Duke Study of Carolina Hurricanes: Obstructing Eyesight Can Boost Performance

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Courtesy of Peter Friesen, @NHLCanes

Courtesy of Peter Friesen, @NHLCanes

If you do all of your training with unobstructed vision, you're about to feel PRET-TY dumb. New research out of Duke's Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, published in the latest issue of Athletic Training & Sports Health Care, indicates that a great way to improve an athlete's reaction time is to remove their eyesight. (And then restore it.)

Those findings are the result of a study conducted with the Carolina Hurricanes during preseason training. For it, a handful of players wore Nike SPARQ Vapor Strobe glasses that intermittently switch between transparent and opaque lenses to create a stroboscopic (like a strobe light, see?) effect. The Canes were divided into experimental (bespectacled) and control (normal eyesight) groups that completed three steps for the study: They participated in a hockey drill, then went through the stroboscopic training, then repeated the drill. The players in the experimental group showed an 18% improvement in the drill the second time around. That jump is a biggie.

As a Duke Today story on the study writes: 

Forwards were asked to perform a task that involved difficult skating before taking shots on goal, and defensemen were asked to skate in a circle before completing long passes.

"That 18% improvement for on-ice skills for professional players is huge," [Duke professor/researcher Stephen] Mitroff said. "This is a dramatic improvement observed in professional athletes."

This isn't the first time the Hurricanes have dabbled with strobe glasses—and considering the results, it likely won't be the last time that they, and probably a few other teams, throw on the shades. If you have "Tron" in the "What will sports look like in 50 years" pool, you have to be feeling PRET-TY good right about now.