Vision Testing for Athletes
Vision is very important in sports, such as being able to focus on the ball and opposition players, watching the play down field, and seeing the ball and players in your periphery. Testing the eyes (vision testing) is not widely conducted for athletes, though there are many people (including optometrists and ophthalmologists) who believe that it is very worthwhile to test athlete vision, and with specific treatment and training athletes improve their performance.
equipment required: eye chart (e.g. Snellen chart), computer software and other equipment developed to test athlete vision, specialist optometry equipment.
procedure: There are many areas of vision that are relevant to sports people. Here is a list of some of the areas that can be tested.
- Visual Acuity — Vision is often tested using a Snellen chart or similar, the traditional eye examination. Being able to read the line designated 20/20 (usually the 8th row), is the smallest line that a person with normal acuity can read at a distance of twenty feet. Outside the US, six meters is used and normal vision is designated 6/6. Good visual acuity means the athlete is able to sharply focus on the ball and opposition players. Vision can be corrected with spectacles or contact lenses, which are available in forms that are appropriate for playing sports.
- Depth Perception — ability to locate items in space. Good binocular vision, when both eyes are working equally well, is linked to better depth perception.
- Ability to see targets in motion — moving objects pose a specific demand on the visual system.
- Peripheral Awareness — a test of the ability to see objects in the peripheral of your vision.
- Eye Dominance — Some athletes may have one eye too dominant, meaning they would find it harder to see things on one side compared to the other. Relevant for peripheral awareness.
- Reaction Times — the body's reaction requires the visual system to first recognize a change or event to react to.
- Focusing Ability — not only is the ability to focus on object important, but also the ability to change the focus point quickly from one object to another.
- Contrast Perception — testing the ability to separate objects from their background.
- Color Blindness Testing — testing the ability of athletes to distinguish team colors and the ball from the crowd or other backgrounds may be appropriate for some sports.
Treatment: There is a range of possible treatments depending on the problem, including corrective lenses (spectacles or contact lenses) and sports vision training. Surgery is also an option for some eye defects. With visual training, the eye muscles can be strengthened, improving focus, contrast and depth perception, increasing peripheral awareness and reducing reaction times.
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