On Sunday, during the EPL match between Arsenal and Manchester United, David De Gea, Manchester United’s goalkeeper, was said to be the man of the match, as he pulled off an incredible save after another, throughout the game. In as much as we can say its luck or he’s just good at what he does, it still emphasized on why good reflexes are very important.
A reflex is an involuntary motor response to a sensory stimulus. For example, if you scream when you touch a hot pot, or when a light shines into your eyes, your pupils quickly dilate appropriately to adjust to the level of light and focus on what’s in front of you, or even when there is a loud, sudden, unexpected sound nearby, you startle. Reflexes perform many jobs for our central nervous system. They protect us from danger, they help us move our body, they help us see, etc. Reflexes begin before we are born, and they even help us through the process of making our way out of our mother’s body.
Reflexes are in the lower regions of the brain, most of them in the medulla oblongata and the pons. Because reflexes are involuntary responses, they should be instant. We don’t take time to think about how we will respond, it just happens automatically. We sometimes call these responses the “fight or flight” system.
Ever wondered why your leg kicks, when the doctor taps your knee with that little rubber hammer? It’s because of your reflex. The reflex the doctor checks by tapping your knee is called the ‘Patellar’, or knee-jerk, reflex. It is the body’s automatic attempt to correct for an imbalance that could otherwise, cause it to fall over. It is also known as a deep tendon reflex (DTR) because the doctor is actually tapping on a tendon called the patellar tendon. This tap stretches the tendon and the muscle in the thigh that connects to it. A message then gets sent to the spinal cord that the muscle has been stretched.
Good reflexes do a lot that saves us from lots of trouble in our day-to-day life, and in some sports, good reflexes can mean even more than winning or losing.
Most boxers during training, make use of a ‘reaction ball’, is a 6-sided small ball that bounces in unpredictable directions that will help to improve your hand-to-eye coordination, reaction, reflexes and quickness of your hands and feet. There are a variety of different exercises that you can do with this handy piece of equipment, but you would need somewhere spacious.
Goalkeepers have intriguing ways of improving their reflexes. A video surfaced online, recently, of veteran Petr Czech, Arsenal’s goalkeeper, working on his reactions. The legendary Czech was made to tap colour-coded cones before catching table tennis balls fired at him, with next to no time between shots. He succeeds every time. All professional goalkeepers spend hours practising their routines, some use fairly regular drills, while others think outside the box.
Of course, not only goalkeepers work so hard to improve their reflexes, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg of the Mercedes Formula 1 team used a Batak machine, which makes the user respond to lights by tapping a button, and the slightly less high-tech method of throwing apples at each other, to improve their response time.
Check out these few ideas on how to improve your reflexes
Play a video game. This is a fun exercise that helps keep your senses sharp.
Play dodgeball with a partner.
Try playing the table tennis.
Run a nature trail.
You can also pick any sport you enjoy doing and practise regularly.