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

US Border Patrol Union Accused of Taking Sides on Immigration

Report alleges agents leaking info to immigration opponents, appearing at their private events; Center for Immigration Studies director defends agents' actions More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

Video Rights Monitor: Hate Groups' Use of Internet to Inflame, Recruit Growing

Wiesenthal Center's Abraham Cooper says extremists have become skilled at celebrating violence, ideology on Web 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.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs