Sports Vision Needs of an Athlete

Posted By Key-Whitman Eye Center || 26-Mar-2013

athletesvision1Athletes -- whether youth, amateur or professional -- have a unique set of vision requirements, depending on his or her sport. Depth perception, acuity and peripheral vision are a few examples of the elements of vision an athlete requires to perform well in his or her specific sport.

An athlete’s ability to perform at his or her best in any given sport is largely determined not only by skill and athletic ability, but visual skills as well. And it’s about more than simply having 20/20 vision. Sports vision needs vary based on how the sport is played and position of the body in regards to a target or ball.

Batting consistency, for a baseball player, may be influenced by the player’s depth perception or hand-eye coordination. Basketball players, tennis players and wide receivers may perform better if they develop strong Dynamic Visual Acuity -- acuity when looking at a moving target. Offensive and defensive linemen, as well as basketball players, will play better when they have good peripheral vision.

If you are an athlete, at your next eye exam, ask your doctor to test your vision as it relates to your particular sport. There are a number of sports vision tests that can be used to determine an athlete’s visual performance. These tests look at visual acuity (testing for 20/20 vision), hand-eye coordination, depth perception, eye tracking, eye dominance, visual memory and sensitivity to contrast.

Visual Acuity -- The Snellen Eye Chart is used to identify an individual’s visual acuity. This is the standard lettering chart, place on a wall 20 feet away. In ability to read the letters may indicate a refractive error, which can be corrected with prescription eyeglasses, contact lenses or LASIK eye surgery.

Contrast Sensitivity -- Your eye doctor may ask you to identify the orientation of parallel gray stripes against a background. The color of the background gradually changes to match the color of the stripes. People with poor contrast sensitivity will have difficulty seeing objects against a particular background. Eyeglasses with tinted lenses may be prescribed to help improve contrast sensitivity.

Eye Tracking -- Testing how well your eyes follow motion. There are various methods of testing eye tracking. These same tests may also be used to help improve eye tracking.

Eye Dominance -- Eye dominance tests determine which eye your brain relies on more for vision. The Dolman Method may be used to test eye dominance. During this test, you will be instructed to keep your eyes focused on an object as it moves closer to you. The eye that loses focus on the object first is the less-dominant eye.

Depth Perception -- Depth perception tests, such as the Howard-Dolman Apparatus, test how well you perceive the location of two objects at varying distances and in relation to each other.

Eye Teaming -- How well your eyes work together may also influence your performance in a particular sport. Eye teaming tests, such as the Saladin Near Point Balance Card, will determine how well your eyes work together by measuring how precisely each eye is able to fixate on a target, and how well both eyes work together to achieve focus at varying distances.

Sports Vision Specialists focus their work on helping determine an athlete’s unique vision needs, and in helping the athlete strengthen visual performance. Many of the above tests may be conducted in your ophthalmologist’s office at your next eye exam. To schedule a comprehensive eye exam, contact the Key-Whitman Eye Center today.

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