Sports Vision Training – Realizing an Athlete’s Potential
Eyecarrot is happy to welcome Guest Contributor Dr. Paul Rollett, neuro-developmental optometrist at Okanagan Vision Therapy in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada and Director of Marketing for Canadian Optometrists in Vision Therapy & Rehabilitation (COVT&R).
For any amateur athlete, it is well known that how you perform on game day will be heavily influenced by the style and direction of training you engage in prior to the match. Athletes spend an immense amount of time rehearsing the movements, scenarios and situations that they are likely to encounter – ensuring they are prepared to handle anything the game throws their way. This work can include building endurance, balance and stability, mental preparedness, flexibility, nutritional considerations, and so much more.
In my experience working with athletes, I find that one of the most important neuromuscular systems in the body – the visual system – is unfortunately only briefly considered during training. Given the pace of sports today and the fact that almost every motor output that our body makes is first initiated by the visual system, it is becoming essential for athletes to incorporate a new age of dedicated vision training into their routines.
For many, vision is very much thought of as being somewhat passive in our journey throughout life. We either see things clearly, as “20/20,” or we use corrective devices to help us do so. When you start breaking down the actual dynamics of how we acquire information in sports however, the story starts to get a lot more interesting.
Dynamic Depth Perception
One of the most important, and trainable aspects of our visual system as it relates to sports is something termed dynamic depth perception. Our bodies derive a sense of where things are in space based on very intricate and near-instantaneous calculations made by using our two eyes accurately together. How the two eyes relate to and align with each other while moving is extremely important if someone is hoping to make judgements in depth within fractions of a second. Enhancement of dynamic depth perception is now very much a possibility thanks to tools and technology that allow optometrists to place stress on each eye independently, while ensuring an athlete is able to maintain unified sight. When under visual stress, dynamic depth perception is very commonly one of the first things an athlete loses, making training for this skill absolutely paramount.
When our visual system transitions from viewing a distant target to a near target, there is an extremely rapid, and very much trainable cascade of neuromuscular events that occurs in order to keep the given object in tight focus. Can you imagine how much more effective a goalie or a shortstop could be with a focusing system that adapts to changes 3-4x more accurately than the competition? Nearly every major league baseball player or NHL goaltender has learned this, and incorporated it directly into all of their dryland workouts as a result. If you want to track the ball like Manny Machado or the puck like Carey Price, a dedicated visual training regimen incorporating eye-focus flexibility is absolutely essential.
The rapid movement of our eyes, known as saccades, are the final major area of visual function that an athlete will need to focus their attention on if they hope to maximize output and performance. In order to do this, optometrists are now able to make use of high-tech training devices like our new favourite, the Binovi Touch. Training eye movements is no longer setting up post-it notes on the wall and transitioning your eyes between them. If you really want to see measurable and embedded gains, then variable targets, selective target filtering, adjustable speed and pacing, and balance considerations are paramount. Binovi Touch allows us to do this, along with so much more!
The essence of this article is really to get up and coming athletes to think about just how crucial vision and visual performance is to their success on the field, court or ice. If you want to see a measurable and rapid increase in performance, dedicated vision training is guaranteed to give you that edge over the competition that you desire.