Through the clinic door, back in the training room, is a vision test board. Football players are required to practice at least once a week during the regular season, three times a week in the pre-season.
These athletes, and the data a computer logs with each test, have become the fodder for research studies.
A large focus of this research is dedicated to preventing, diagnosing and treating concussions—research that a partnership with an academic health system enables.
And since UC has introduced vision training—one of the first and few Division I teams to thoroughly implement it—concussion rates have dropped. Dramatically.
Initially, UC sought out these vision boards to help better diagnose concussions.
“The first year, we didn’t have that many concussions. The second year, we didn’t have that many concussions,” Dr. Divine said. “And then the third year, the lightbulbs collectively went off in our heads thinking, ‘you know, maybe this training we’re doing is actually preventing concussions that we had hoped to study.’”
Since implementing this training, the football team’s concussion rates have decreased to 2.14 per season—an 80 percent drop since 2010.
That compares to a national average of 11 per season.
And by intervening after a concussion sooner with vision training, UC has improved its return-to-play time and overall rehabilitation success.
While the NCAA averages a return-to-play of 12-19 days after the injury, UC averages about 6.5 days.
“We were one of the first groups around the country that showed that the longer you wait to recover without any activity, the longer those symptoms take to get better,” Dr. Divine says.
These impressive statistics don’t end there. UC Athletics is now seeing the long-lasting impacts of vision training on overall injury prevention and even performance.
The vision training boards allow athletics leaders to program specific drills tailored for each position on the field.
Since creating a drill for quarterbacks to prevent blindside hits, the team hasn’t had a single quarterback endure a blindside hit that resulted in an injury report.
After just one year of vision training with the UC baseball team, the team’s batting average went up 34 points.
Dr. Divine, also physician for the Florence Freedom Minor League Baseball team, recently introduced vision training to that Northern Kentucky team. Last year, they had their best season in franchise history.
“The model we have is what the NCAA wants everybody else to have, and we’ve been doing it a while, so we’re a well-oiled machine,” says Aaron Himmler, UC Athletics trainer.