Sports Vision Expert
Scroll down by topic for answers to your sports vision questions
Answered by: Adam Clarin, OD
A: For court awareness I’d work on drills that incorporate peripheral and central vision, while adding in decision making processes, or cognitive load. Obviously with 10-year-olds you’ll need to start slow.
Simple drills can be made more “visual” with small changes. Having players call out the number of fingers you have up from different areas of the court while playing will help with visual awareness. They’ll need to be aware of the play and their teammates while looking at the coach - which forces them to keep their eyes up.
I also add vision drills to existing basketball drills such as dribbling and passing. You can start with a letter grid chart, known as a hart chart, while dribbling. The chart consists of random letters and numbers that require visual scanning. One thing I like to do with that chart is change the dribble sequence depending on the letter as they read through the chart. For example, if there’s a capital letter do a high dribble, lowercase is a low dribble, a number is a crossover, etc. This also works with multiple charts spread out to scan as you do the drill.
Spacing and timing are also important for basketball. I walk the court with the players while counting steps to determine different distances. How many steps from the baseline to the free-throw line? How many from the corner three to the basket? Then add timing. Ok it's 4 steps, can you cover that distance in 6 seconds? How about 3 or 10 seconds? Get them to appreciate space and time.
Another drill I like is to have a player stand on the free-throw line and look at the rim or backboard and keep their eyes on one place. Have four other players move around and without looking away have player at the free-throw call out which players moved and where they are on the court. This drill can really help visual-spatial awareness and memory.
The ISVA website features information on some of the most important visual skills for basketball. You can also check out the ISVA Find a Sports Vision & Performance Professional page and see if one of our members is in your area. Perhaps he/she would be willing to help you with some vision training exercises.
Answered by: Alireza Somji, OD
A baseline sports vision assessment test is fairly uniform amongst most sports. Customization comes more in training programs based on the different visual needs between sports. Since the shuttlecock is one of the fastest recorded moving objects in sports with speeds up to 300mph, the ability to keep the eyes steady at your opponent's point of contact will allow for better tracking as it crosses the net. The trajectory and visual anticipation required to determine the location of the shuttlecock will be different to the trajectory of a basketball or baseball, so we would incorporate more visual tracking, anticipation, eye-hand coordination, and timing drills.
For testing, we would consider an oculomotor tracking system (such as RightEye) and technology such as the Senaptec Sensory Station to measure reaction time, inhibition, perception and several other skills important in badminton.
Answered by: Jarrod Davies, OD, FCOVD
While pickleball and tennis have some similarities, there are certainly a lot of differences as well. While tennis has more movement and large muscle coordination to run the court, pickleball is more about quick movements around your body. Since you are playing in an area much smaller than a tennis court, and usually playing doubles, there is less push to run to the ball.
In addition, the majority of play is done at the kitchen line with you only standing 14-feet away from your opponent. A volley in tennis hit at 75 miles per hour (an average hit for a professional tennis player), would take approximately 709 milliseconds to travel the court length of 78 feet. Obviously, movement has to be precise and predicted to get to the ball in this situation. Players must visually recognize motion patterns of their opponent to accurately predict where the ball will be placed on the court.
Consider now that the pickleball games shorter distance of play can change this reaction time. A hard volley at the kitchen line hit at 40 miles per hour (a speed that can be achieved by most intermediate players) takes only 238 milliseconds to reach a 14-foot distance. This is almost three times as fast as the tennis volley. Reaction time is obviously important and can be trained using sports vision techniques like strobe lenses. In addition, peripheral awareness to understand player positioning, pursuit and saccadic eye movements, and general eye hand coordination would all benefit the pickleball player.
Answered by: Greg Appelbaum, Ph.D.
There is a small, but growing, body of research showing that visual training can improve athletic performance. As reviewed in Laby and Appelbaum (2021), 16 articles have addressed vision training interventions and their effects on sports performance through analysis of changes in on-field statistical production. The majority of these studies have addressed batting sports such as baseball and cricket. While the types of design have varied, over half of the studies showed statistically significant improvements for individuals who underwent vision training interventions indicating that the intervention contributed to improved on-field performance.
