Q&A – Dr. David Boynton discusses vision training, vision therapy, and athletic performance.
In line with his lecture at the GBSE Global Academy RehabMedTech & Innovation Online Symposium (REMTIOS) 2020, being held virtually July 17-31, Dr. David Boynton was kind enough to provide some answers to our questions regarding using vision training and Binovi to help treat and train athletes to improve performance both on and off the field.
Dr. David Boynton approaches vision training and the functional neurology of sport and athletics from his experiences as a coach, physical therapist, and athlete himself. For in-depth, personalized information regarding specialized vision training, vision therapy, and other functional neurology topics, contact the Binovi Customer Success Team for information on a Binovi-certified OD or vision therapy specialist in your area.
How has the understanding of performance changed in recent years?
The training of physiology, nutrition, and the role of functional neurology within the field of performance has grown dramatically. In particular in terms of rehabilitation from a concussion, ACL injury or other injuries that keep an athlete from training, and most importantly how to optimize performance for that “edge” that is critical for excelling above all other athletes.
My emphasis has been that driving brain integration is what is now one of the key elements in performance, rehabilitation, and training. We are dumping literally millions of sensory signals into our nervous system every second from a huge number of sources. The vast majority of these inputs are what we would term “unconscious.” The next step is that your brain must process all of the input accurately and quickly to produce the desired output, which we view as “performance.”
Let’s say you’re sparring in karate and your opponent throws a punch at your head. You have to see the punch obviously but there is so much more to it. Distance, timing, proprioception, motor planning, even motivation and fear, are all relevant inputs. You must then take the input from all of your senses, process, and respond appropriately. Hopefully you are able to block and counter! This is the concept around functional movement and brain integration, and is the cutting edge within the field of Performance enhancement and Rehabilitation.
Does performance look different from the perspective of an athlete, a trainer, and a coach?
I think ultimately each of these roles has a different lens that they view the area of performance from. A trainer looks for strength numbers or defined parameters to continually monitor an athletes training and nutrition. Rehabilitation is also a key area that the trainer is involved with – taking any injured athlete and getting them back into play. The athlete is looking for her/his score per game, touches of the ball or puck, or metrics that translate into their personal performance and future potential. The coach is looking for how a particular athlete makes the team better, and whether that athlete is performing in a peak potential state.
The more specialized we become the more we look at specific data points to define performance. There are a lot more subspecialties now in training any athlete or team, and you can see this within any college level or professional team. Each staff member will have a unique perspective, all ultimately aiming at the success of each athlete yet the team performance as a whole.
What are the brain and vision aspects to training and performance?
Vision and movement aspects of performance come down to calibrating the brain so that all of the vital centers are integrated. By vital centers, I am referring to any pathway or functional unit of the brain that is involved with generating speed, power, or coordination, balance centers, areas involved with body control (knowing where your body is in space), and more.
Here’s an example: Let’s say your eyes say your head is in one position, but your vestibular system or proprioceptors say “no your head is in a different position.” That is a problem. If you cannot integrate these sensory inputs accurately you have essentially created an error. It’s like fake news! The problem becomes that your response, your performance, is based on this error. Quite simply, garbage in equals garbage out! It’s no different than shooting a gun where the sights aren’t calibrated accurately; that will directly affect your performance.
Is there a way for an athlete to train these brain pathways —and their vision— during the off season, or during isolation?
This is distinctly where the Binovi Platform comes in. The trainer can prescribe and deliver specific drills for their athletes completely online. Obviously this is based on knowing this athlete and having done baseline assessments with them, but the ability to enable an athlete to have a prescribed program, monitored in real time, is incredibly effective.
What is the “Binovi of the day”?
I created this concept based on the belief that combining powerful vision therapy with functional movements gives much better results through a higher level of stimulation and activation of the brain. Not to be overlooked is compliance: the athletes love these activities because they’re fun, challenging, and harness their competitive nature.
Binovi of the day uses Spatial vs Temporal Activities to develop circuits for athletes, combining functional movements with advanced Binovi vision training drills, with a focus on balance and agility drills as well as things that are new to your athletes, all while increasing their heart rate.
Will these training protocols help a player in any sport get to the next level?
Improved vision skills —like reaction time and peripheral vision— drive better performance in all sports. While there are no guarantees in sport, I look at this type of training as building potential: optimize your vision skills, optimize brain integration, and you have a much greater potential to rise up and play at the next level. By using Binovi to strengthen vision and brain pathways you are stacking the odds in your favor.
Example: peripheral vision
I think most of us can appreciate that having great peripheral vision allows you to see more of what’s happening on the field, and certainly to see it sooner than the opponent perhaps. To really appreciate the importance of peripheral vision, try and imagine the opposite scenario. Imagine you were playing a game of hockey, but you had to look through a tube while you played. The severe tunnel vision you would experience is awful: all you can see is what is directly in front of you; you would have no idea of where your teammates are and what the flow of the game was. You may even have to look down at your feet to see the puck. This makes you vulnerable to injury, in particular because you cannot an incoming hit.
Do these same concepts of brain pathways work for on-the-field or e-Sport training?
The same rules apply. If you have the fastest eyes, you see better, and ultimately perform better. Don’t overlook the aspects of endurance and efficiency in these visual pathways, which is a large factor in e-Sports: can you sit and take in all the stimulus for long periods of time? Being one step ahead is based on optimal brain integration and efficiency in your visual pathways. Think of it this way: your brain gets tired before your legs do. The same principle applies to your eyes.
About Dr. David Boynton
Dr. David Boynton has effectively blended his own personal athletic experiences, clinical expertise, and educational knowledge, to enable him to be on the cutting edge in the field of performance and movement neurology. His lifelong pursuit has been guided by the ambition to create practical performance enhancement tools and strategies that can be utilized by athletes, therapists and practitioners, as well as coaches and athletic organizations. Himself a multi-sport athlete, Dr. Boynton has been fortunate to both play and coach.
Dr. Boynton will be delivering his lecture, The Integrated Brain – Practical Strategies to Drive Integration and Performance Using Binovi Platform at the GBSE Global Academy RehabMedTech & Innovation Online Symposium (REMTIOS) 2020, held virtually July 17-31, 2020.