Introduction and Background
Visual Occlusion is the process of limiting the vision of an object, limb or critical information source from the visuomotor workspace. Visual occlusion can be used in sport as a training tool to improve an athlete’s skill level. Previous research conducted using CU Sports occlusion goggles in basketball showed a significant improvement in basketball players’ gaze behaviour while dribbling a basketball. Improving athletes’ gaze behaviour allows them to scan the game environment in front of them more effectively in order to make more informed decisions on the next play. However, more research was required to determine the impact of the CU Sports occlusion goggles on the movement of a basketball player’s upper limbs during the dribble as the goggles removed the vision of their arms.
Fifteen male basketball players, with a minimum of 10 years playing experience, were recruited for this study. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: CU Sports occlusion goggles (OCC), Practice (PRA), and Control (CON). Full body kinematic markers and an eight camera (MX13+) Vicon motion analysis system was used to analyse the participants while they performed the basketball dribble. The study design consisted of a pretest, an acquisition phase (400 dribble sequences), a post-test and a 2-day retention test. Participants were instructed to complete a crossover dribble sequence in a forward motion consisting of two dribbles with the same hand, followed by a third dribble across their body. This sequence was repeated twice per trial with 5 trials per test session. Each participant was counterbalanced to prevent limb dominance bias.
A 3-group x 3-test ANOVA was conducted to measure the impact of the acquisition phase on the participant’s movements. There was a significant improvement in kinematic movement for the OCC group in elbow angles of the dominant and non-dominant side from pre-test to post-test (p < 0.05) and from pre-test to retention test (p < 0.05) demonstrating a practice effect. No significant improvement was found from post-test to retention test (p > 0.05) demonstrating a learning effect. A learning effect is critical when analysing the movement of a skill as without a learning effect the improvements in performance are not retained. There was no significant improvement evident for elbow angles for the PRA group (p > 0.05) or the CON group (p > 0.05) across any test.
As the results show, training with CU Sports occlusion goggles positively impacts the movement of basketball players’ upper limbs during the basketball dribble. This improvement in movement gives the basketball players more control of the ball while they are dribbling. Having more control over the ball while dribbling increases the players’ skill level which allows the players to perform better in game situations. In addition, this study provides evidence that the CU Sports occlusion goggles are an effective skill acquisition practice tool that may result in a positive transfer of skills from the training environment to game situations.
Future Research and Applications
The current study has revealed findings in favour of the CU Sports occlusion goggles to improve the skill level of basketball players. However, future research could determine whether the goggles also impact other sports such as soccer or hockey. In these sporting examples, accurately anticipating the flight of a football or hockey ball while maintaining gaze on the game environment can give an athlete a significant competitive advantage. Previous research on anticipation in soccer suggested that high skilled participants performed significantly better than low skilled participants when controlling a passed football (Davids et al., 2002). It would be interesting to analyse the impact of the CU Sports occlusion goggles on the anticipation of a football in soccer. The question remains … could the use of these occlusion goggles in practice environments bridge the gap between low skilled and high skilled participants?
Skill Acquisition Research Group, Dept. of Sport, Leisure & Childhood Studies, Cork Institute of Technology.
Davids, K., Savelsbergh, G., Bennett, S. and Van der Kamp, J. (2002). Interceptive actions in sport: Information and Movement. London: Routledge