Preventative Brain Assessments and Training for Figure Skaters
BASELINE TESTING = FUNCTION ASSESSEMENT
Baseline testing provides information about the function of different aspects of your brain. Knowing what level of brain function a figure skater was prior to an injury, gives a helpful comparison point. Many figure skaters may have functional deficits without symptoms prior to an injury. In the event of a concussion, any functional deficits noted on examination that were not previously known to have existed, will be incorrectly attributed to the recent injury. Basic ImPACT baselines are an absolute must and a deeper understanding of how well your brain is functioning can be determined with a comprehensive evaluation.
PERFORMANCE = PREVENTION
How well your brain is functioning not only will determine how you skate but will also impact your ability to prevent injuries. Peripheral vision, balance and reaction time are all functions of the brain that when functioning at an optimal level can help you avoid injuries.
All things being equal, a higher functioning brain should give you a better outcome in the event of a traumatic brain injury. The research suggests that in the event of a concussion, anybody with ADHD or dyslexia has a worse prognosis than somebody without this neurobehavioral state. Simply put, if an area of brain has functional challenges pre-injury and this area is concussed, the outcome or prognosis will be worse.
Given that the research supports this for ADHD and dyslexia, it is potentially true for any region with diminished function. Therefore, the logical thing to do is ensure that we maximize the functional integrity of as many aspects of your brain as possible.
Given the serious long term consequences of concussions, it is important to take a new approach with concussion management. The new approach considers “function” of brain performance and not just symptoms. Just because symptoms have resolved, does not mean brain function has been restored.
FUNCTION = PERFORMANCE
VISUAL FUNCTION is essential for a figure skater. Your body will respond only to the degree your visual function is performing. Quick eye movements, eye tracking, visual fixation are all visual functions that are governed by the brain and what is needed for a perfect performance. These visual functions can be tested and improved upon within weeks.
The FOCUS that is essential for a figure skater, can be increased with brain based exercises. As brain focus comes down distractions increase. The slightest sound or movement can cause the eyes to come off the target which will result in a fall. Impulse control and your ability to attend, is key to not only performance but also to injury prevention.
A skaters footwork is a dance that requires RHYTHM AND TIMING. Rhythm and timing are governed by your brain. The coordination, speed and quickness of the feet are dependent on the functional level of the brain.
Perfect BALANCE is central to figure skaters. How quickly a skater can turn, spin, their ability to lift and more, are fully dependent on brain functions associated with balance (i.e. vestibular system). Moreover, balance function also relates to stability of your spine, knees and ankles. Injury prevention starts with perfect balance.
Motor functions are developed through repetition. You develop these built in motor programs through practice. However, the area of brain that holds these motor programs is governed, controlled or initiated by other frontal cortex areas. These other frontal cortex regions responsible for MOTOR PLANNING, MOTOR SEQUENCING, MOTOR INITIATION have to functioning optimally to optimize your performance.
In the end, when we are talking about concussions, prevention, performance or brain training, it isn’t an either or situation but rather a continuum of care: