Take Your Game to the Next Level
By Alicia Feis, O.D.
What is sports vision training?
Sports vision training (also known as sports vision therapy) helps athletes of all ages and all skill levels to enhance reaction time, awareness and overall visual performance.
For the athlete, seeing is more than just a clear image or, as most people refer to it, “20/20 vision.” Vision provides the athlete with information regarding the when and where to perform. Vision also helps us to process what is going on and make body movements in response to what has been seen.
A pro baseball player couldn’t catch a ball any better than a toddler if he couldn’t see it coming. The athlete must be able to clearly assess the playing field, and the eyes must maintain a clear single image so he can fixate and follow an object or person to guide his next reactionary movements.
The speed at which all of these activities occur can make the difference between an athlete that competes at a high school level and one that competes at the professional level.
• Catching or throwing while wearing strobe glasses to enhance hand-eye coordination, visual attention and judgment of depth
• Utilizing an electronic touchscreen to gain peripheral awareness and reaction times
• Performing tasks along with the beat of a metronome to improve conditioning and decrease performance anxiety
• Swinging a bat using speed track equipment with lighting that provides feedback on timing
Who is a candidate for sports vision training?
Anyone who has the motivation to work on or improve in any sporting activity would be an ideal candidate. The sports vision athlete must have time, motivation, and commitment to be successful in a treatment program. In sports vision therapy, like any therapy, it takes hard work to get excellent results. The great thing about sports vision therapy is that we can take people with all levels of ability and enhance their visual systems to be more efficient.
Would children benefit from this?
Yes! If children want to improve their performance on the playing field to be more competitive in either a single or group sport, sports vision training would be an excellent option.
Who goes through sports vision training?
Common participants in sports vision training include professional athletes who want to improve their skills and advance their careers for more playing time and prestige. Often, those who go through training are children and adults who want to be more coordinated to be able to join a team or friendly neighborhood game.
What should first-timers expect from the training?
A sports vision therapy program will work on specific skills geared toward the athlete’s particular sport. Many of the goals of the treatment plans will include improving reaction time, peripheral cues, focusing accuracy, visual attention, and visual feedback. The ultimate goal is to make the skills for success effortless, so when out on the field in the heat of the moment, the athlete can have the confidence knowing he or she accomplished that skill before with great accuracy and ease. Overall, the therapy involves hard work, and improvement may not be instantaneous, but reaction time and awareness of visual performance will ultimately improve.
Remember, any athlete that participates in sports needs to always think about protective eyewear and injuries associated with sports. Any injury to the eye needs to seen by an eye care professional to ensure that there has not been any damage to visual function or visual function in the future.
Alicia Feis, O.D., is the Assistant Director of Clinical Rotations at the Midwestern University Eye Institute, 19379 North 59th Avenue, Glendale, AZ. Call 623-537-6000 for more information.