Frequently Asked Questions

I already see 20/20 - isn't that enough?

The measurement of a person's central visual acuity only represents a small portion of the entire field of vision, about 1-2 percent. A measurement of visual acuity while standing still can also vary greatly from the actual visual acuity while the athlete or the target is moving.

The old adage that 20/20 eyesight means “perfect vision” is really quite antiquated and not based on the latest science. In a landmark study of major league baseball players, (Laby, et al (1996)) found that the average visual acuity of this population was 20/12.5. 20/20 vision for MLB players is subnormal! This suggests that correcting an athlete’s vision to 20/20 may be wholly inadequate. Lowering the threshold to better than 20/20 for many sports, such as baseball and softball, is the new standard!

This can be done two ways: Optically, by reducing both lower and higher order aberrations with spectacle lenses, surgery or contact lenses; and Neurologically, by training the brain’s visual cortex to improve visual discrimination—something called perceptual learning. Valley Sports Vision is one of the few facilities in the U.S. that strives to enhance both optical and neurological factors that determine the visual acuity and contrast sensitivity of an athlete.

Does sports vision training work?

Although visual skills are trainable, the question as to what impact such training has on successful sports performance remains open, testimonials to the affirmative notwithstanding, and likely always will. Because vision entails the passive reception of spatial information (input), active manipulation of the information and visually guided action upon that information (output), it is difficult if not impossible to design a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study which is able to isolate vision from the all of the interactive psycho-physiological variables that make up the dynamics of sports performance. But the same can be said of sports physiology, sports nutrition or sports psychology. Nevertheless, in this day and age of competitive sports, the serious athlete who wants to maximize performance is not about to neglect their visual system by leaving it up to chance, the myth of “20/20” vision, or a cheap pair of contact lenses. The serious athlete will seek out the latest that vision science and technology have to offer and will strive to perfect their visual efficiency and processing skills--which may be the difference between a championship ring and an also-ran ribbon.

What kind of vision does it take to become a world class athlete?

It has been estimated that a minimum of 20 intense physical training hours per week over a period of eight years (approximately 10,000 cumulative hours) is required for an athlete to reach world class level in one’s sport. Not only is much of an athlete’s time spent in developing progressive resistance/overload of sports specific muscle groups, but many hours are spent in rigorous drill repetition. Yet, with all the emphasis (and money) spent on an athlete’s physical and mental skill development, scant attention has been paid to the development of an athlete’s vision, despite the fact that over 90 percent of successful athletic performance critically depends on vision! Sports vision is a relatively new science that is in its infancy. It seeks to answer this question and to bridge the gap between sports physiology and sports psychology.

Is the superior vision of an elite athlete the cause of their superior performance, or the consequence of playing the sport?

This is the classic “chicken or egg” question. It may be that the answer lies somewhere in the middle--something called the Matthew Effect. The Matthew Effect is an educational phenomenon observed in research on reading. Early success in acquiring reading skills usually leads to later successes in reading as the learner grows, while failing to learn to read may be indicative of life-long problems in learning new skills. The term Matthew Effect is based on the New Testament, Matthew 25:29 “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

Isn’t time practicing/playing a sport enough to develop one’s vision?

Although it is true that playing a sport, per se, can enhance a number of visual skills, such play/practice does not provide the athlete with the necessary feedback as to what visual skills may be the most critical for their particular sport or position nor does it provide feedback as to the athlete’s visual processing speed and accuracy. Besides “blur,” “double” or “discomfort,” there are few other feedback mechanisms within the visual system to inform an athlete as to whether or not their vision portrays an accurate spatial/temporal representation of reality. Visual anomalies and misperceptions, if they exist and if they become habitual, become more and more of a problem as an athlete strives to be successful at higher levels of competition. Without the proper vision tests, an athlete is likely to remain ignorant of his/her own visual limitations and unaware of how these limitations may be affecting performance. Any visual abnormality which is capable of altering an athlete’s perception of space and time may be the difference between athletic success and failure. If the what, where and when of a sporting activity exceeds the limits of an athlete’s visual skills, a breakdown in performance is bound to occur.

The Nike SST is the ultimate tool which provides an athlete with the appropriate visual feedback that is above and beyond the antiquated eye chart. The Nike SST tests all of the visual skills of an athlete and can compare them with other athletes of the same sport/position, even at the elite level. Once a comprehensive visual profile is established for a particular athlete, sports/position specific drills to remediate a deficient skill or enhance a skill can be implemented. The time spent by an athlete in practice can then be used to help develop efficient visual skills rather than being wasted, unwittingly, by repeating the same old inefficient ones.

What visual skills are trainable?

There is converging evidence in a number of disciplines that the brain retains its plasticity throughout one’s life. Research has shown that in addition to the visual skills listed above, an athlete’s vision can be enhanced to have better accommodation (focusing), pursuit tracking, dynamic visual acuity, visual motion processing, visual anticipation, visual awareness, visual perception, acuity, contrast sensitivity, and stereopsis. The art behind the science of sports vision is to break down a particular sports vision task into its psycho-physiological components and set up the conditions, through various low and high tech vision drills, to give an athlete meaningful insights regarding the use of their vision. Such feedback helps the athlete to efficiently perform the task demands and integrate the newly acquired visual skill onto the playing field.