Vision therapy improves a player's dynamic visual acuity, the ability to follow objects in motion, improving reaction times and performance under stress.
Most people who have their eyes tested are shown a standard, stationary eye chart. While this demonstrates a person's ability to focus in one situation, it does not provide insight into how that person's vision performs during an activity in the field.
Measurable improvement can be gained in general vision and in sports performance with therapeutic exercise for the eyes. The better and faster your brain receives information from the eyes, the better prepared you are to anticipate, to move or adjust to meet changing conditions.
The back and forth between the brain, the eyes and the muscles of the body happens in a fraction of a second. To understand the difference better information might make in such a situation, think of your view of the road while driving in a heavy rain compared to driving on a clear, sunny day. Consider your ability to react to danger in that situation.
Exercises can be sport-specific or general, with movements meant to enhance focus, depth perception, contrast and peripheral vision. Theses drills (in the form of games or simple exercises which engage the muscles that control the eyes) are meant to help players identify, follow and respond to moving objects.
The therapy helps players see more and recognize fast-speed detail. Players learn to watch objects in motion and to pair the visual process with hand/eye and foot/eye coordination without losing mental focus. Instead of simply asking players to see the ball, these exercises show athletes how to see it.
Vision therapy is another level of training. The exercises are like play -- low stress, practiced daily and usually take no more than 30 minutes to complete. There are a variety of exercises available and drills are available from home, online, with or without instruction.
One such example for home use involves speed and concentration. On a sheet of paper or poster board, write randomly placed numbers or attach a variety of photos. Have a partner call out a number (or a subject from one of the photos) and see how quickly you can find the matching item on the poster. The more items, the greater the difficulty. (Ref 2)
The exercises do work the muscles of the eye, but stronger muscles are not often the reason for performance enhancement. The exercises may help you see better, but more profoundly, they help you learn to process the information your eyes are feeding your mind in real time and in a sport-specific setting. The exercises work not only for baseball, they help any athlete in any sport, even children who have difficulties in school with reading.
Visualization is another tool used by professionals to both enhance visual performance and tie it to achievement in sport. Try it at home. Sit quietly and close your eyes. Picture a specific play in your mind. Walk through each of the steps involved. If it is catching the ball in play, hear the crack of the bat, see the ball coming, visualize raising your glove, the motions of catching, then the transfer of the ball from the glove to your throwing hand. Repeat the process and add as much detail as possible to make the situation seem realistic in your mind's eye. (http://www.drlampert.com/sports-vision.htm Ref 3)
People should recognize that perfect eyesight does not mean other vision problems do not exist. Players with blurry peripheral vision or the inability to understand information from multiple objects at one time (a moving bat and ball, a runner and the play in progress) may benefit from an evaluation.
One common problem that is often missed in regular screening is when the eyes operate independently of one another, each seeing their own image instead of working together. If a person has trouble writing in a straight line or recognizing text while reading, they should consider a consultation with a visual therapist.
Most sports depend on the interplay between what you see and how you react. When vision improves, a player will find it easier to spot the ball. The player can then be quicker to react or make a play.
Improved reactions cut down on injuries, help with coordination, improve statistics. Professional players can advance their careers, while amateurs can increase their status using these tools.
A great example of an exercise for peripheral vision involves first focusing on an object. Choose an item directly in front of you and keep your gaze aimed upon it. As you do so, try to recognize stationary objects nearby using only your peripheral (indirect) vision. Advance to identifying moving objects or people as you make progress. (Ref 1)
- Photo Credit Photo by wallyg @ Flickr via everystockphoto