Brain Training for SportsWritten By: David Burns
Brain training can be thought of in the same way we think of physical conditioning our bodies. For the sake of discussion, let’s just think of brain as a bunch of individual muscles. Like the rest of the muscles of the body these individual muscles respond, become stronger and have better endurance when specific exercises are applied. If I want a bigger bicep, I do bicep curls. If I want a bigger Frontal Brain muscle I do Frontal curls.
Now let’s think of health of brain in the same way we think about the health of muscle. On the continuum of muscle health you have the unhealthy diseased end of things (e.g. torn muscle) to normal function which means only that you don’t have any symptoms with normal activities. But the continuum doesn’t stop here if we continue to challenge the muscle it will become stronger still. Muscle responds to “stress” of the exercise to meet the task asked of the muscle. The point is that the muscle can always become stronger and develop more and more endurance. The same is true of brain “muscle”.
Why do we rehearse a speech, keep practicing our reading, do math exercises, juggle? Do we simply arrive at an end point and we don’t get any better? Of course not, we can improve on everything and anything. The key is knowing what exercise to do, how to exercise it and how to make it relevant to what you are asking it to do.
Your brain governs everything and the more fine-tuned it is the better you will be at everything, including sports. While I have a lot of experience working with brains that are not doing what they are supposed to be doing (concussions, coma, Parkinson’s, dystonia etc.) that is not what this is about. I’m not looking for specific things that are wrong with your child’s brain I’m simply training their brain to be stronger and faster with better endurance.
That being said, if there are things that are going on that need specific attention, I can address these challenges after a complete functional neurological evaluation and history. That is to say I will assess the strength of your child’s individual brain muscles and their possible nuances that may require extra attention.
There are countless things that I could implement to exercise your child’s brain, just like there are countless physical exercises that could be implemented to work them physically. The nuts and bolts however will include working on their concentration, their balance, their visual tracking and auditory processing. What we do initially, how much I can challenge them will really depend on where they are now. Think of it like Martial Arts, you start with the basics in white belt and challenges increase as you get higher and higher belts.
Some of the benefits of training brain include:
- Attention improvement
- Thought processing speed increase
- Motor coordination improvement
- Emotional control
- Stabilization of joints
- Visual processing improvement
- Auditory processing improvement
- Timing and rhythm improvement
Now most of the above functions are not just about sports. With better thought processing, concentration, emotional control, visual and auditory processing you could expect changes in academic performance, social skills, and other motor related activities. I take everything I know about treating injured brains to help your child’s brain be as strong, fast and as healthy as it can be for sports and life in general.