Sports Optometry and Sports Vision

Published on
December 6, 2023
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Sports Optometry and Sports Vision

In sports, the following phrases are often stated for good reason: “your eyes lead the body”, “keep your eye on the ball" and “you can’t hit what you can’t see”. Your vision makes up 80% of your total perceptual input and is the sense which has the most impact on sports performance.1 Studies have shown that professional athletes have greater visual-perceptual and visual-cognitive skills.2

The following are aspects of vision which can impact an athlete’s visual potential:

Visual accuracy (acuity). This can be measured both statically (black letters on white background) or dynamically (introducing motion).

Ocular dominance. Also known as eye preference, this relates to the eye that preferentially fixates on an object (like being left or right-handed!).

Eye tracking. There are many different types of eye movements that allow an athlete to track a ball, make quick decisions and maintain balance.3 Saccadic eye movements are involved in rapid scanning. Vestibulo-ocular movements assist with balance and coordinate the eyes relative to head movements. Vergence eye movements allow the eyes to track an object as it comes closer or further away (convergence and divergence). Slow pursuits relate to slow and controlled eye movements which track slow moving objects.

Visual memory. The ability to remember details (both short-term and long-term).

Peripheral vision. Used to detect the motion and movement of objects around you. Good peripheral vision can improve anticipation skills and reaction time.

Depth perception. Important for catching, fine motor skills and dynamic situations.5

Refractive correction (Spectacles and Contact Lenses)

Improving your visual acuity has a significant impact on your overall performance. There are many options that someone can use to correct their refractive error, whether it be for myopia, hyperopia or astigmatism.

Spectacles are simple and effective. The provide excellent visual clarity and can be used for impact resistance (eye protection). However, it is important to consider that your field of vision through spectacles may be limited, fogging issues can occur and there are limitations with the types of frames chosen.

Another important consideration is eye protection. Some sports have a much higher risk of eye injuries compared toothers and hence, appropriate eye protection should be worn. They include squash, badminton, baseball, cricket and tennis. Examples of low-risk sports include athletics and cycling.

Contact lenses are a popular choice amongst athletes as they allow for excellent field of view and clarity of vision. Innovative Eye Care is a leading contact lens practice, and our optometrists can fit and design contact lenses suitable for athletes with both simple and highly challenging prescriptions. These include soft disposable contact lenses, rigid gas permeable lenses, scleral lenses, and orthokeratology lenses.

Vision training and Vivid Vision

Vision training involves a series of activities which are individually prescribed to develop or improve a patient’s binocular visual skills. These important visual skills include accommodation (eye focusing), vergence (eye alignment), eye movements and depth perception. If an athlete has deficiency or weakness in one of these skills, improvement of these skills can improve athletic performance.

Innovative Eye Care is the first practice in South Australia to exclusively offer the VividVision virtual reality vision training program. Vivid Vision uses cutting-edge technology to help your eyes work together and improve your 3Dvision. This is particularly relevant for athletes who wish to improve their depth perception, hand-eye coordination and binocular vision skills.

References

1) International Sports Vision Association. Vision and Sports Performance [Internet]. [cited 2021 Sep 8]. Available from: https://www.sportsvision.pro/athletes/vision-and-sports-performance/

2) Appelbaum L, Erickson G. Sports vision training: A review of the state-of-the-art in digital training techniques. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology. 2016 Dec 21;11:1–30.

3) Knudson D, Kluka DA. The Impact of Vision and Vision Training on Sport Performance. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance. 1997 Apr;68(4):17–24.

4) Lopes-Ferreira D, Neves H, Queiros A,Faria-Ribeiro M, Peixoto-de-Matos SC, González-Méijome JM. Ocular Dominance andVisual Function Testing. Biomed Res Int. 2013;2013:238943.

5) Paulus J, Tong J, Hornegger J, Schmidt M,Eskofier B, Michelson G. Extended stereopsis evaluation of professional and amateur soccer players and subjects without soccer background. Front Psychol.2014 Oct 20;5:1186.

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