Lights, Computers, Action

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Last updated: 04/08/2013 1:22 PM
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Football
Lights, Computers, Action: Technology Boosting Buckeye Reactions
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Three weeks ago the Ohio State football program purchased the newest toy for their weight room, and so far it's a pretty big hit with the Buckeye skill position players.

Priced at $15,000, the Dynavision D2 is used for stroke recovery in over 800 hospitals, and is also part of the Wounded Warrior Program in over 40 VA hospitals. It is also used to help those recovering from traumatic brain injury, as well determining the severity of concussions.

In the sports world, however, it is mostly used to improve reaction times, especially hand-eye coordination.

Chris Fields
Chris Fields demonstrates the Dynavision D2
Photo by Tony Gerdeman

The D2 is essentially a wall of bulbs spanning a person's field of vision, and for a period of 60 seconds, a bulb will light up until it is touched, at which point another bulb will light up until it is then touched. It's an expensive game of "Whack-a-Mole", yet it doesn't dispense any tickets. Still, players are battling for the high score.

"It's good because it's competitive," said Mickey Marotti, Ohio State's Assistant AD for Football Sports Performance, and Urban Meyer's right-hand man.

"It's kind of like a video game, so they're into it and they want to see who can get the highest score. They're fighting back in that back room to get the highest score. The object is to decrease reaction time from the time they see a light sensor to the time they hit it. The theory is when you see a ball, or have the awareness of what's going on around them, they can speed that up a little bit."

According to Kerry Coombs, Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs holds the world record with 139. Currently, cornerback Doran Grant has the team's high score with 108 bulbs in a minute. At his current pace, Duncan might be in trouble – when Grant first attempted it, he got a 48.

Receiver Chris Fields is hot on his heels, however, as his best is 107. The competition is great, but the real benefits are supposed to take place on the field. Fields believes they are.

"Yeah, I actually have [seen an improvement], with just reacting to the ball," he said.

"It always helps. It gives us a good benefit and it's a good machine for the skill positions.

"It's always good to have good hand-eye coordination when you're out there on the field. It's a competition after we work out. We have a little group that we compete against eachother. It's always good to have another station to compete against eachother."

Football is known as "a game of inches", but it could just as easily be called "a game of split seconds". For a cornerback, that split second can be the difference between breaking up a  pass and giving up a touchdown, or knocking down a pass and taking it back for a pick six.

The rewards can be game changing. That's why Coombs, who had use of a D2 at the University of Cincinnati, wanted one in Columbus. He brought it to the attention of Marotti, and the rest is history. Or at least "trial history".

"With Coach Coombs being here, he said it would be a good idea to look at it," Marotti said.

"They contacted us, came up and did a demonstration twice. We brought it up here, we use it and it's been great so far. I think it's pretty unique right now. I believe some baseball programs are using it, so it'll be interesting to see how it all pans out.

"We're in a trial basis. Right now I like it because it's competitive, and I like it because of who brought it to our attention, and I trust him."

For Coombs, adding a D2 made complete sense. He sees it as just another muscle to build.

"What I've told our kids is that we train so hard," he said.

"We train your body physically. We train your – frankly – your soul with ethical conduct and character. We train your heart with toughness. Why not train your eyes and train your mind and close some of those synapses that are going on in your brain?

"They're eating it up. We start off every meeting with the corners, and we're just doing a little quick vision test. How can that hurt us? And they're taking to it."

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