News / Science & Technology

For Winning Athletes, Excellent Vision Proves Vital

For Winning Athletes, Excellent Vision Proves Vitali
X
Shelley Schlender
March 28, 2014 10:16 PM
Professional athletes are generally expected to be in excellent physical condition but some sports also require players with perfect eyesight. Baseball players have some of the best vision in the world and scientists are documenting how having a good eye can lead to winning games. Shelley Schlender reports for VOA from Phoenix, Arizona.

For Winning Athletes, Excellent Vision Proves Vital

Shelley Schlender
Professional athletes are generally expected to be in excellent physical condition but some sports also require players with perfect eyesight. Baseball players have some of the best vision in the world and scientists are documenting how having a good eye can lead to winning games.

The 2014 Major League Baseball season begins later this month in the United States. At the Cleveland Indians training camp in Phoenix, Arizona, outfielder Luigi Rodriguez finds hitting a baseball requires focus.
 
"The ball is a little small, so you have to have good eyes," Rodriguez said. "I'm looking at the ball, I look at the pitcher's arms, to see where the ball gets thrown."

Sports vision
 
To see it all and process what they see quickly requires excellent vision.
 
"The normal average person can see something from three meters, where the baseball player can see from 6 meters," said ophthalmologist Daniel Laby. "They can see twice as far away and still see the same target."
 
Laby is a pioneer in the science of sports vision. Along with his colleague, optometrist David Kirschen, they've published scientific papers on everything from major league vision, to the eyesight of Olympians.
 
"We've had the opportunity to study the vision in several sports," Kirschen said. "And it turns out it's a key component in some sports and not as important in others."
 
For example, athletes don't need amazing sight to dribble a basketball, or to throw a punch.
 
"So if you think about a boxer, it's not necessarily important for them to have 20-20 vision," Kirschen said. "They need to move two hands very rapidly."
 
Quick response is key in most sports. But to hit a small, fast ball, great eyesight is fundamental.
 
"This will apply to cricket, and it's going to apply to tennis," Laby said. "And it applies really to hockey. Any fast-moving target sport."

With baseball, for example, Laby says the batter has less than 1/10th of a second to react once a pitch is thrown.
 
"That's probably somewhere in the range of time they have to see the ball," Laby said. "Just when it's released from the pitcher's hands, they have to see the spin of the seams.  And based on that spin pattern, they know what pitch it is.  When you know what pitch it is, you know where it's going to come.  Once you know where it's going to come, you can put the bat in the right place to make a good hit."

Scientific help
 
Batters work hard to improve judgment and reaction time, but to sharpen their natural vision, Laby and Kirschen often recommend corrective contact lenses. The goal is to boost normal eyes into the super eyes needed for major league success.  Like many of his teammates, Cleveland Indian player Jake Lowery wears contact lenses.
 
"It helps me see the pitches, see the seams on the ball, keep the brightness down when the sun is out," Lowery said.
 
To refine his prescription, the doctors ask Lowery to read a standard vision chart. However, identifying black letters on a white background checks focus, but nothing else. To track how quickly players react to more challenging targets, Laby and Kirschen have designed a test where a tiny and often faint letter "C" flashes on a computer screen, sometimes backwards or upside down. The athletes sit 5 meters away.

"It's very very fast, very very faint," Laby said, "and for me as an eye doctor, very difficult to see. But the baseball players seem to see all of these."
 
Laby says the test might provide a better assessment for people taking driving tests, and could also help budding baseball players, like 9-year-old Matthew, who came to training camp to watch batting practice and dreams of becoming a professional baseball player when he grows up.
 
Laby says Matthew has a better chance of realizing his dream if his parents get his eyesight checked.
 
"If you have a young child who's interested in playing baseball, and they just don't see well enough, then the coach won't spend as much time with that player," Laby said.  
 
He says testing eyesight, and getting people the correction they need, can help everyone do better at their game…whatever it is.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' at 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid