Wearable devices and clothing embedded in the sensor are usually common solutions for sports teams to make data-driven decisions about load management to understand when an athlete needs rest to perform at their best. Now, neurotech company NeuroSync aims to turn that paradigm on its head with a new eye-tracking product to measure cognitive fatigue.
NeuroSync (Previously SyncThink) calls its new software product Pro-Sync and contains a series of video-based eye-tracking tests that are accessed by wearing a virtual reality headset. The setting is similar to eye syncthe company’s signature eye-tracking product released in 2016 that football and NBA teams use to test athletes for concussion.
Pro-Sync contains a series of video-based eye-tracking tests accessed via a VR headset.
“We use a different measuring instrument that basically takes you through a range of eye movement tests, some similar to what we have in Eye-Sync and some different and new,” says Scott Anderson, chief clinical officer of NeuroSync. “We look at different aspects of how well you can focus, how well you can maintain your attention, or how well you can maintain your working memory or your inhibitory control.”
The cameras in the VR headset follow the user’s eyes while the NeuroSync algorithm determines how long their eyes move to the appropriate location. NeuroSync then provides an instantaneous score from 0 to 100 (top 100) to rank their results through a machine learning model that compares their performance based on data from NeuroSync’s cognitive assessments of more than 20,000 patients. Some of those patients are NBA players from NeuroSync’s work with teams like the Warriors, Wizards and Hawks, who all originally benefited from Eye-Sync’s concussion product as a stopgap for monitoring fatigue amid the rigors of an 82-game schedule.
“Teams make arbitrary decisions about pregnancy management, based on what’s going on physically, but what people don’t realize is that the central nervous system of the brain controls your entire body. We just look at all the physiological parameters that help us understand an athlete’s situation,” Anderson says. “I think there is a better way. If you start at the source, you will understand why physiological changes occur and cardiovascular changes occur – because it is all powered by the central processing computer in your body.”
The brain has long been neglected by sports scientists and team doctors who work with athletes, according to Anderson, who also works privately as a medical consultant for the NFL. He often sits in the replay booth during matches and shares specific video angles with team doctors on the field to help identify and diagnose players’ injuries after playing.
NeuroSync uses eye movement measurements and analysis to determine cognitive readiness.
Earlier this spring, it was The NFL mandated players to use wearable devices to track load management During all pre-season practices. While football has been a primary target for Eye-Sync, Anderson expects Pro-Sync stress assessment to be more applicable in continuous-play sports such as basketball, football, and rugby.
“People spend a lot of time talking about reaction time, but actually visual processing happens before reaction time. And so you have to move your eyes to the right place, so your brain can interpret what’s in front of you, so you can form a reaction,” Anderson says.
Anderson says NeuroSync has conducted “informal studies” over two NBA seasons with the Atlanta Hawks that confirmed the link between slow eye movements and physical injury. “They had many players that showed up as soon as those signs showed up, a little later they got injured. And so we want to be able to predict when someone is at risk of reduced performance or potential injury,” he says.
Hawks and Wizards also worked with NeuroSync to publish eye-tracking tests on college prospects prior to the NBA draft, to assess their cognitive abilities. The process served a similar role to the Wonderlic test used to evaluate NFL scouts.
“We checked 60 years or more [NBA] Draft prospects and then ranked them according to risk,” Anderson told SportTechie. “We identified companies with high performance and those we thought were risky investments.”
Devices from Kinexon and Catapult are among the wearables most used in NBA and college basketball to manage loads, and the National Basketball Association is testing Nextiles sensors in clothing. Pro-Sync Cognitive Function Assessments will provide a complementary perspective to assess athletes whose schedules include cross-country flights and games in different time zones.
“We have data from NBA players before they go on a five-day road trip, in the middle of that wild ride, and when they come home from that wild ride,” Anderson says. “And the difference in their cognitive abilities at those three points in time is remarkable. They are exposed to litter when they come home, and no one knows that.”
Pro-Sync’s 2023 roadmap includes adding training protocols for athletes to practice improving their cognitive defects in virtual reality. NeuroSync has more than 20 NBA and college football teams, including its league-wide deal with the Pac-12, but it’s been a few years since the company announced a new team partner as the teams don’t want to advertise a potential competitive advantage. .
While NeuroSync’s Eye-Sync concussion product is an FDA registered medical device, Pro-Sync is considered a non-medical device and therefore does not seek these certifications. What started as a “passionate project” for Anderson, is now believed to be on the cusp of changing the way athletes view fatigue and cognitive function.
“I think it’s the next frontier. I wrote an article about him to pioneer performance in 2016, talking about the potential to measure brain performance in real time, and how it can change sports,” Anderson says. “I’ve been obsessed with it ever since.”