Athleticism and vision

Here! Catch! How good are your eyes at keeping track of fast moving objects? Would you like to improve this ability?

Since professional athletes have to keep track of fast moving objects, it comes as no surprise that their dynamic visual acuity(DVA) is superior to that of non-athletes. What is DVA, and how exactly are athlete’s eyes better than non-athletes? The Waseda University, Mikajima, Tokorozawa, Saitama, Japan reports:

Dynamic visual acuity (DVA) is defined as the ability to discriminate the fine parts of a moving object. DVA is generally better in athletes than in non-athletes, and the better DVA of athletes has been attributed to a better ability to track moving objects. In the present study, we hypothesized that the better DVA of athletes is partly derived from better perception of moving images on the retina through some kind of perceptual learning. To test this hypothesis, we quantitatively measured DVA in baseball players and non-athletes using moving Landolt rings in two conditions. In the first experiment, the participants were allowed to move their eyes (free-eye-movement conditions), whereas in the second they were required to fixate on a fixation target (fixation conditions). The athletes displayed significantly better DVA than the non-athletes in the free-eye-movement conditions. However, there was no significant difference between the groups in the fixation conditions. These results suggest that the better DVA of athletes is primarily due to an improved ability to track moving targets with their eyes, rather than to improved perception of moving images on the retina.

So it was because their eyes are better at moving to track an object, than because of some kind of improvement in the retina. It is interesting how they tested this.

Can this ability be improved? With enough training, it looks like the answer is likely yes – High-Performance Vision Training Improves Batting Statistics for University of Cincinnati Baseball Players:

Results

The University of Cincinnati team batting average increased from 0.251 in 2010 to 0.285 in 2011 and the slugging percentage increased by 0.033. The rest of the Big East’s slugging percentage fell over that same time frame 0.082. This produces a difference of 0.115 with 95% confidence interval (0.024, 0.206). As with the batting average, the change for University of Cincinnati is significantly different from the rest of the Big East (p=0.02). Essentially all batting parameters improved by 10% or more. Similar differences were seen when restricting the analysis to games within the Big East conference.

Conclusion

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.

This is pretty remarkable, though they didn’t use any control groups(they compared results with the previous year).

They used a variety of devices to help improve their DVA and hand/eye coordination, including: DynavisionTachistoscope, Brock String, Eyeport, Rotary, Strobe Glasses, Saccades, and Near Far training.

I have no experience with any of these things, so I can’t say which ones work better than the others. As a juggler, I wonder if jugglers have the same superior DVA as baseball players, and I also wonder if learning to juggle could help improve the DVA and coordination of baseball players.

I also wonder if any of those cool sounding devices could help a juggler improve his/her juggling ability.

It’s hard to say at this point.

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