Reference: Laby, D. & Appelbaum, L.G. (2021) Vision and On-field Performance: A Critical Review of Visual Assessment and Training Studies with Athletes. Optometry and Vision Science. 98(7):723-731
Answered by: Alireza Somji, OD
Absolutely not! While goalkeepers are the most obvious position on a soccer team that can benefit from eye-hand coordination and reaction training, sports vision and visual performance training incorporates many other skills. Examples include split attention, near-far speed, scanning and searching visual information, visually driven decision making and many other skills. Click here for more on some of the most dynamic skills associated with soccer.
Each position on a soccer pitch has unique visual and cognitive demands. For example, midfielders are constantly in motion and searching and scanning their visual field for opposition players and where they can move the ball for the next pass. Dynamic vision abilities are critical. On the other hand, defenders generally play the game at a slower pace and have a larger field of vision to analyze. Distance depth perception, visual anticipation and many other skills are more important for this position and require different visual performance training protocols.
Every player and every position in a soccer team can benefit from a well-designed sports vision training program! You can use the ISVA “Find a Sports Performance Professional” locator to see if there is a Sports Vision and Performance specialist in your area.
Sports Vision Exams, Testing, and Eyewear Information
Answered by: Frederick R. Edmunds, OD, FAAO
I first suggest that the athlete first talk with his/her eye care professional about the best eyewear option for his/her chosen sport and individual needs. Research suggests that contact lenses provide some benefits over glasses while playing sports.
Different sports offer different levels of injury risk, but no matter the sport and no matter the eyewear option used for everyday wear, wearing the appropriate protective sports eyewear is as important as putting on other protective gear such as helmets and pads. Everyday dresswear eyeglasses, sunglasses, and contact lenses alone don’t offer adequate protection to guard against potential eye injuries and can make an injury worse. More than 90% of sports- and recreation-related eye injuries can be prevented by using appropriate eye and facial protection.1
Sports protective eyewear should be properly fit by an Eye Care Professional. This is particularly important for children. Protective sports eyewear should be designed and manufactured to meet or exceed applicable US (ASTM) impact protection standards. These standards best determine the eyewear’s ability to help prevent an ocular injury in consideration of the unique elements of play and equipment associated with a particular sport. All protective sports eyewear must have polycarbonate lenses, a type of plastic that’s designed to withstand impact, and protect eyes from ultraviolet rays. Regular eyeglasses have only 4 to 5 percent of the impact resistance of polycarbonate of comparable thickness.
Fortunately, there are stylish options available today that don’t look like the protective eyewear of old. For more information on what you need to know about protective eyewear, please refer to ISVA’s Protect. Prevent. Play. program.
- Miller, K et al. Pediatric Sports- and Recreation-Related Eye Injuries Treated in US Emergency Departments, Pediatrics, February 2018 https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/141/2/e20173083
Answered by: Jennifer Stewart, OD
A: Sports Vision testing, or visual performance evaluation, is quite different and more extensive than a typical eye exam and is should be done in addition to (and not as a substitute for) a comprehensive eye exam. Ideally, a visual performance evaluation should be performed by an eye doctor who specializes in this area. There are a number of tests that a sports vision eye doctor can conduct to help identify and address your visual strengths and weaknesses.
For example, peak athletic performance in many sports depends largely on your ability to see and react quickly to objects, such as hitting a baseball, catching a pass, returning a tennis serve or stopping a puck. Some tests can assess how fast you react after you first see an object. By administering a comprehensive visual performance evaluation , your sports vision doctor can evaluate how quickly you can process and react to visual information. Based on this, he/she can prescribe specific exercises to help you develop faster reaction times and improved hand-eye coordination. For more information on some of the visual skills your sports vision eye care doctor can evaluate, click here.