By Brian Werner
The use of 21st Century technology developed at NASA and in military fighter pilots and a form of training called vestibular rehabilitation is helping boxers in Las Vegas, NV with performance enhancement and with return to play decisions.
The vestibular system, which is the internal equilibrium center of the athlete’s balance, is commonly injured in over 80% of all boxers. A gyroscope in each inner ear, called the vestibular apparatus, in concert with vision and proprioceptors (joint, skin and muscle receptors), helps the boxer maintain proper balance of his/her eyes and body during static and dynamic movement.
In particular, the vestibular system works at high level/complex head and body movements to help maintain balance; therefore, its health in the boxer is paramount. When this system is damaged or injured, the boxer may feel a sense of imbalance, dizziness, fatigue, and decreased performance.
The two vestibular systems in each ear are like the front-end alignment of your car. When the front end of the car hits a pothole (with the boxer it is blows to the head), the car wants to drift to one side or another, the tires wear out, and it is difficult to control the car. While we cannot go into the skull and physically re-align the vestibular system like that of the car, we can train the brain there is an imbalance through the use of a special therapy technique call vestibular retraining therapy (VRT).
Developed originally for patients after inner ear (vestibular) surgeries and for performance enhancement in military fighter pilots, sailors, and the NASA astronauts, VRT can be extremely beneficial in helping the boxer regain and/or enhance balance performance and help with return to sparring decisions with trainers and physicians. Specially trained and licensed clinicians, usually physical or occupational therapists, work with computerized technology that measures the balance system through the measurement of the boxer’s eyes and body.
Two key pieces of equipment used in Las Vegas are the EquiTest and VORTEQ/DVAT systems. EquiTest, which was developed at NASA to assess the astronauts and used in the Navy to help discover the cause and reduction of sea-sickness, is a computerized dynamic forceplate and visual surrounding that immerses the boxer in an environment that challenges his/her standing balance.
From the findings on the EquiTest, the vestibular therapist makes a VRT program and the boxer can be re-tested over several months to follow the improvement. The second system, called VORTEQ/DVAT, was developed to measure the stability of the eyes in fighter pilots.
Commonly, pilots can suffer from blurred vision, dizziness, and dysequilibrium, which can lead to an expensive loss (i.e., crashing the million dollar jet and significant money and time wasted on training the pilot). Visual stability in the boxer means the athlete can see the punch coming and avoid it and move his/her head and body yet continue to see the opponent clearly.
Similarly, this system can be tested over several months and a customized program can be developed. For more information on the use of this technology and training program, feel free to call Brian K. Werner, MPT at the Balance Center of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, NV.
Brian K. Werner, MPT is the clinical manager and lead vestibular therapist at the Balance Center of Las Vegas and Henderson. He is a neurological physical therapist with a national certification in vestibular rehabilitation and a lecturer on vestibular technology and rehabilitation. For more information on the use of VRT and testing with the EquiTest and VORTEQ/DVAT system, contact him at 311 North Buffalo, STE C Las Vegas, NV 89145 – (702) firstname.lastname@example.org.