Preventative Brain Assessments and Training for Soccer
Dr. Burns,Luke has been working with you for 3 months. We have seen objective results with visual tracking, reaction time, coordination and running form. These functional improvements have been realized on the basketball court, soccer fieldand on the track. Luke personally feels a difference in his quickness, speed of movement, concentration levels and visual coordination. As a physical therapist, I appreciate seeing these changes occur strategically and not by chance. Thank you Dr. Burns in opening our eyes to an entirely new aspect of performance!
With Appreciation,Brent George, MPTCEO, Owner G4 Athlete, LLC
BASELINE TESTING = FUNCTION ASSESSEMENT
Baseline testing provides information about the function of different aspects of brain. Knowing what level of function a player was prior to an injury gives a comparison point. Many players may have functional deficits without symptoms prior to an injury. In the event of a concussion in a soccer practice or game, if these functional deficits are not previously known to exist, they will be erroneously attributed to the injury the player just sustained. 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 your brain is functioning not only will determine how you play the game of soccer but will also impact your ability to avoid collisions. Additionaly, all things being equal, a healthier 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, that anybody with ADHD or dyslexia has a worse prognosis than somebody without this neurobehavioral state. Simply stated, if an area of brain has functional challenges pre-injury and this area is concussed, the outcome or prognosis will likely 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 brain as possible.
FUNCTION = PERFORMANCE
VISUAL FUNCTION is essential for any soccer player. Quick eye movements, eye tracking and visual fixation are all visual functions that are governed by the brain and will make the difference between a a player that “sees” the whole field and one that is essentially playing in their own world. These visual functions can be tested and improved upon within weeks.
Whether you are a field player or a goalie, your focus needs to be perfect. The FOCUS that is essential for soccer can be increased with brain based exercises. When is your ability to block out distractions more important than on a PK? This is true whether you are the goalie or the player striking the ball.
As stress goes up, brain focus comes down. As brain focus comes down, distractions increase. Impulse control decreases. The slightest sound or movement will cause you to jump prematurely. Research is proving that a brain that can BLOCK OUT DISTRACTIONS has a greater probability of striking the ball correctly and hitting the intended target in a PK situation.
Dribbling or footwork is like a dance that requires RHYTHM AND TIMING. Rhythm and timing are governed by your brain. Increase the odds of developing smooth, effortless juggling of the ball and move like your foot is one with the soccer ball by improving your brain based rhythm and timing.
How many times have you seen a player like Messi tripped up only to maintain his balance and evade the opposition? Perfect BALANCE is central to so many aspects of soccer. Most of the time, in the game of soccer, you are on one foot. If your balance is off, everything is off; your footwork, your passes, your strikes.
Balance function also relates to stability of your spine, knees and ankles. Injury prevention starts with perfect balance. Balance with your head and body in all positions is important for neck stability and consequently concussion prevention.
Motor functions are developed through repetition. You develop these built in motor programs through repetition. However, the area of brain that holds these motor programs is governed, controlled or initiated by other frontal cortex areas. MOTOR PLANNING, MOTOR SEQUENCING, MOTOR INITIATION is the difference between being first off the mark or being caught off guard and slow to react.
Above all else, DECISION MAKING is what makes a player reach their maximum potential. Scientists have know for a long time that if you challenge the brain in an appropriate manner it will develope in such a way as to be able to respond when under stress.
The ability of a soccer player to see the field, recall where all the players are on both teams, know their exits and potential moves or counter moves while under pressure, is crucial to the success of any player or club. Content and speed of processing can be measured and conditioned.
Jimmy Ball, a former professional soccer player and the present director of coaching for the ISC “Gunner’s” program, made this statement about his experience as a pro player.
“It is my opinion that the players who make better, quicker decisions on a regular basis will reach a higher level of play in this game. When I moved from the third division of English soccer to the EPL, it was not the skills of the players that set them apart but the speed of their decisions that made them better than everyone else.”
“Anything that can help players make quicker, clearer decisions on and off the ball, will prove to be a huge benefit to an aspiring soccer player.”
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: