UW-Stevens Point new virtual reality project hopes to reduce injuries, improve performance

By  | 

STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) -- The University of Wisconsin Stevens Point is the first university in the country to have a virtual reality system that aims to reduce injuries to players and improve their cognitive abilities. The system is called Sense Arena.

This new brain training research program uses virtual reality programs to sharpen skills and could reduce injuries. "Our main research question is does virtual reality training translate to on ice performance," said Beth Kinslow, Assistant Professor, School of Health Care Professions.

The system may look like all fun and games, but this system at UWSP is state of the art virtual reality technology, that customizes to athlete weaknesses to help them improve their cognitive skills. "The brain is the least emphasized in the body when it comes to sports. We do everything physically when it comes to training but we kind of forget about training the brain," said Holly Schmies, Athletic Training Program Director at UWSP.

15 student athletes from the UWSP Men's and Women's hockey teams will be training using the system with masters and graduate students behind the scenes. "From the athlete point of view they are obviously going to think about performance but on the back side we have aspirations of looking at injury prevent. How can we use VR in rehabilitation. Bringing an athlete back in a safe and controlled manner verses putting them on the ice in an uncontrolled environment," said Schmies.

This Sense Arena System is a partnership between UWSP and Charles University in the Czech Republic. "It's new, it's innovate, it's from an international stand point and we are the first one in nation so sometimes that feels scary. But it is so exciting to bring this opportunity to our graduate students and student athletes," said Kinslow.

The first study goes until December the then they will know if this system does improve performance and reduce injuries in players. If it works they want to expand the program for others to utilize as well.