Virtual reality technology has improved significantly in the past few years and has become increasingly useful in athletics for additional training. What the current research does reveal is how the use of VR training can mimic efforts being used to train sport performance. Specifically, those skills focused on enhancing the cognitive functions needed to support physical abilities and ‘game sense’. Currently, there is no research in the US which compares the effect of VR training on actual sport performance in hockey.
The purpose of the research is to determine how an interactive sport specific virtual reality system can improve cognitive function, specifically related to hockey sense in competitive ice hockey athletes.
Thirty NCAA Division III University varsity ice-hockey athletes volunteered to participate in the research study, (15 males and 15 females). Twenty-eight participants completed the study 13 in the control group
(5 males; 8 females) and 15 in the experimental group (7 males; 8 females). A pretest, posttest randomized control trial study design was utilized.
Main Outcome Measures:
Weighted averages for READ and REACT were calculated from the diagnostic testing protocol within the virtual reality system. READ scores were comprised of the weighted averages of peripheral vision, multiple object tracking, detail recognition, time movement anticipation, and looking for open lanes. The REACT scores were comprised of the weight averages of reaction time, release time, correct decisions, spatial orientation and verbal communication.
Independent samples T-tests revealed statistically significant improvements in both READ and REACT scores within the experimental group compared to the control group (READ t= -3.732, p=.001; REACT
t= -4.576, p=.000) The mean difference in READ scores for the experimental group was 8.73 compared
to the mean difference in the control group of 0.61. The mean difference of the REACT scores in the experimental group was 11.31% compared to a mean difference of 2.18% in the control group.
Based on the results of this study individuals who trained on the virtual reality system showed
a significant increase in both READ and REACT scores. Through analysis of athletes’ ability to anticipate or “read” the multiple aspects of a game and make the correct decision or “react” we
can see an improvement in ‘game sense’. Our results show hockey sense can be improved significantly through the use of an interactive sport specific virtual reality system.
“We found the participants who used the Sense Arena system improved their hockey sense, specifically related to their “READ” and “REACT” scores compared to the control group who did not engage in the additional immersive virtual reality (VR) training. Participants in the research group noted the drills completed in the VR training sessions directly correlated with plays they were experiencing during hockey games and practices. The evidence supports that training with the Sense Arena System improved hockey sense which is a necessary component for peak athletic performance.”
Beth Kinslow DSc, LAT
Assistant Professor - Athletic Training
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point