Brain Assessments and Training for Wrestling
BASELINE TESTING = FUNCTION ASSESSEMENT
Baseline testing provides information about the function of different aspects of your brain. Knowing what level of function a wrestler was prior to an injury gives a comparison point. Many wrestlers may have functional deficits without symptoms prior to an injury. In the event of a concussion in a practice or competition, 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 your brain is functioning not only will determine what level you are able to compete at but will also impact your rate of healing in the event of a concussion. 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 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 to ensure that we maximize the functional integrity of as many aspects of the brain as possible.
Given the high incidence of concussions in wrestling and the serious long term consequences of concussions, it is time that a new approach is taken. The new approach considers “function” of brain performance and not just symptoms. Just because symptoms have resolved, does not mean your brain function has been restored.
FUNCTION = PERFORMANCE
VISUAL FUNCTION is essential for a wrestler. Quick eye movements, eye tracking and visual fixation are all visual functions that are governed by your brain. These visual functions and other brain related perceptions will make the difference between a wrestler’s ability to see an opponents move, note the shifting of weight, catch the quick signs that could be a tell of where they are thinking of going. These visual functions can be tested and improved upon within weeks.
When we think of vision, we naturally think about what we see with our eyes. But what about the internal vision? That is, our capacity to visualize an outcome. Visualization in sports, is a brain function that has been engaged by athletes for years. This process or skill set and be strengthened. When it is time to execute, you will simply react because the motor pattern of the response has been conditioned.
The FOCUS that is essential for all wrestlers can be increased with brain based exercises. Absolute focus is even more imperative when you are up against your toughest competition? As brain focus comes down potential distractions increase. The slightest movement can cause you to jump prematurely, exposing yourself to your opponent. The ability to BLOCK OUT DISTRACTIONS is key to any wrestler in a high pressured situation.
RHYTHM AND TIMING is what it takes to anticipate and move quickly when doing a “Rotate Double Take Down” or other moves that requires great timing. Rhythm and timing are governed by your brain. The coordination, speed and quickness of the feet and arms are dependent on the functional level of the brain.
Perfect BALANCE is obviously central to wrestling. How quickly a wrestler can move, how agile they are is fully dependent on the quickness and agility of their brain and the neurological functions associated with balance (i.e. vestibular system). Moreover, balance function also relates to stability of your spine and consequently helps protect it and your brain from injury.
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. 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 can be the difference between a good wrestler and a great wrestler. The faster the decision making, the quicker and the better the decisions will be. Content and speed of processing can be measured and conditioned.
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: