Above the Neck and Brain Training
A concussion is a type of injury to the brain caused by trauma to the head.
Long thought to be something only athletes are at risk of, the truth about
concussions is that they can happen to anyone.
Strength, endurance, cardiovascular, and flexibility training have long
been understood as necessary to optimize sports performance. Sports Neurology,
a new paradigm in Sports Medicine, is revealing the critical role of the
brain and nervous system in sports performance. Focus, concentration,
speed of mental processing, vision, balance, and proprioception are examples
of Neurological functions critical to peak performance. These functions
can be ovbjectively assessed, and because of Neuroplasticity, they can
be trained and improved. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to
form and reorganize synaptic connections - especially in response to learning
or experience (training).
Our Center for Sports Neurology and Pain Medicine incorporates several
opportunities to train the brain and nervous system for optimized, peak
performance. Preseason brain training, off-season brain optimization,
and/or ongoing in-season “maintenance” brain training are
beneficial options. In addition, training the brain during periods of
treatment and recovery from musculoskeletal injury helps keep an athlete’s
head in the game, with both generalized vision, cognitive priming and
cognitive endurance training as well as sport and position-specific virtual
and motor imagery-based brain training. Furthermore, we believe some forms
of brain training have benefits over and above sports performance. We’ve
seen and expect continued evolution of evidence demonstrating improvements
in academic performance, professional/career performance, improved quality
of maturation/aging, and optimization of neurological health across the lifespan.
Vision-based oculomotor as well as visual perceptual training options with
both “analog” and computer-based interfaces are performed
in the Performance Space within our Center. We have access to formal Neuro-ophthalmological
consultations, if indicated. We also have access to
Ocusweep, a state of the art and portable tool allowing assessment of visual acuity,
depth perception, visual fields, contrast sensitivity, and visual search
speed. Further evolution of commonly used simple visual reaction-time
training has resulted in our use of dual-task visual, and motor training
with a cognitive load with the
SMARTfit™ system. Exercise that simultaneously engages the full body and multiple
senses (eyes, ears, feet, hands and vestibular system) requires more complex
cognitive function to make decisions and execute skills.
SMARTfit™ technology uses alphanumeric targets displaying colors,
numbers, letters or symbols to provide a highly stimulating environment
for improving neurological and physical fitness. Athletes, clients, and
patients participate in these training drills:
- Play cognitive games while running, playing ball, balancing, and doing
core stabilizing exercises.
- Think under pressure, apply strategy and technique, and manage footwork,
balance, ball control, speed and agility.
- Get instant feedback with measurable and tracked results
The benefits include functional physical fitness (cardiovascular, strength,
agility, plyometric) along with neural and cognitive improvements. Proprioception,
vestibular function, cognitive agility, motor coordination, focus, memory,
and decision-making skills are examples of brain-related training. This
kind of training assists with peak performance as well as rehabilitation
after injury, development of motor skills, fall prevention in seniors
and benefits in patients with neurological diagnoses.
We have collaborated with
Axon Sports to provide a variety of brain training options. These programs and modules
facilitate the development of “chunking” for rapid advancements
in pitch recognition, scheme recognition, and other sports and position-specific
skills through the use of high-definition video footage. Other modules
promote brain training through motor imagery, which can be used to rapidly
advance mechanical skillset development. And cognitive priming or cognitive
endurance programs improve speed of mental processing as well as quality
of decision-making through the addition of progressive cognitive loads,
including complex tasks and distractors.
Our technogically advanced Center affords us the opportunity to take a
closer, more precise look at an athlete’s, client’s, and patient’s
inherent skills (skill assessment), identify gaps (opportunities for improvement),
and facilitate the brain’s ability to fill those gaps through training
with the proper set of learning systems, via Neuroplasticity.