Human Performance, Performance | Sep 12, 2019
In the first of an ongoing series, Optios explore how performance practitioners stand to gain from a pioneering approach to neuroscience.

An article brought to you in association with our Partners Optios:

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Optios, formerly known as the Platypus Institute) is a pioneering leader in the field of maximizing elite-level sports performance based on neurocognitive assessments and has extensive experience working with coaches and athletes. For more information click here.

Legendary 20th Century football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant (1913-1983) famously said, “It’s not the will to win that matters — everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.”

Professional athletes train and prepare to win physically; now it’s time to start recruiting, training and preparing to win based on cognitive assessments, too.

Decades ago, pro athletes and coaches “prepared to win” and scouted for top-notch talent by second-guessing the strengths and weaknesses of each player’s cognitive profile and brain functions.

In the 21st century, neurocognitive assessments are a game-changer that makes it possible for coaches and pro athletes to become champions using proven technology developed by neuroscientists. In a modern world, teams that utilize cutting-edge cognitive assessments to recruit the best qualified talent and optimize athletic potential are significantly better prepared to win.

As a draft and scouting recruitment tool, neurocognitive assessments allow scouts to see what’s “under the hood” using non-invasive methods to peek inside the brain and qualitatively measure an individual’s cognitive functions and processing speeds; and to gauge how an individual’s stats measure up to other potential recruits.

Why cognitive training translates into better performance

Neurocognitive assessments enable analysis of the substantive details about each player’s brain and how it works.

Each neurocognitive assessment also establishes baselines that are used to monitor advancement or any unexpected setbacks. These baselines are also used for comparison between other elite-level performers. Experts can assess how elite athletes at the college and pro level compare with one another and also how each person’s neurocognitive assessment scores compare to other elite performers, including military personnel.

Every test conducted during a neurocognitive assessment is designed to pinpoint specific brain functions that need improvement. Then, the neuroperformance team at Optios recommend a personalized brain training program that addresses each cognitive function that is operating at a subpar level.

Optios team are well aware of the backlash associated with ‘data overload’. In an era when most pro athletes are being bombarded with overwhelming amounts of data from high-tech devices, the data collected is curated and bundled in ways that are easy to digest.

Neurocognitive assessment data is also interpreted in tangible ways that can be directly applied to training and competition. It is essential to always communicates scientifically proven data using simple terminology that every athlete can easily understand.

“Professional athletes exert a lot of effort and spend countless hours at the gym, on the field, and in the film room to be at the top of their game. Neurocognitive assessments add the power of neuroscience to the mix and take individual athletes and their teams to the next level,” Tom Nugent, VP of Elite Performance Solutions at Optios, says. “Our neurocognitive assessments give athletes a combined understanding of their cognitive strengths, and just as importantly, highlight areas that need more training ‘from the neck up.’ Pro athletes know how to train and prepare physically, adding science-based cognitive training and brain exercises can elevate their game to a level that seemed unimaginable a few decades ago.”

Rigorous science doesn’t lie. Evidence-based research has shown time and time again that if an athlete improves cognitive capabilities, it translates into better performance during games.

Three Core Values of Neurocognitive Assessments:

Identify & Recruit New Talent, Improve Existing Talent, Optimize & Maintain Player’s Health

The value of neurocognitive assessments for athletes, coaches, and scouts can be broken down into three categories: First, identify new talent (e.g., drafting, recruitment, developmental leagues); Second, improve existing talent (e.g., train up the players you have to make them better); and third, optimize and maintain player health (e.g., improvement for off the field benefit, injury prevention &  recovery, and career extension.)

A well-trained brain has faster reaction speeds and better field of view, which can reduce the risk of injury both on and off the playing field. That said, if for some reason an athlete gets sidelined with an injury, the individual athlete assessment baselines can be referenced to responsibly get a player back on the field sooner than later.

Ranker recently compiled a list of Athletes Who Suffered the Most Bizarre Off-Field Injuries that resulted in significant on-the-field consequences. Some freak accidents are unavoidable, but tailored neuroperformance training based on a cognitive assessment can lower the risks of an athlete being sidelined by an injury caused by a lapse of focus and attention, visual processing, or reaction speed. Improving attention and focus has real-world benefits, such as driving more safely and avoiding distraction-related mishaps.

What Brain Functions Are Targeted After a Neurocognitive Assessment?

In today’s competitive environments, every edge counts. Boosting specific brain functions using targeted interventions based on the results of a cognitive assessment gives coaches an invaluable tool for optimizing every player’s performance. Based on neurocognitive assessment reports, the experts at Optios create personalized action plans that maximize body-mind-and-brain functions for each player and the team as a whole.

Attention and focus scores can be used to improve offensive and defensive on-the-field performance and can improve an athlete’s ability to learn from watching game film.

Faster brain processing speed allows pro athletes to react instantly to other players’ moves, make better split-second decisions on the field, better understand play action by seeing, hearing, and comprehending everything that’s going on at lightning-fast speeds.

Improving memory capacity results in better and faster play recall, the ability to learn and recall other players’ skills from game film, remember opposition’s play calls and hot reads. Having a stronger memory also improves day-to-day cognitive performance.

Visual processing speed is a measure of how fast the brain can process what the eyes see. When a professional athlete’s visual processing speed is high, the game appears in slow-motion. Faster visual processing allows for more steals and assists, increased batting averages, and increased pass reception.

Research shows that there is no limit to how much someone can improve in any of these areas after a neurocognitive assessment and implementation of a personalized action plan. Scientific literature suggests that “elite” brains have even more capacity for improvement than an average player. Participating in a comprehensive neuro training program can provide professional athletes with substantial gains in their sports performance.

The interdisciplinary experts at Optios are leaders in the field of sports-specific neurocognitive assessments. Their team consists of thought leaders and neuroscientists who can work with coaches to make brain science easy to understand and integrate into a personalized plan that is tailored to the strengths and opportunities for improvement of every athlete on the team.

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