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Role of vision in sighted and blind soccer players in adapting to an unstable balance task

Abstract

This study tested whether a compensatory hypothesis exists on postural control during standing unstable balance tasks comparing blind soccer players (n = 7) to sighted soccer players (n = 15) and sighted sedentary individuals (n = 6). All subjects performed a pre-test, a training of ten practice trials on a single day, and a post-test balance test. All tests were performed on an unstable surface placed on a force platform and under closed-eyes conditions, and a final test was performed with open eyes. Balance performance was assessed by resultant distance (RD) and the magnitude of mean velocity (MV) of the centre of pressure (CoP) displacement, and EMG signals from the gastrocnemius lateralis, tibialis anterior, rectus femoris, and peroneus longus were measured with surface electromyography. Principal component analysis (PCA) on EMG muscular activation was used to assess EMG pattern differences during the balance tasks. All groups improved their performance, obtaining low scores for the closed-eyes condition balance task after the training period in RD, VM, and aids received to keep balance in the novel task, and no differences were found between groups or in interaction effects. Sighted individuals and the control group showed significantly lower RD and VM scores under open-eyes conditions than blind participants. As regards neuromuscular behaviour, three principal patterns explained 84.15% of the variability in the measured data. The theoretical improvement of the other senses caused by visual deprivation does not allow blind individuals to obtain better balance than sighted individuals under closed-eyes conditions, thereby reinforcing the prominent role of vision in integrating and processing the other sensory inputs. In addition, blind individuals seem to increase their muscular co-activation as a safety strategy, but this behaviour is not different to that shown by sighted people under closed-eyes conditions.

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Correspondence to Raúl Reina.

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Campayo-Piernas, M., Caballero, C., Barbado, D. et al. Role of vision in sighted and blind soccer players in adapting to an unstable balance task. Exp Brain Res 235, 1269–1279 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-017-4885-8

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Keywords

  • Compensatory hypothesis
  • Balance
  • Brain plasticity
  • Electromyography
  • Principal component analysis