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!
Read more about sports vision here and here.
And be sure to check out Dr. Hellerstein’s book on improving sports performance!
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Pitchers and catchers are reporting to spring training this week. What better time to think about what you can do to improve this season. “Keep your eyes on the ball.” Here is Dr. Lynn Hellerstein explaining what that really means.
Dr. Lynn Hellerstein practices in (metro) Denver, Colorado. She is a past president of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD). She is also the author of the book See It Say It Do It.
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Posted in Sports, tagged sports, sports vision on April 14, 2010 |
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Part 2 — Hockey
Dr. M: Let’s talk about hockey. I know that is one of your favorite sports and that you actually worked with the 1980 gold medal Olympic Team.
Dr. S: Yes, I had the pleasure of actually evaluating potential members of that team. That evaluation was one additional piece of information used by Herb Brooks in selecting the players for the Olympic Team.
Dr. M: So you should have gotten a gold medal too!
Dr. S: At least I can say I had a small part in winning the gold medal.
Dr. M: Let’s start with the goalie. It seems to me that it is similar to baseball. The puck is traveling at very high speed and the goalie has to make split second decisions about where and when to make his move.
Dr. S: Absolutely, the puck might be traveling at close to 100 mph. Like a pitcher in baseball, the offensive player is going to try to deceive the goalie, to make it more difficult for the goalie to track the puck. But in hockey, the puck can be coming from anywhere on the ice, and the net is much bigger than the strike zone. There are more variables that have to be processed to make the save—velocity, distance, angle. Don’t forget the goalie is also wearing a mask that reduces peripheral vision very significantly.
Dr. M: Not to mention they have to make their move wearing 50 pounds of gear! How do they make ANY saves?
Dr. S: It is amazing. The best goalies are successful 92% of the time. That’s one reason why hockey players fight so hard for the puck. The offense knows they are going to need MANY shots on goal to score.
Dr. M: What is the most important visual skill for hockey goalies?
Dr. S: Visual motor reaction time; this refers to the amount of time that elapses between the initiation of a visual stimulus (such as a light going on) and the completion of the motor response to that stimulus (such as hitting the light with your hand). Athletes with faster response times to very simple visual-motor tasks will be at an advantage when they are asked to react to very complex tasks such as making a save.
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