A car can be wrapped in the strongest steel, designed with crumple zones, and equipped with air bags covering every nook and cranny of the interior. Still, the anti-lock breaks, traction control, and similar technologies also contribute to the best strategy for surviving an accident: avoiding it altogether.
At the University of Cincinnati, the Bearcats football just completed its fall camp without any of the 105 players sustaining a concussion, and the team’s explanation for how doesn’t involve all the new diagnostic tools, sensor technology, or increased impact data that have made their way into elite football programs in the past few years. Rather, they credit something much simpler: proper tackling technique. Well, that and Dynavision D2, from Performance Enterprises.
“There’s a classic expression in the boxing, MMA, and martial arts worlds – It’s the hit, punch, or kick you don’t see that knocks you out,” says Dr. Joseph Clark, Professor of Neurology, Ph.D scientist, and independent neurodiagnostician for the Bearcats. Dynavision is an FDA-approved vision skills trainer designed to improve eye-hand coordination, balance, anticipation and timing, depth perception, and functional peripheral vision. It’s that last one that Clark credits with helping football players avoid head-first collisions. “The theory has always been that if you can see things better going on around you, you’re more likely to be able to respond to them and get ready to either take or deliver that hit.”
Other researchers in this particular field agree with Clark. “One of the very few well-established facts about concussion is that the single greatest determining factor of whether a given impact turns into a concussion or not is whether or not a struck player sees the oncoming impact coming,” says Christoph Mack, CEO of X2 Biosystems, a leader in impact sensor technology. “You see the linebacker rushing at you and get your whole body involved. Essentially what you’re doing is taking the energy of that impact and making it act on your whole body mass.”
Players using the system focus on the center of a large board, touching one of the 64 buttons as they light up across their field of vision. Quarterbacks (those showoffs) read flashcards held along the periphery of their visual field while doing Dynavision training. Even minor improvements in a player’s ability to process information in busy environments can pay dividends in terms of player safety. Nerves transmit information at about 120 meters per second, says Clark, and the eyes are very fast to react as well. The ability to change body and muscular position, to tense and control the head and neck, or make other important adjustments can happen in milliseconds, and could be enough to prevent a hit from causing concussion. Clark believes Dynavision, which has been used by the Bearcat for four seasons, has contributed to a downward trend in concussion diagnosis among players as part of a holistic program of including education, diagnostics, and smart return-to-play decisions.
“Nothing is going to get rid of all concussions because football and various other sports are violent games,” Clark says. “Being able to mitigate by being able to see better is a strategy we’re embracing here at the University of Cincinnati, and we’re seeing very promising results as far as helping to prevent injury in our athletes.”