It may be rather cold outside today but as the warmer weather this past weekend reminded us spring is just around the corner. I know for many young athletes this means the start of spring sports such as baseball and soccer. Do your children have the best possible vision to improve their performance on the field. This is what I want to talk about today.
Your first question is likely what visual skills are important in sports? There really are three big ones. The first is hand eye coordiantion, the ability for your eyes to predict and react to a moving object. This would be the baseball player in the batters box. Another is depth perception, know where an object is located in relation to another. This would be the soccer player knowing where they are compared to other players or the goal. The last is eye tracking, the eyes ability to move and follow an object. This would be any athlete tracking the ball as it moves across the field.
The next may be what makes a sports vision exam different from a regular exam? All examinations start by determining visual acuity. This is normally represented by a number such as 20/20. While 20/20 may be good enough for most situation in sports we want to maximize vision to better than 20/20 if possible as this can improve things such as hand eye coordination or contrast sensitvity, the ability to distingush an item from the background. Another test that is important to the athlete is eye tracking, this would equate to the ability to predict which way the ball is moving and where it will be when you need to hit it or when it lands. We also want some information on depth perception as this tells us how accurate the athlete can judge where they are compared to the ball or a teammate.
The last would be what can be done to improve your sports vision? In some cases a precription may be written just for sports use to gain better acuity to improve depth perception or gain quicker hand eye coordination. This can be to correct for small errors with common problems such as nearsightedness or astigmatism. It could also include the addition of tints to improve your contrast sensitivity in certain situations. In other cases we may work with your trainer to do some vision training. These can be simple at home exercises to adjust diffent areas of the visual system. One exercise would be focus flexability, the ability to qucikly refocus when looking at different distances. Another common one is peripheral awareness or the ability to know what is going on around you without having to turn your head. One other skill that can improve with training is depth perception, to be able to more distinctly judge where two items are in relation to one another.