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Sports Vision

Playing a sport is a complex, dynamic, and coordinated effort between the eyes, body, brain, and often, other players. One must have the skills to efficiently move the body, react to external stimulus, judge time and space, and carry out various specialized operations for their chosen sport. As vision guides understanding and reactions within the sports environment, efficient vision is crucial to an athlete’s performance

Tennis Racket

The visual skills needed for sports go far beyond the ability to see clearly (e.g., 20/20 sight—while this is critical for keen sports vision, so are many other skills related to the eye and brain connection). Sports vision assessment and training will include visual skills and abilities such as:

  • Binocular vision 

  • Eye fixation, tracking, and fast and rapid eye movements

  • Dynamic visual acuity

  • Focusing or accommodative skills

  • Peripheral vision 

  • Depth perception and/or stereopsis

  • Proper coordination of the eyes, hands, feet, and whole body 

  • Reaction time and ability

  • Sensitivity to contrast and such sensitivity in dim lighting

  • Visual attention and concentration

  • Visual memory 

  • Visualization 

An athlete’s visual abilities affect their performance levels. Vision skills are an integral, crucial, and often overlooked part of skilled, high-quality sports competencies. Accurate visual input, processing, and information output to the body helps an athlete perform at their very best. Signs that an athlete may be challenged by a binocular or other vision issue can include:

  • Frequently bumping into or colliding with other players

  • Inability to properly judge the speed, timing, or spatial placement of a ball (e.g., frequently misses the ball with the bat- swinging too soon or too late)  

  • Peripheral awareness difficulties (e.g., not aware of what is happening around oneself, not noticing objects or sounds in the peripheral environment, etc.)

  • Difficulty tracking (with eyes), throwing, or catching a ball

  • Reactions to visual stimulus slower than expected (e.g., reacting too slowly to a ball or object coming towards oneself)

  • Feeling visual strain from performing during sports

 

What can an athlete do to improve performance if a vision issue is suspected?

Sports vision training is available to any athlete wishing to improve or enhance their performance.  It involves special tools, devices, and exercises prescribed by an optometric vision professional and tailored to the needs of the athlete. Sports vision training exercises often focus on improving the athlete’s speed and accuracy of eye, hand, foot, and body movements, reaction time (and accurate and timely reactions to stimulus in the environment...e.g., moving targets, lights, balls, etc.), and binocular visual processing skills.

 

The visual-motor and processing skills exercises help to develop peak visual performance for the athlete within their sport. Training, strengthening, and enhancing an athlete’s visual skills boosts sports achievements in different ways than other types of sports training can. 

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