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Sports Vision: How Can You Improve?

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A swimmer wearing a cap and googles is hanging from the edge of the pool looking through an augmented reality Heads Up Display showing various performance metrics.

Sports Vision: How Can You Improve?

Sports Vision: How Can You Improve?

Peak athletic performance is determined by various factors, including talent, training, and focus. Improving your skills requires a lot of work before game day. Although many sports emphasize the importance of training muscles and focus techniques, your visual performance can change how you play.

Vision requirements during sports goes beyond just seeing 20/20. Reading letters on a letter chart is only a small part of what your visual system must perform to be successful on the field.

Sports vision training/enhancement involves evaluating and optimizing how the eyes work together with the rest of the body for better performance in sport. It can be thought of as strength, speed, agility, and conditioning for the eyes. Sports Vision Specialists can use new technologies such as eye tracking technology and even virtual reality to analyze visual performance as it relates to the athlete’s specific sport. Then training is tailored to the athletes needs so that their eyes are working optimally as a team with the entire body.

Improving your sports vision can include various techniques, from sports and safety eyewear to ocular exercises to emerging technology. Read to learn more about how your visual skills can improve your skills.

Performance AND Protection

Sports vision involves improving visual skills important to sport but it also includes keeping the eyes healthy and safe while we play!

One of the easiest ways to both enhance performance AND manage eye health is to protect the eyes from the sun. Radiation injuries from overexposure to ultraviolet light from the sun can increase your risk of eye diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration. Glare can also cause problems in performance. UV protection, polarized lenses, anti-glare and blue-blocking technology are all ways we can limit the harmful ultraviolet and blue light rays from affecting our eyes during sports activities.

The risks of trauma to the eyes are greater in some sports. Run-ins with baseballs, hockey pucks, paintballs and even fishhooks can cause irreparable damage to the eyes if not careful. No matter what you play, protection against blunt force and penetrating eye trauma is key. Polycarbonate lenses and safety rated frames are appropriate ways of keeping the eyes safe. We offer a range of transition contact lenses that may be helpful for certain athletes.

Nutritional Insight

Every athlete knows the value of nutrition. A healthy diet builds and restores muscle, and it can also support vital body functions such as eyesight. 

A balanced, nutrient-rich diet can help prevent and manage eye diseases including macular degeneration and dry eyes. Specifically, certain carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin are integral to eye health as well as proven to improve visual performance such as contrast sensitivity, glare recovery, and visual processing speed.

Carotenoids, especially lutein and zeaxanthin, present in the retina, are integral to eye health. In addition to encouraging normal ocular health, lutein can also improve visual performance, including enhancing visual contrast sensitivity, sharpening vision, and reducing glare impairment.

A young male golfer looks ahead with a big smile while wearing a comfortable pair of sports sunglasses and holds his club resting upwards against his left shoulder.

Screen Breaks

We’re all drawn to our digital devices. Consider the times you switched on a show after practice or checked the score on the go. Our daily screen time is increasing, so it’s no surprise that 31% of adults say they’re constantly online, and 85% of adults use digital devices daily.

While there are countless benefits to evolving digital technology, too much screen time can have adverse physical and psychological effects. One effect of too much screen time is digital eye strain or computer vision syndrome

Digital screens make our eyes work harder, impacting our visual abilities. The risk of eyestrain is particularly notable for professionals and hobbyists video gamers.

Some common symptoms of digital eye strain include:

  • Eyestrain
  • Eye fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Dry eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Neck pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Watery eyes

If you don’t treat or manage the symptoms of digital eye strain, it can impact your vision and your physical performance. One method recommended by optometrists is the 20/20/20 rule.

Eyewear Tips

Close contact sports and activities featuring projectiles—think hockey pucks and tennis balls—increase your risk for eye injury

Basketball is in the lead for sports-related eye injuries, but most cases are preventable. For example, sports eyewear could easily block accidental collisions involving wayward fingers and poorly aimed balls. 

Polycarbonate lenses are one recommended option for sports eyewear. The material is shatter-proof, light-weight, and can include UV protection. Conveniently, polycarbonate material is available for goggles and face visors/shields.

Global standards for eye protection are set by ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) International. You can use the ASTM to look up your favorite sport to learn more, including information about face guards and eye protection devices.

Training for Sports Vision

Preserving your eye health and vision is important to maintaining and sharpening your visual skills. However, you can also train your vision with techniques and technology to enhance your athletic ability.

Sports vision enhancement combines eye training and evaluation to learn about your unique needs. Training for your visual system uses tools to practice crucial visual skills, including hand-eye coordination, multiple object tracking, and cognitive focus.

Whatever you play, whether its for fun or for competition, your vision is key to performance. Here at Sport and Sun at 20/20 Vision Associates Optometry, we believe in the adage, “When you see better, you play better”. Book an appointment with us to learn more about Sports Vision Training and the exciting new technologies now available to help you get to the next level!

Written by Dr. Cheryl Everitt

Cheryl M. Everitt, OD, received her Doctor of Optometry degree from the Southern California College of Optometry in Fullerton, California in 1994. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from California State University, Fullerton. Dr. Everitt takes a special interest in treating patients with a variety of difficult eye conditions, such as chronic headaches and migraines. Dr. Everitt has been a conference speaker on topics ranging from contact lenses to practice management to trigeminal dysphoria. She has also participated in a mobile eye clinic in Riverside, and medical missions to Mexico. Dr. Everitt is one of the original founders of 20/20 Vision Associates Optometry and has practiced for 25 years. She was an associate research scientist for 4 years prior to becoming an optometrist. She is also an active member of her church.
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