So, how can an athlete train his or her brain to regain normal motor function, attentional resource allocation, and neuromuscular impairments? The Solution: NeuroTracker. NeuroTracker is a tool used to train cognitive skills, such as awareness and focus, through 3D Multiple Object Tracking:
“You are presented with 8 yellow balls in a virtual cube. 4 of the balls flash orange–those are your targets. Your goal is to track your targets and ignore the decoys. After you’ve seen your targets identified, all the balls start bouncing around the cube. This lasts eight seconds. At the end of eight seconds, all the balls stop moving and you have to identify your original four targets. If you are correct, NeuroTracker speeds up to increase the difficulty. If you are incorrect, the speed goes down. Each session has 20 repetitions at eight seconds each.” (via NeuroTracker)
The NeuroTracker technology is scientifically-backed with 20+ years of research and is currently used by professional sports teams in both North America (Falcons, US Soccer, Magic, Warriors, Canucks) and Europe (Manchester United), NCAA programs across the nation (Baylor, Oregon, Providence–2015 NCAA men’s hockey champs), and the US Elite Special Forces.
In my previous blog, Part I. The Problem: Are Concussions Leading to Torn ACLs?, I mentioned that recent studies have suggested that concussions are leading to lower extremity musculoskeletal injuries because of lasting negative cognitive effects. Even though athletes are being cleared to return-to-play after passing the necessary tests and protocols, their mental capabilities are still not 100% to where they were pre-concussion. An athlete who isn’t at 100% mentally may only be a split-second slower in their reaction time or decision-making…but that short time is significant enough to turn a routine movement into a devastating injury.
Think about it: You’re a soccer player getting back on defense. The offensive player tries to make a move at you–faking right and dribbling left. You’re playing your first game since suffering a concussion 2 weeks ago, and although you feel great, you feel as though your reaction time and motor function is just slightly off…but you’re not too concerned. This “fake one way and go the other” is a move that you’ve stopped hundreds of times in your career. When she makes the move, you go to poke the ball away but get your knee caught in the turf-a torn ACL. Your brain wasn’t quick enough to relay the message to your lower body to do exactly what you wanted it to do and exactly when you wanted it to happen. Just a split second off.
This is where NeuroTracker helps. In this scenario, the knee injury was not a result of having a prior knee injury or a weak lower body–it was because of impaired cognitive function. NeuroTracker helps to train your brain by, literally, rewiring disrupted neurological pathways so that you are able to:
- Focus and make quicker decisions
- Enhance depth perception and peripheral awareness
- Process information faster
- Improve anticipation and reaction time
The best way to protect against injury is to actively avoid it– NeuroTracker training improves attention and situational awareness so you know what is going on, and have the mental tools to take corrective action in time. Seeing dangers earlier, and being better able to predict movement and trajectory paths, are crucial for protecting people when they are playing sports, riding their bikes or even just crossing the street. NeuroTracker improves the brain’s ability to perceive, process and predict dangers in sports, traffic and everyday situations:
- Perceive: Training allows you to read biomechanical motion more effectively and at speed–so while playing sports, for example, it becomes easier to read body movements. (Perceptual cognitive training improves biological motion perception)
- Process: Training improves processing in the brain–this basically means that it takes less effort to, for example, follow a puck, and leaves more mental reserves available to plan an appropriate reaction to possible injury threats. (This is vital when dealing with post-concussion attentional resource allocation issues.)
- Predict: Training makes trajectory prediction more effective–incredibly useful for athletes of all ages.
There are not many tools out there that can help correct disrupted pathways in the brain after suffering a concussion–but NeuroTracker is one of, if not the only training tool available right now as a potential solution to the concussion/lower-body injury epidemic.
For more information, check out NeuroTracker at http://www.neurotracker.net