Gracie Robbins, Shelby Tidwell, Rebecca R. Rogers, Nathan East, Amanda Dumar, Ashleigh Davis, Ashley Rice, Christopher G. Ballmann, FACSM. Samford University, Birmingham, AL.

BACKGROUND: Football helmet visors have been added as safety accessories to helmet facemasks in efforts to mitigate ocular injury. Recent rule changes have banned tinted visors while clear visors are generally accepted as legal. We have previously shown that dark tinted helmet visors impair peripheral visuomotor ability in collegiate players. However, athletes were stationary when completing reaction time tests which may not translate to actual gameplay. PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to identify how clear and tinted visors influence agility and functional reactive ability in NCAA football players. METHODS: Division 1 NCAA football players with normal/corrected to normal vision participated. In a randomized manner, participants completed reactive tests for the following conditions: Baseline/no helmet (BL), Helmet + Clear visor (HCV), Helmet + Smoke tinted visor (HSV), Helmet + Mirrored visor (HMV). For each condition, participants completed two reactive tests using a FITLIGHT trainer system: reactive reach test (RRT) and reactive step test (RST). For the RRT, 5 poles equipped with a total of 10 LED sensors were placed in a semi-circle 1 meter around a center point. Participants were asked to step and reach to hit 10 lights with their hands as fast as possible. For the RST, 5 LED sensors were place on the ground in a semi-circle pattern 1 meter around a center point. Participants were asked to step and hit each sensor with their foot to hit 5 lights as fast as possible. Each reactive test was repeated for a total of 3 attempts. Average reaction time and time to test completion (TTC) were analyzed and compared between visor conditions. RESULTS:HCV (p< 0.001), HSV (p< 0.001), and HMV (p<0.001) conditions resulted in slower reaction time during RRT compared to BL. TTC was significantly increased during the HCV (p< 0.001), HSV (p< 0.001), and HMV (p<0.001) conditions versus BL. However, no differences existed between visor conditions (p> 0.05). For the RST, reaction time was slower during HCV (p= 0.028), HSV (p= 0.038), and HMV (p= 0.017) conditions versus BL. TTC was significantly higher during the HCV (p= 0.010), HSV (p= 0.009), and HMV (p=0.007) versus BL. No differences existed between facemask conditions (p> 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: Regardless of visor condition, wearing a football helmet impaired functional reactive ability and agility performance. However, visor tint did not exacerbate functional reactive ability. These findings highlight the need for new helmet designs which may not obstruct lines of sight to maintain player safety and performance in collegiate football players.

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