It looks like it belongs in a 1980s arcade, yet it’s fast becoming a must-have piece of equipment that’s training professional athletes and helping brain injury patients recover.
The 4-by-4-foot board is made up of 64 lights and a small screen in the middle. The user smacks the lights as they turn red, and in more complex play reacts to other instructions displayed on the screen. A computer then scores the user on his or her ability to react.
Joseph Clark, a neurology professor at the University of Cincinnati, calls the Dynavision D2 a light board on steroids.Developer Phil Jones, CEO of Dynavision International LLC, and manufacturer TSS Technologies in West Chester call it another breakthrough product helping athletes achieve at their highest.
TSS also produces a specially engineered mitt that helps professional athletes and others cool off quickly, allowing them to play better longer. The San Francisco 49ers used the cooling mitts at the Super Bowl in February (but still lost to the Baltimore Ravens 34-31).
The Dynavision D2 sells for $15,000 and is helping improve the hand-eye coordination and peripheral vision for major Division I schools such as Ohio State, Louisville, Florida State, Baylor, Texas A&M, Duke, Tennessee and Maryland.
Top professional teams including the Pittsburgh Steelers, San Antonio Spurs and New York Rangers also use the device. Locally, UC student athletes and some members of the Cincinnati Bengals train with the light board as well.
At the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., one of the foremost athletic training institutes in the world, the Dynavision D2 is used to train athletes of all ages.
“The Dyna board helps athletes recognize, specifically, their eye-hand coordination,” said David da Silva, who leads IMG’s vision training program. “It also trains peripheral vision, to be able to see out of the corner of our eyes. The Dyna board really stretches that zone.”
Overall, IMG Academy trained 40 top professional football prospects this year as they prepared for the NFL combine.
“It’s a great tool to have, it’s a great asset and I think it definitely works,” said Margus Hunt, who trained at IMG and was drafted in the second round by the Bengals. “Everything here (in the NFL) is about hand-eye coordination, seeing what’s happening and then reacting to it.”
Helping athletes heal, avoid concussions
The Dynavision D2 has its roots in the Canadian Football League. Phil Jones was at the end of a seven-year career as defensive back for the Edmonton Eskimos when he came into contact with an early version, called the Eyespan.
After training with the device, Jones said he could watch the quarterback release the football and still see and sense where receivers were in his zone. His instincts were at an all-time high, although Jones added “the machine doesn’t make you run faster.”
Jones was so impressed with the board that after he retired from football in 1986, he sought a sales job with the Eyespan’s manufacturer, Monarch America. Monarch officials were unsure what they wanted to do with the product, so asked Jones to make them an offer to buy it. He did for what he now says was “pennies on the dollar.”
Jones took the product and had it re-engineered as the Dynavision 2000. Most of his sales then were to medical and rehabilitation facilities, which used the machine to help patients with visual impairments.
Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital in Malvern, Pa., was one of the first to use the original Dynavision 2000, and now the Dynavision D2, to treat patients with mild traumatic brain injuries. The rehab hospital expects to treat 450 patients with mild traumatic brain injuries this year.
“With that machine, we can engage (patients) in a measurable way to improve their reaction timing, their peripheral processing and their divided attention processing,” said Clint Beckley, occupational therapist at Bryn Mawr. “All of our mild traumatic brain injury patients, especially the athletes, benefit from the machine.”
In addition to treating patients, the board helps prevent concussions by improving an athlete’s peripheral vision and making him more aware of his surroundings. It also helps diagnose mild traumatic brain injuries by measuring that athlete’s ability to see and react.
Because of the light board’s role in avoiding concussions, sales are growing faster than ever.
Based in Toronto, and with 85 percent of his sales in the United States, Jones looked south of the border for facilities that could help grow his business.
TSS Technologies eventually partnered up in summer 2011 by showing Jones that it didn’t just want to manufacture the light boards, it wanted to improve and help sell them with a sports-oriented sales team. Before the partnership, Jones had sold roughly 650 Dynavision 2000 light boards in a 19-year period. Since the partnership, 350 light boards have sold. In 2013, Jones expects to sell between 200 and 300 more.