Sunday marked Teddy Bridgewater’s first time suiting up in full uniform since suffering a career-threatening knee injury in August 2016. During pregame, the Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback, clearly overcome with emotion, covered his face with a towel as cameras panned over him.
Bridgewater went through the most grueling rehab process an athlete could endure. After all, he could have lost his leg. Central to his progress in getting mental reps while he’s been out has been the use of virtual reality — something Minnesota started using in 2015 thanks to a partnership with STRIVR.
VR, especially in Bridgewater’s case, has begun to play a crucial role in helping football players prepare for action. By using 360-degree cameras to capture practice, players can throw on a headset and pour over immersive first-person film.
“I would definitely steal reps with the virtual reality that we do around here,” Bridgewater told reporters last week. “Especially when I wasn’t practicing, I would go in and watch Wednesday’s practice, Thursday’s practice and Friday’s practice and, you know, steal those virtual reps and it helped.”
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It took nearly 14 months for Bridgewater to be cleared for full practice, meaning there was plenty of time to spend wearing a VR headset. Luckily, the Vikings facility is equipped with a room solely dedicated to VR.
“They actually have a room at the facility to where a player can move around a little bit and feel as if he’s on the field,” STRIVR CEO Derek Belch told KARE 11. “Is he throwing a ball? Is he sweating? No, but he’s doing things at 10, 20 percent speed, going through the mental mechanics along with the physical mechanics that made his brain feel like he’s there.”
Bridgewater could regain his starting role for the Vikings. If so, it would be much in part to the work he did with STRIVR’s technology.
The Vikings were the fourth NFL team to reach a deal with STRIVR and many have since followed suit. You can listen here to Belch discuss football VR training on a September edition of the SportTechie Podcast.