Reaction time isn’t someone you typically worry about when you’re designing a workout routine or buying new equipment. But if you like to play a sport that involves hand-eye coordination, or if you’re simply looking to become a more complete athlete, you might see the appeal. And to explain the potential perks of improved reaction time, we need only look at one of the biggest sports stars in the world: the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry.
At this point it’s almost hard to remember where Stephen Curry was circa 2012. Though he had made an instant impact in his first two seasons with the Warriors, he had also proven to be somewhat fragile. Ankle surgery would force him to miss much of his third season, and soon thereafter he signed a contract extension that, while rich ($44 million) was not what he ultimately wound up being worth. He looked at the time like he would be an above-average player but not a superstar – someone who would deal with injuries but produce when able.
Much of Curry’s success since then has to do with his ankles getting healthy and his body seemingly getting more resilient. But that doesn’t fully explain how he turned from a little bit of a question mark into one of the league’s best players. As we now know, Curry won the MVP award and led the Warriors to the NBA Championship in 2015. He won the award again the following year, and this past summer he was given some of the highest odds to be Finals MVP because he was the highest scorer in three of their four games in the Western Conference Finals. Curry has become a terror on the court, expected to go head-to-head with the best players on the planet for basketball’s highest honors.
And it’s not all because of his ankle, or even his natural shooting ability. Curry, as logic would dictate, has had to work tremendously hard to turn himself from an interesting and entertaining prospect into one of the four or five best players on the planet. And it’s been reported that a lot of that hard work revolved around improving his reaction time.
Studies have actually shown over the years that some of the very best athletes (dating back to Babe Ruth, who was studied at Columbia University) actually do perceive visual stimuli faster than the average person. This was mentioned in an article about Curry’s training success, which also touched on his use of “strobe goggles.” Curry’s goggles came from an ex-Nike employee who explained that the eyes are the window to the brain, and who put together a fairly simple idea: to train those eyes to send information to the brain more efficiently.
In part, Curry has sought to go about this kind of training through something called the FITLIGHT system, which is basically a cluster of discs that can be displayed and made to flash different colors in different sequences. Curry and his trainers design routines that require him to take different actions depending on which colors he sees and when. But strobe goggles, too, are part of the program. They do not flash a strobe light at Curry’s eyes, as you might imagine (which would be unhelpful and potentially even damaging). Rather, they simply limit visual perception in a manner that forces an athlete to learn to react more quickly.
If that sort of training intrigues you, Senaptec – the company run by the aforementioned ex-Nike employee – does sell its goggles to the public. Claiming that they can be integrated into existing training drills and exercises, the company is offering them for $349.00. The goggles are simple in appearance, and even function – the lenses simply flicker between clear and opaque – but they’re just about unique on the sports equipment market at this time.
They won’t exactly turn you into Stephen Curry overnight. But if you like to try new things and you’re interested in bettering your performance for basketball or as an athlete in general, they’re something to check out.