It is easy to take healthy eyes and clear vision for granted. However, one area in which our visual skills need to be more on point than ever is when we are playing sport. Studies estimate that as much as 80% of perceptual input in sport comes from our vision. Unsurprisingly, this means that having a clear, accurate vision and strong visual skills is essential when it comes to participating in sports activities, particularly if you are a professional athlete. From accurately determining the speed that you are traveling to the speed of a ball coming towards you, to estimating how high you need to jump or how far you must throw, there are many different decisions that you need your vision to help you make, and sometimes, these decisions must be made within a split second as you need to react to what is happening around you.
All patients are recommended to attend regular comprehensive eye exams that check the health and condition of your eyes as well as how clearly you can see. However, if you are serious about the sport, whether you are an amateur or professional athlete, you may also want to ask about an additional service that is known as sports vision testing.
Sports vision testing is carried out to help athletes to determine how well their eyes perform in the specific visual skills needed in sporting activities. In particular, they focus on dynamic visual skills, which as their name suggests, focus on how well you can see moving objects and the world around you when it is you that is moving at speed. Hand-eye coordination and reflex reactions form the cornerstone of these visual skills and strengthening these can significantly enhance your athletic performance.
Some of the skills and capabilities that will be assessed as part of sports vision testing include the following:
Binocular vision skills: how well your eyes work in synchronization with one another.
Choice reaction time: when there are two or more possible stimuli requiring different responses.
Contrast sensitivity: the visual ability to distinguish an object from its background.
Dynamic visual acuity: this refers to the clarity of vision while in motion or while tracking a moving object.
Eye movement speed: this is how quickly you can track a moving object such as a tennis ball.
Processing speed: this refers to the time it takes for a person to understand and react to information that they receive, whether visual, auditory or movement.
Simple reaction time: the minimal time needed to respond to a stimulus, which is the basic measure of processing speed.
Smooth visual pursuit: this test involves monitoring how well your eyes can follow an object that is moved across your full range of horizontal and vertical eye movements.
Visual concentration: this refers to how long a person can maintain their levels of visual concentration.
The information obtained from carrying out each of these tests will then be collated to determine if there are any areas where athletes could have their visual skills improved. The good news is that if there is room for improvement, these can often be made simply by performing specific exercises that are designed to enhance the way in which the eyes work. Exactly which exercises you will be recommended will depend on the visual skills that could be improved, and which would then benefit your athletic performance. For example, it could be that your eyes could work together more effectively, in which case you would be given exercises that work on your eye teaming skills. The personal exercise plan that you are recommended will be explained to you in detail by your eye doctor.
If you would like to learn more about sports vision testing or to schedule an appointment, please get in touch with our expert team in St. Marys, OH.