NBA restart plan includes using Oura rings to catch COVID-19 symptoms

At least one study showed signs they can help detect symptoms early.


While the NBA continues to move toward restarting its season with players and other personnel isolated at Walt Disney World in Orlando, details of how it hopes to manage the people on site are leaking out. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the specifics were laid out in an informational memo dubbed “Life inside the Bubble,” that described testing plans, quarantine protocols and more.

The part that’s specifically interesting to us — other than players only lounges with NBA 2K and bracelets that beep if people are within sx feet of each other for too long — is its proposed use of Oura’s smart rings. Earlier this month, study results from West Virginia University’s Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute suggested that physiological data from the rings, combined in its digital platform with information obtained from wearers via in-app surveys, can “forecast and predict the onset of COVID-19 related symptoms” three days in advance, with 90 percent accuracy.

The titanium second-generation Oura rings are water resistant, weigh from four to six grams (depending on size) and can run for up to seven days on a charge. Once drained, they can power up on their wireless inductive charging plate in about 80 minutes. Otherwise the rings are similar to larger fitness trackers and smart watches with infrared LED sensors, three body temperature sensors, an accelerometer and a gyroscope. The key to their design is that they’re intended for wear 24/7, with up to six weeks of data stored onboard that syncs to your iOS or Android phone via Bluetooth Low Energy. The study included around 600 front line healthcare workers in its first phase, and is now scaling up to get data from thousands of participants.

According to The Athletic, use of the rings will be optional, and there’s no word on what other data will be used to track possible symptoms. ESPN reporter Zach Lowe tweeted that if players wear the rings, team personnel will not have access unless it detects an “illness probability score” that triggers a medical review. The player’s union hasn’t announced it’s fully on board with the restart just yet but plans appear to be in motion, and it’s possible that if you’re watching games played in mostly-empty arenas with video game crowd noise, some of the NBA players spectating will have very familiar-looking jewelry on.