PGA Tour procures 1,000 smart bands to help detect coronavirus symptoms in golfers

Key Points
  • PGA Tour golfer Nick Watney was first alerted to his coronavirus symptoms from his wearable Whoop device. 
  • The PGA Tour was provided 1,000 bands from Whoop to provide to all golfers and caddies. 
  • PGA Tour golfer Justin Thomas said that Whoop's data may have potentially saved the Tour. 
The PGA Tour is giving WHOOP straps ot more than 1,000 employees, staff and players at upcoming events to help detect possible signs of COVID-19
Source: Whoop

PGA Tour golfer Nick Watney said it was his wearable fitness tracker that first alerted him that he may have coronavirus.

Watney has worn his Whoop fitness tracker for more than a year now. On a Friday morning before the RBC Heritage event, he noticed his respiratory rate had spiked from Whoop's app. Despite not feeling any of the physical symptoms associated with Covid-19, Watney decided to get tested.

"This alerted me to ask the PGA Tour for a test even though I didn't have any other symptoms, and I unfortunately tested positive. I'm very grateful to have identified these signs early enough, and I am now following PGA Tour Protocol," Watney said in a statement.

Watney's positive test result from his Whoop device could just be the beginning. 

As a result of his test, the Tour has procured 1,000 Whoop straps to handout to all players, caddies and other essential personnel at upcoming PGA Tour, Korn Ferry Tour and PGA Tour Champions events.The straps, which are not approved by the FDA like many health and fitness trackers, will not be mandatory, but available if players want to use them. The Whoop straps will be in addition to other health and safety measures the PGA Tour has put in place as tournaments continue throughout the year.

Whoop, a Boston-based company, was founded in 2011. In November, the company raised $55 million in series D round of funding. The company had previously raised $50 million with investors that include Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey, the NFL Players' Association, basketball star Kevin Durant's Durant Company and the late former NBA Commissioner David Stern. 

Today, as the nation battles coronavirus pandemic, the company has pivoted. 

"We are rapidly on boarding everyone in the PGA Tour universe and respect the measures that they are taking to keep the Tour safe," said Will Ahmed, CEO of Whoop, in statement. 

Whoop boasts brand ambassadors such as 18-time PGA Tour winner Rory Mcilroy and 12-time Tour winner Justin Thomas. Many other golfers like Watney can been seen sporting the band on the golf course. 

At a press conference on Wednesday, Thomas went as far to say that Watney's Whoop device could have potentially saved the Tour. 

"Because of [Watney's] Whoop device, we could have been screwed right now, because he could have played the rest of the week and infected many other people," he said. 

Emily Capodilupo, Whoop's VP of Data Science & Research, said in a blog post in April that it was Whoop users that first alerted them to the bands potential related to coronavirus. 

WHOOP said its respiratory rate technology can detect early symptoms of COVID-19 cases
Source: Whoop

Whoop is collaborating with scientists at CQUniversity in Australia to develop an algorithm that they say has been shown to detect 20% of Covid-19 illnesses in the two days prior to the onset of symptoms. It can also correctly identify 80% of symptomatic cases by the third day of symptoms, the scientists claim.

Capodilupo said Whoop has submitted a manuscript for peer review and publication on the utility of wearable technology in providing early warning signs of potential Covid-19 infections.

For now, Whoop just hopes it can help athletes return to their sports safely. 

"We are incredibly proud to help humanity beat this virus," said Ahmed.