Vision Therapy for Sports
Visual skills play a fundamental role in our ability to play sports. Research reveals that 80% learning comes from the visual system; this percentage increases when playing sports because eyes direct the dynamic movement of the body. Many patients who come to us for reading difficulties realize that their sports performance improves as well. This is due to the fact that some types of vision disorders, which can also make reading and learning difficult, often interfere with sports performance.
Sports Vision Assessment of “binocular vision” is critical for an athlete to attain maximum sports performance. The assessment evaluates how quickly and efficiently eyes track, focus and aim under stress. Even a minor deficit or delay in eye muscle movement can greatly affect the ability to process visual information and judge the depth perception that allows quick reactions.
Sports vision training is done on a sport-specific basis with a custom tailored program for each sport and athlete. The eyes learn to move more accurately and quickly, and we train the brain to visualize and project movements in both space and time.
For example, a program for a tennis player will concentrate on eye-hand coordination and dynamic visual acuity in up gaze, whereas a program for a golfer will emphasize visual alignment in down gaze and depth perception to see the breaks in the greens.
Binocular vision assessment more accurately reveals one’s visual potential than simply reading letters on an eye chart. There are 17 other visual skills required for maximum sports performance; “20/20” eyesight is only one of them.
Visual Skills Necessary for Maximum Sports Performance
- Eye-Hand or Eye-Body Coordination: the ability to use eyes to effectively direct the movement of our hands/body
- Dynamic Visual Acuity: seeing moving objects clearly
- Eye Tracking: ability to “keep the eye on the ball”
- Eye Focusing: ability to change focus from one object to another quickly and clearly
- Visual Reaction Time: ability to react quickly to moving objects
- Peripheral Vision: seeing out of the corner of the eye
- Depth Perception: ability to quickly and accurately judge the distance and speed of objects
Athletes that have trouble taking their sport to the next level even after stepping up their training regimen may have a visual problem. Depending on their visual skills, vision therapy may help get that extra edge. For example, football star receiver Larry Fitzgerald attributes his ability to catch the ball to having received vision therapy when he was young. Dr. Johnson, his grandfather, was the founder of an optometry clinic in Chicago and first did vision therapy for him in first grade because he was having trouble in school. Later, continued vision therapy improved his visual skills in precision, control, spatial judgment and rhythm.