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Can Vision Be Trained to Improve Sports Performance?

Runner stretching on bridgeTo detect the exact angle of a tennis ball in midday glare, observe the subtle movements of a goalie or focus accurately on a target, you need great visual skills.

How Vision Affects the Performance of an Athlete

Many athletes find that in spite of consistent exercise and hard work, something is preventing them from reaching their goals. Often, it’s their visual system.

In those with a healthy visual system, the eyes accurately relay images to the brain, which quickly turns these messages into actions, such as positioning your arm and hands to catch a ball. This eye-brain-body communication is dependent on the following visual skills:

  • Eye focusing: smoothly changing the focus from object to object
  • Depth perception: detecting the speed and distance of objects
  • Eye-hand or eye-body coordination: the ability to react efficiently to what one sees
  • Eye-tracking: tracking a moving object
  • Dynamic visual acuity: seeing moving objects clearly
  • Peripheral awareness: detecting things in the corner of your eye

Good depth perception helps you gauge the distance between you and the basket, while poor peripheral awareness makes it harder to see players approaching from the side. Proper eye tracking and dynamic visual acuity help you follow the action on the field and hit a target.

Yet even the best visual skills won’t help an athlete if their eyesight isn’t clear. That’s where glasses and contact lenses come into play.

What Glasses and Contact Lenses Are Best for Sports?

If you wear prescription glasses, you should also have a pair of sports glasses to use while you train or participate in a game or a race. Eyewear designed for sports:

  • Maximize vision so you can see clearly for your best performance
  • Prevents eye injuries due to a fast-moving ball or even an errant finger from an opposing player, potentially leading to vision loss
  • Reduces glare all year round

Glasses with silicone padding can keep debris from making contact with your eyes. Choose polarized glasses to reduce glare from reflected light, such as off water, snow or a road surface, or photochromic lenses that will automatically darken as your surroundings get brighter. Impact-resistant lenses can add to the durability and strength of your sports glasses, which are often recommended for intense activity.

Which Contacts Are Best for Sports?

Some contact lenses can be more versatile and comfortable than eyeglasses for sports. They don’t slip, as glasses sometimes do, and may improve your peripheral vision. To protect your eyes from debris, glare or impact, you may need to wear additional protective eyewear or sunglasses along with contact lenses.

Soft contact lenses are often used for sports since they move less on the eye, but some athletes prefer gas-permeable lenses because they may provide clearer vision and offer improved eye health for some patients. Check with your eye doctor which type of contact lenses are best for you based on your vision correction needs and the sports you play.

For less glare and greater color contrast, you may want to consider custom-tinted soft contact lenses. These lenses filter light rays in a way similar to certain tinted optical lenses that may help you see a ball or a target more accurately.

For example, amber tints can be helpful for people who play tennis, soccer, and baseball, while gray-green are sometimes recommended for golf, biking and running.

Can Sports Vision Training Improve Athletic Performance?

Just as you lift weights, run hills and do calisthenics to build your strength, endurance and flexibility, you can get your eyes into shape with sports vision training. A sports vision optometrist can help you improve your visual skills by prescribing exercises to hone your ability to focus, track objects, perceive objects in motion and at the periphery.

How Does Sports Vision Training Work?

A customized sports vision training program helps athletes of all ages and abilities boost the visual skills they need to excel at their chosen sports. During a comprehensive eye exam, your optometrist will assess both your eyesight and your visual skills. Your eye doctor will then prescribe a personalized program of eye exercises to sharpen your skills based on the exam results, the sports you play as well as your goals.

Studies have shown that sports vision training enhances an athlete’s ability to react faster and more efficiently by improving visual skills. In fact, it's now an integral part of many sports programs.

Discover ways to boost your visual system so you’re in top shape for the next big game or race. To learn more or speak with a sports vision training eye care professional, contact The Vision Development Team today!

Frequently Asked Questions with Dr. Alexandar Andrich

Q: What are the most common eye injuries sustained in sports?

  • A: Among the most common eye injuries in sports are:
    - Eyelid bruises
    - Eye punctures
    - Eye scratches. These injuries can result from an impact, or debris getting into or penetrating the eye. Some can lead to permanent vision loss while others may only need superficial treatment. Either way, an eye doctor should assess all eye injuries.
  • According to a study done by the University of Cincinnati Division of Sports Medicine, football players who had undergone sports vision training to improve their peripheral vision sustained fewer injuries than those who did not do it.
  • This is because sports vision training helps the eyes and brain react more quickly to changes in the environment, resulting in more successes and fewer accidents.

Q:  Is Sports Vision Training exclusively for professional athletes?

  • A: The best thing about sports vision training is that it can help both amateur and professional athletes take their game to the next level. This includes children, teens as well as adults.

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