Sports Vision Testing
Sports Vision testing, or visual performance evaluation, is quite different and more extensive than a typical 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.
Following are just some of the visual skills your sports vision eye care doctor can evaluate (See Sports Vision Glossary of Visual Skills for examples of how these skills pertain to various sports). Depending on your sport and the results of your visual performance evaluation, you may benefit from sports and performance vision training to help you further develop/improve your visual skills.
Optometrists with expertise in sports vision assessment and training, along with other professionals such as ophthalmologists, athletic trainers, and coaches, can work together to train athletes and improve visual function, leading to improved performance on the field of play.
When you visit the eye doctor for an exam, you will be asked to read an eye chart. This familiar test involves reading progressively smaller letters on a chart usually placed 20 feet away.
If you have ‘20/20’ vision it means you can see what the average person sees when they are standing 20 feet away. ‘20/15’ vision is better and means that you can see small objects at 20 feet that the average person can just make out 15 feet. Likewise, ‘20/25’ vision is poorer than ‘20/20’ and what the average person can see at 20 feet, you can just make out at 25 feet. Depending on the results of your eye exam, your eye doctor might prescribe or update your prescription for glasses or contact lenses, or suggest you consider alternate vision correction such as refractive surgery (i.e. LASIK).
“Correcting visual acuity may seem like a simple and obvious step, however we often find that young athletes, in particular, have undetected refractive error that can adversely affect their athletic performance. Providing visual correction is probably the easiest and fastest way to improve an athlete’s performance,” says sports vision specialist Fred Edmunds, OD, FAAO.
Visual Processing Speed and Hand-Eye Coordination
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 evaluates how quickly you can process and react to visual information. Based on this, they can prescribe specific exercises to help you develop faster reaction times and improved hand-eye coordination.
Contrast sensitivity, the ability to quickly identify and track objects against various backgrounds, is an important visual skill for athletes who play in challenging conditions and varying lighting levels. An example of this is baseball or softball players trying to track the ball as it leaves the hand of a pitcher or off the bat of a hitter during a night game under lights.
Several different tests can be used to assess your contrast sensitivity function. If you have poor contrast sensitivity (trouble seeing objects against a similar background, especially in low-light conditions), your sports vision eye doctor may recommend eyeglasses or contact lenses with specific lens tints to help increase visibility, or they may suggest custom optics in your glasses or contact lenses.
An athlete must be able to quickly and accurately locate landmarks and follow objects (i.e., a soccer goalie). There are a number of Eye Tracking tests that your sports vision eye doctor can conduct to assess and improve how well your eyes follow moving objects.
Your eye doctor can perform tests to determine how well your eyes work together and respond to visual stimuli. He/she may perform a test, in which one eye is covered to see how the other eye responds to visual stimuli. Then both eyes are uncovered and observed as they respond to the same stimuli. Alignment problems can be detected and corrected.
Most people have a dominant eye. Knowing which eye is your dominant eye can help you perform better in a variety of activities such as target shooting, archery and golf. Indeed, proper alignment relative to your dominant eye is critical for drives, fairway shots, and putting.
One eye dominance test you can do at home is the Miles Test which involves forming a triangle with your fingers and framing a spot while you look at it through both eyes. By closing one eye and then the other, you can identify your dominant eye as the one that maintains a stable view of the object you have framed.
Depth perception refers to your eyes’ ability to focus in on an object and calculate approximately how far away it is. If you consistently over- or underestimate the distance to your target, testing may reveal that poor depth perception is the reason. Athletes, such as football and soccer players, must be able to quickly and accurately judge the distance between themselves and the ball, their opponents, teammates and out-of-bounds lines.