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In sports, vision has the potential to affect an athlete’s performance. Sports Vision, the science of helping athletes reach peak levels of performance through the enhancement of visual skills, is becoming more and more important in training individuals of many sports. Athletes that use their visual system to its maximum potential will gain optimal performance and a competitive edge.

Optometrists with expertise in sports vision assessment and training, along with other professionals such as ophthalmologists, athletic trainers, and coaches work together to train athletes and improve visual function, leading to improved performance.

If you have a question about how improving visual function may help lead to improved performance in the sport(s) you play, please submit your question below.  ISVA will not answer all questions nor will we respond directly to you, but we will post questions and responses and archive them here.


Ask a Sports Vision Expert is a feature of the International Sports Vision Association (ISVA).  Content is provided for educational and informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. ISVA does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, or procedures. We encourage you to direct any questions you have concerning your personal health to licensed physicians or other appropriate health care professionals.  In no event shall ISVA be liable for any decision made or action taken in reliance on the information contained therein.

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Q: I know that eating the right combination of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats will give me energy for top performance. But how can what I eat help me sustain optimal visual performance for the sports I play?

Answered by:  James M. Stringham, Ph.D.

High-level visual performance doesn’t always line up with overall physical fitness…in fact, even among professional athletes, there is a wide range of capability for measures such as visual processing speed /reaction time, contrast sensitivity, and visual performance in glare.  Most people believe that this range must be due primarily to variability in visual acuity – in other words, some athletes just need their vision corrected with eyeglasses or contacts.

Interestingly, however, even after refractive correction (i.e., glasses or contacts), many athletes still struggle with the above performance measures.  The reason?  Vision is not solely optical in nature – there is a substantial contribution to vision by neural tissues – the retina and brain.  In other words, no matter how well-focused an image is, it must be processed by the retina (in the back of the eye) and sent to the brain for further processing to ultimately produce visual experience.

So, what can you do to improve the processing of the retina and brain?  Provide these tissues with the special nourishment that they require – nutrients that, if consumed in adequate amounts, accumulate in high concentrations in neural tissues that serve vision.  Specifically, the micronutrients lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin have been found to have significant, meaningful effects on performance-related visual metrics.  These nutrients are found in dark, leafy-green vegetables and other colored fruits and vegetables – foods that we typically don’t get enough of on a consistent basis.

And consistency is the key here, placebo-controlled studies have shown that consistent, daily supplementation with these nutrients produce dramatic, significant improvements in visual processing speed, reaction time, vision in glare, and contrast sensitivity.  There is now a wealth of data from the past 25 years to support the use of these nutrients to improve visual and cognitive health and performance; some of the study populations have included athletes and high-level military personnel.  Carbs, fats, and protein are macronutrients, and can certainly produce energy and muscle.  But the magic is in the micronutrients lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin.

You can learn more about sports nutrition for your eyes here.