipment?

In its entirety, society has developed immensely. In almost all things, people have found ways to improve the effectiveness of just about anything. This is extremely prevalent in sports. The development of equipment has drastically changed the world of sports in many different ways. Technology and scientific advancements have allowed companies to provide the best possible products for their customers. Whether it be a more protective helmet, a double barrel bat, a sports heart monitor, etc. there are hundreds of different tools and products for every sport. Because of this, athletes of the past can never be compared to those of the present. Why? Athletes were considered “all time greats” for their era. They thrived with what they had at that specific time. Who is to say that if Michael Jordan had the shoes with the support that is provided today, that he would have been less prone to injury and could have performed better. All of these aspects explain why people can not compare athletes of the past to athletes of the present. 

    The ever evolving world of technology has allowed people to adapt and enhance the capabilities of the equipment that these athletes use. People are able to look at the science behind almost anything. This can help with athletes fixing their shots, swings, and perfecting their craft in their respective sports. In depth analysis has shown large amounts of development and advancements that have helped to establish athletes.

    One of the main reasons behind the astonishing development of sports equipment is due to competition amongst sport companies. Large companies work to provide the equipment with the highest quality performance rates so that they can make money. In an article written by Nicky Wilson, Avril Thomson, and Philip Riches, called “Development and presentation of the first design process model for sports equipment design”, they talk about the extensive process and ongoing effort of working, “with the sports equipment manufacturers to develop technology that is user-friendly and will support and improve the performance of the athlete”. They decided to look at all types of equipment. Whether it be indoor, outdoor, or leisure sports equipment, they looked at the process used to improve their development. While they claim that this “is a young and evolving discipline of engineering”, the growth that they have made is unbelievable, resulting in the sports industry itself growing from an average of $60.4 billion dollars to $73.5 billion dollars in one year. The conditions of individuals’ desired equipment encourages people to want to continuously buy “the next big thing”. This way, they are always using the best equipment possible, leaving no doubt that they are the most successful they can be. They found that, naturally, the companies that put in more time and effort, had more success in their development. 

    With the continuous development to better the equipment, this leaves many wondering whether or not these improvements are ethical or not. In the article, “Is the Use of Advanced Materials in Sports Equipment Unethical?” written by F.H. Froes studied the physical scientifics behind specific equipment like shoes that runners wear, the pole vault, the bicycle, the tennis racket, aluminum baseball and softball bats, and more. One primary example is prevalent in pole vaulting. Along with advancements in technology and statistics helping to find the best possible angles and methods, Froes found that in “the 1896 Olympics saw a height of ten feet, six inches achieved with a bamboo pole in the pole-vault event. In the 1960s, after the pole-vault record had inched upwards for 60 years, records began to fall as aluminum poles were introduced. Today, the world class pole vaulter utilizes a highly sophisticated composite pole, resulting in a 1996 record of 19 feet, five inches.” This is because the poles have become much for sturdy, bendable, and made with several different materials so you can find the one that works best for you. 

Froes also spent a portion of the article arguing that on some level, these advancements are becoming too advanced. For example, studies have shown that although aluminum bats are banned in the major leagues due to the number of homeruns that would be hit, “both new aluminum bat concepts (such as the ultralight bat with a double-walled barrel construction) and titanium bats are revolutionizing softball. These bats have bigger sweet spots and lead to greater velocity off the bat. However, the Softball Association is concerned particularly with an increase in injuries to in-fielders who cannot react fast enough to this higher velocity.” So, because of this development, balls are getting hit at players much harder than ever before and they are not able to protect themselves. 

All of this leads me to my main point. Athletes of the current, and future can never be compared to athletes of the past. Why? Because there is no way for anyone to know how these athletes would perform in the specific circumstances. In Larry Norris’s article, “Can We Compare Athletes From Different Times?”, he talks about the commonly used term, “greatest of all time.” There are many athletes in all sports that are considered to be the greatest of their time. However, they can not be compared. In Norris’s article, he discusses the fact that Jesse Owens won an olympic gold medal in 1936 for 100 and 200 meter races. His times were 10.3 seconds and 20.7 seconds. However, Usain Bolt raced in three olympic games, in the same events with a time of 9.63 seconds and 19.32 seconds. Both of these athletes are considered to be the greatest of all time, but their scores are different. With that being said, how would the two perform if they were the same age, at the same race, in the same arena? There is no way to know. 

Overall, there have been many factors that have definitely advanced the life of sports in all aspects. Equipment is modernizing itself constantly while companies do their best to provide their consumers with the best possible products. That is why athletes of the past can never be compared to athletes of the present and future. We should appreciate the phenomenal show that all of these athletes have been able to put on for us through all of these years and how much they have shaped the world. 


Froes, F. H. (n.d.). Is the Use of Advanced Materials in Sports Equipment Unethical? Is the use of advanced materials in sports equipment unethical? Retrieved March 8, 2022, from

Norris, A. the A. L. (2019, April 29). Can we compare athletes from different times. Sporting Chance Press. Retrieved March 8, 2022, from

Wilson, N., Thomson, A., & Riches, P. (2017, April 8). Development and presentation of the first design process model for sports equipment design – research in engineering design. SpringerLink. Retrieved March 8, 2022, from

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