Under the Lights

January 12, 2017

A few years ago, Geoff Clark, ATC, PES, CES, CSCS, Head Athletic Trainer for the Portland Trail Blazers, decided to brighten the team’s game day routine. As a result, along with the standard fare you’d expect with a professional basketball team, the Blazers now use “happy lights” at home and on the road.

Installed in the team's home locker room and brought along when traveling, the lights are comprised of four panels. When placed in the middle of the locker room, the lights can fill the whole space with a bright, cool hue. 

“At first, I used to come in,” Damian Lillard, Blazers All-Star, told Sports Illustrated, wincing for effect. “And be like, ‘Man, it’s bright in here!’”

Although the lights take some getting used to, they’re intended to help the squad avoid Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is partly caused by the body’s production of melatonin, which is impacted by lack of exposure to natural and artificial light.

“By playing close [attention] to the circadian peak, performance professional athletes demonstrate a significant athletic advantage over those who are playing at other times," wrote Patricia Rizzo, Senior Lighting Applications Developer at Philips Lighting, in an email.

Since much of a professional basketball player’s life is spent inside, the lights may help boost performance at key times. To tap into that, the team has them on before games and during halftime.

“We try and have the lights in the locker room at least as bright as the arena,” said Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts. “So that when you come into the locker room at halftime, the lights don’t bring you down.”

The players’ response to the lights has been mixed. Some aren't wild about them. 

“They don’t give me headaches, but I’ve heard some people complain about them,” said center Mason Plumlee.

Others have adjusted and feel like the lights have proven beneficial. 

“I think it wakes you up,” said Lillard. “I feel like it brings a certain type of energy to the locker room, and it’s become a part of our preparation now.”