Thank you Dr. Gary Etting! I just returned from COVD’s Annual Meeting where Dr. Etting lectured about sports vision. His presentation made me realize that optometric vision therapy can be an athlete’s secret weapon. Enhancing visual skills can enhance athletic performance, and allow the athlete to approach optimal performance.
What is optimal performance? “It is the ability to make the appropriate response based on the least amount of information in the shortest period of time, with the minimum amount of effort and maximum comfort, in or out of balance, under pressure and maintain over time.” Vision therapy can do THAT? Yes! It begins with an understanding that vision is the emergent; it rises from the seamless integration of a myriad of visual skills that moves way beyond the concept of 20/20 vision. These skills can be learned and honed in ways that focus on a particular athlete and a particular sport. And because vision drives the motor system, fine tuning the visual system can have profound impact on athletic performance.
What are some of the “themes” of the vision evaluation and a vision therapy program for an athlete?
- Does the athlete know when they are doing well or doing poorly? Strengthen the feedback loop.
- Can this task be performed automatically? Decrease the amount of energy required to complete the task accurately.
- Can the task be performed faster? or slower? Enhance flexibility and rhythm.
- Does the athlete learn quickly? Performance will improve faster if the athlete has a favorable learning curve.
- What happens if the athlete has to move while performing the task? Very few sports involve standing in one position for more than a few seconds. Vision and sports are both all about movement.
- What if the athlete has to look to the right? or left? or up? or down? or a combination? Athletes have to be able to move their eyes into all positions of gaze with ease and accuracy.
- How does the athlete react when you make the task more difficult? Elite athletes must rise to the challenge.
A vision therapy program is designed to emphasize performance under diverse conditions to improve flexibility, degrees of freedom, strength, endurance, balance, and posture. The outcome is not only an improvement in the “numbers,” but happier athletes with a greater understanding of themselves and their goals. Sometimes, the sky really is the limit!
And be sure to check out Dr. Hellerstein’s book on improving sports performance!