March Madness: Sports Vision Edition4:54 PM
How good is good enough? This is a question that many athletes find themselves wondering when it comes to eyesight. Today's optometrists and ophthalmologists are investigating the challenges and demands of sports vision -- what advantages does perfect eyesight give to the world's best athletes, and how much of eyesight or visual performance is trainable? With a ton of new research being produced, we may be able to maximize athlete's innate ocular abilities to give them the best chance to succeed in their field.
Correcting Vision to it's Maximum Potential
|Pelli Robson Low Contrast chart--another measurement|
of vision performance. Sometimes your eye's ability
to detect contrast is poor, but your eyesight with
the normal Snellen chart (that 20/20 measurement we
all get with routine eye exams) is quite good. Sports Vision
specialists look at all areas of visual peformance, not
just letters on one type of chart! via
Depending on your sport, contact lenses, tinted sports goggles (especially great in baseball where a tint can help enhance the appearance of a white ball against blue sky or green field), or even LASIK or refractive surgery correction can help your eyes overcome any uncorrected prescription. Contact lenses have often given athletes issues -- poor comfort, falling out during games. Today's new generation of daily lenses are so thin that comfort is less of a problem than ever, and lenses like Ciba's Dailies Total 1 are a great option for someone needing high moisture content, but a lens that likes to stay on the eye (sometimes it is even hard for people to remove on purpose). Maybe with a bit of help you can see that 20/10 or even 20/8 line. What does that mean to you? You are seeing a ball, a player, or any other target that much sooner than someone with 'perfect' 20/20 vision standing beside you. This level of clarity is going to enable you to react faster, because you are seeing things much sooner than anyone else on the field!
|Dr. Terry Kim of Duke (I am so lucky to have|
mutual patients with him in the Raleigh/Durham area!)
was the doctor who brought Parker back to perfect
vision by convincing him, yes contact lenses can help
on and off the court!
A great recent example of how much vision matters on the basketball court is Duke's Jabari Parker. Parker is nearsighted, but refused to wear his glasses or contact lenses growing up. When he got to Duke, his vision was an atrocious 20/50 in the right eye, and 20/150 in the left. In case you are wondering, no that is not legal driving vision. But he had been successful enough to get recruited by Duke to play basketball with blurry vision, so how much of a difference did wearing his contact lenses make to his game? Interviews with Duke coaches and staff suggest that Parker is now seeing cues from the sidelines without having to walk over to the bench during the game, able to read his teammates facial expressions for better on court interactions, and of course, able to perform better in the classroom where there has been a significant improvement in the ease with which he is able to study and perform classwork without headaches. Did I mention he could now legally get a driver's license and operate a motor vehicle again?
But are there some advantages to blurry vision too?
That's an argument that might seem counter intuitive, but blurry may have some unrealized perks. Take for example Olympic ice skater Jason Brown who ditches his glasses on the ice so that his blurry vision can let him focus on his own skating, instead of the crowd or judges. A surprising result was also found in a study of basketball players with poor vision performed by optometrist Dr. Raymond Applegate. He found a slight improvement in free throw percentage in players with 20/20 vision versus 20/40 (but statistically too small to be significant), but really no difference in made free throw success with vision of 20/40 to 20/250. At a certain point, blurry was blurry and the amount of blur no longer mattered.
|Imagine trying to focus on the rim with this circus in the background. |
Blurring that peripheral mess out is a skill that sports vision optometrists
can help train! via
In future posts I hope to feature more sports vision topics and how optometrists and eye care specialists are helping future athletes achieve their dreams. If you are interested in learning more, please head over to Dr. Mike Peter's blog about sports vision, and pick up his book See to Play for a more in depth understanding of how today's science can maximize the vision of tomorrow's sports stars.