For the amateur exerciser, the usual routes to improve performance involve getting an app, getting a coach, getting stronger or bendier or even just doing more exercise. All these things work. What is rarely improved is vision and if this is not addressed in the training programme, we will hit a frustrating plateau or even injury. At the end of this article, there are three simple tests of vision so you can quickly see if you have a deficit that is easily addressed with the right exercises: bigger biceps, firmer bottom – and now better vision to add to the wish list.
In the referenced article from The University of Rochester, NY,1 it says that in earlier days of computing, building a programme that could beat a grand master at chess was considered far harder than building a programme that could emulate human vision. How wrong we were!
As far as I know, at this moment the boffins think 50% of the cortex is involved in processing vision. 50%! That is a ridiculous amount. Until recently, it was thought that 30% of neurons processed vision, whilst 8% processed touch and 2% sound. In this context 30% is still a huge number. The bottom line is the better we see, the quicker we go. Along with being stronger, bendier and more reactive. And that is because the brain feels safer when it has excellent visual information that it can process easily: a safer brain means danger levels are down and the brakes are off.
A quick search on Google Scholar using the search terms Vision, Athleticism and Speed bring up such research gems as this:
This preliminary investigation into the visual ability of motorsport athletes demonstrated that they may have superior visual performance when compared to controls. Increased visual acuity and perception time may not only act to increase performance, but may also reduce the risk of potential injury. 2
Vision training can combine traditional and technological methodologies to train the athletes’ eyes and improve batting. Vision training as part of conditioning or injury prevention can be applied and may improve batting performance in college baseball players. High performance vision training can be instituted in the pre-season and maintained throughout the season to improve batting parameters.3
This study examined the effect of limited peripheral vision on the shuttle sprint performance of soccer players. Participants were 14 male soccer players of a student soccer club (M age = 22.1 yr., SD = 1.3 yr.). They performed a repeated shuttle sprint with full and limited peripheral vision. Mean total sprint time and mean turning time increased significantly with limited peripheral vision. It is concluded that only turning during shuttle sprint performance decreases when sprinting with a restricted peripheral field of view, indicating the use of peripheral vision for the control of directional changes while sprinting.4
- Look at a letter some distance away and another reading distance away; notice how clear the letters are. Now cover one eye and look at the letters again, then cover the other eye and compare visual clarity between the eyes. Do the same test, but move your head about, move your body about, bounce up and down, rock forwards and backwards – does the clarity of vision remain the same in both eyes? It is very common that one eye sees more clearly than the other. And sometimes some movements make things clearer whilst others make it worse or no improvement.
- Another thing to test: take a selfie with your eyes very clear in the picture. Now blow up the selfie and see if your irises are the same distance from your nose as each other and if they are level with each other.
- Final test: grab a pen and take a selfie video of yourself: bring the pen in towards the bridge of your nose and away from it three times: 1) could you touch the bridge of your nose with the pen without seeing double? 2) did both eyes move inwards at the same speed?
- http://www.rochester.edu/pr/Review/V74N4/0402_brainscience.html [↩]
- Visual acuity in young elite motorsport atheletes: a preliminary report. Anthony G Schneiders et al. Physical Therapy in Sport. Vol 11, Issue 2. May 2010, pp 47-49. Abstract [↩]
- High-performance vision traning improves batting statistics for University of Cincinnati baseball players. Joseph F Clarke. Plos One. Pub Jan 19 2012. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0029109. [↩]
- Effects of limited peripheral vision on shuttle sprint performance of soccer players. Koen A et al. Sage JournalsVol: 100 issue: 1, pp 167 – 175. Abstract [↩]