An athlete needs to undergo sports vision tests and training in order to get an insight into the performance of their eyes—beyond the standard ability of seeing letters and objects that are on the basic eye chart. For instance, there are a variety of sports vision skills that can be focused on which have the ability to boost athletic performance, including:
- Hand-eye Coordination – This can assist athletes, such as baseball players when they are at the plate getting ready to bat, anticipate and hit or catch fast-moving objects.
- Enhanced Depth Perception – This can assist athletes avoid obstacles and negotiate turns, such as a downhill skier.
- Eye Tracking Capability – This help athletes anticipate and follow the motion of an object, such as a basketball player and a bouncing basketball.
These sports vision tests not just to evaluate how well a competitor sees, but they can also be utilized to train and improve an athlete’s visual function.
Varieties of Sports Vision Tests
Depending on the individual needs to the athlete, the actually sports vision tests can vary tremendously. Below is a list of some the tests that an athlete may undergo with a specialist.
Snellen Eye Chart
This is a familiar test that consists of one reading letters that are on a chart, which is 20 feet away. The athlete will be asked to make out the letters on the chart, which are on lines of gradually smaller sizes, until he or she can no longer accurately identify the letters on the line.
Generally, the 20/20 vision line is the fourth from the chart’s bottom. The next smallest line means that you have 20/15 eye vision. The next largest line means that you have 20/25 eye vision. And this goes on.
If you find that it is difficult to properly read the eye chart, then you will be fitted with eyeglasses or contacts in order to boost your visual acuity. Alternatively, you can undergo LASIK or another form of a vision correction procedure, although it is important that you first consider all the potential risks of these procedures.
Though it seems simple and the next step to take—that is to correct your visual acuity—there are numerous sports vision experts that have found young athletes who have refractive error that has gone undetected which can negatively affect their athletic performance.
Over and over, it has been shown that maximizing athletes’ visual proficiency can significantly contribute to their improved success on the court, on the field, etc.
Contrast Sensitivity Tests
There are multiple tests that can examine contrast sensitivity. One of the most familiar approaches entails the athlete identifying the orientation of parallel gray-colored stripes that are set against backgrounds that little by little start to match the same color of the stripes.
For individuals with poor or inadequate contract sensitivity (which means that a person has difficulty seeing high contrast objects against a very similar background, particularly in low-light environments), there are an assortment of solutions that may be considered, including the potential of eyeglasses that have special lens tinting to assist with increased visibility. Of course, not all specialists agree that these tints are beneficial for all individuals.
If you currently wear eyeglasses or contact lenses, you will need to take extra care to ensure that they are clean. Dirty lenses contribute to a reduction in contrast sensitivity.
Eye Tracking Devices
There are numerous state-of-the-art methods of evaluating and improving just how well one’s eyes are able to following a moving object. These include computer systems that consist of your eyes following a particular motion on the computer screen as well as mechanical rotation devices that look like a record player that has a target moving in a circular motion that your eyes must follow. These devices can sometimes be used for eye training—essentially to teach the eyes to follow a particular motion.
Ocular Alignment Tests
These types of tests are designed to identify how well both of your eyes are aligned and how well they can work with one another. Your eye physician will use an assortment of methods like covering one eye to see how well the other one can respond to visual stimuli, and then both of your eyes will be uncovered and studied to see how they both respond to the same exact visual stimuli.
Another method to determine ocular alignment is the Hirschberg test, which examined the way light reflects off of your cornea. Many issues with alignment can be found by simply analyzing the certain points on your cornea where the reflections take place.
Eye Dominance Tests
One way to determine eye dominance (aka the Miles test) consists of using your fingers to form a triangle and framing a specific spot while you look at that spot through you’re the triangle with both eyes. You can close one eye and then close the other, which will help you determine which eye is your dominant as because the eye that maintains the most unwavering view of the framed object will be the dominant eye.
If you are a professional photography, then you are likely familiar with your dominant eye already since you likely use it to peer through the viewfinder of your camera.
The Dolman method is a bit more formal method of determining eye dominance, and this method requires that you maintain focus of both eyes as an object is moved closer to you. As one of your eyes loses focuses (diverges), the other eye is dominant. If the non-dominant eye ends up losing focus too early, then it may be an indication of binocularity or stereopsis issues.
Depth Perception Measurements
The Howard-Dolman Apparatus is a test that can determine your capability to see in 3D. It is a box-like device that has interior lighting that can be placed in front of you at your eye level. You are then asked to view two black individual vertical rods that will be manipulating through a system of pulleys and strings. The strings are connected to the vertical rods that you will be manipulating into several positions as your examiner instructs you to do. Your depth perception assessment is determined by your capability of perceiving the location of the rods in relation to one another and their distances.
Assessments of Visual Processing Speed/Hand-Eye Coordination
An athlete cannot perform well if he or she is unable to see and respond swiftly to sports objects like basketballs, baseballs, soccer balls, race cars, etc. There are some tests that can evaluate how quickly you can react after you initially see an object. This data stimulates the brain to direct a physical response, like taking a switch at a baseball that has been pitched to you or a basketball that has been thrown to you.
There are other tests that can measure how quickly you react once an object has been dropped. The reaction time is based on how far the object falls prior to responding and catching it.
These tests can not only be used for testing, but they can also be used training purposes to assist in developing quicker reaction times as well as improving your hand-eye coordination.
Eye Teaming Tests
These tests, such as the Saladin Near Point Balance Card, work to determine how well both of your eyes can work as a team. This particular device measures how your eyes can achieve fixation on a specific target and how your eyes can work as a team to achieve accommodation (aka near vision focus) at various distances.
If there is a significant different in the way your eyes fixate or focus in relation to one another, these types of test can distinguish it and then calculate the inconsistency.
How Vision Testing Helps Sports Vision Training
When it comes to sports vision training programs, they don’t have to be specific—they can be tailored to you as an individual athlete to meet your specific needs, goals, and desires. Depending on your comprehensive eye test results and your sport, you could require training that helps with skills like anticipating the flight path of a bouncing ball.
There are also computer simulations that can be used in the training, such as those that assist baseball batters foresee where a curve ball or a fast ball will be located when you need to take the swing.
There are some sports vision experts that will utilize techniques like visualization (aka visual imagery) to assist athletes in imagining themselves performing at the optimal level. For instance, athletes may be asked to visualize themselves aiming their bow and arrow in exactly the right way in order to successfully hit the target or running across the finish line in a marathon in their fastest-ever time.
If you would like to learn more about sports vision tests and/or training, reach out to the professionals here at Performance Vision.
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