Brain science for athletes is getting more attention, not only as scrutiny over concussion testing becomes greater with reports of long term damage to pros but also as brain training becomes more professionalized.
On Tuesday, a company called HeadTrainer is unveiling an app for Apple and android systems that is the first sports based app and offers to train the brain in the areas of focus and concentration, visual and spatial awareness, processing speed, memory and decision making.
"Everyone is looking for that edge there's only so far you can go with talent and your physical traits," said Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista, who along with golfer Rickie Fowler, race car driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., football player Richard Sherman and soccer player Alex Morgan, among others, is endorsing the new tool. "The mental part of the game is the hardest to explain because you can feel it and, the sense was that until now you couldn't practice it like having pitches thrown to you or fielding fly balls."
Bautista said that he has noticed the trend of more teams hiring mental coaches, but that methods used are always trusted by athletes.
"I play in a sport where failing 70 percent of the timing could get you into the Hall of Fame," Bautista said. "In other sports you have to be good 70 percent of the time. It's a mental grind and a lot of guys can't make it."
The Charlotte-based company run by entrepreneur Rick Sabath went to the Duke Sports Science Institute to build the app, which has 15 games and is broken down into 10 sports.
"We know through concussion tests and brain exercises with the elderly that you can train your brain," Sabath said. "For so long athletes at every level have known about training and about nutrition, but have spent little time on the mental game."
In 2012, SharpBrains, a market tracking company focusing on digital health business was worth $1 billion and would likely be worth $6 billion by 2020.
The momentum is evident. Stack Velocity Performance Centers recently teamed up with Axon Sports, which focuses on brain training and Red Bull has been proactively working with its athletes accessing the brain performance of those it sponsors.
The HeadTrainer app is free to download, but offers a $4.99 monthly subscription to do more advanced training. Athletes who are putting their name behind the app have been compensated both in cash and an equity stake in the company.