Sports Vision

Do you wish you could cut a few strokes off your golf score?
Does your child always seem to be just a few steps away from the soccer ball?

Vision, just like speed and strength, is an important ingredient in how well you play your sport. Your vision is composed of many skills, and just as exercise and practice can increase your speed and strength, practice can also improve your vision skills. Many athletes — from the elite Olympian to weekend warriors — have concerns about vision affecting performance. There's no doubt that a downhill skier with fogged glasses risks their safety when traveling at high speed. A basketball player who consistently under or overshoots the hoop may benefit from exercises to improve depth perception. Your optometric physician is able to improve sports performance in three general categories: eye protection, sports vision improvement and choosing types of eyewear.

Eye Protection
What do gravel on a mountain bike ride, a 70 m.p.h. tennis serve, and a basketball player’s thumb all have in common? Any one of them can severely injure an eye. In fact, thousands of men, women and children suffer eye injuries each year, many of these accidents causing blindness. Sports that tend to cause the greatest risk include basketball, racquetball, tennis, ice hockey, softball and other sports that involve a projectile. The good news is there are great choices when it comes to prescription and non-prescription protective eyewear. Optometric physicians are trained to identify the option that produces the best fit, comfort and performance for each patient and their particular recreational activity. One look at just about any professional baseball, golf or cycling event will give you an idea about the popularity of today’s great looking and functional eye protection.

Sports Vision Improvement
Like many skills, vision skills are developed and can be improved. From improved depth perception and peripheral vision, to better visual concentration and eye tracking, there are unique exercises that can help improve your performance. Some optometric physicians specialize in sports vision training, and are able to recommend sport-specific exercises to improve performance. According to Mark McGwire sports vision played no small role in his home run record-setting season.

Look for some of the following signs that a visual problem may be hampering performance:

  • Inability to see the ball clearly
  • Having trouble remembering plays
  • Making similar mistakes over and over again
  • Lacking noticeable improvement with practice
  • Difficulty knowing where the ball or other players are at all times
  • Over or under-estimating the distance of the ball, players or boundaries

While just about every vision skill plays a role in every sport or recreational activity, below is a very brief chart outlining the major vision skills and what sport in which they play a role.

Vision Skill


Example of Sport

Dynamic Visual Acuity

Ability to see objects clearly while in motion

Racquetball, soccer, tennis, hockey

Eye Tracking

Ability to "keep your eye on the ball"

Baseball, hockey, trap shooting

Eye Focusing

Ability to change focus quickly from one distance to another

Hunting, trap shooting, rock climbing, golf, archery

Peripheral Vision

Ability to see people and objects "out of the corner of your eye" while focusing in front of you

Baseball, soccer

Depth Perception

Being able to quickly and accurately judge the distance between yourself and other people and/or objects

Hunting, trap shooting, rock climbing, golf, archery

Fusion and Flexibility Stamina

Ability to keep both eyes working together under high speed conditions

Racquetball, tennis, baseball, skiing


Ability to picture events in your imagination…relates to remembering plays and positioning

Football, basketball, hockey, skiing, rock climbing, surfing, golf

Eye-hand and body coordination

Appropriate use of hands, feet and body when responding to visual information

Volleyball, basketball, football, soccer, tennis

Visual Concentration

Being able to stay on task for increased awareness and fewer distractions

Baseball, golf, gymnastics

Choosing Types of Eyewear Athletes like Horace Grant, haven’t let wearing corrective lenses slow them down. In recent years there have been amazing advances to help improve vision and performance. Following are a few examples of types of corrections: Contact Lenses provide great vision with the comfort of exercising without glasses. Did you know wearing contact lenses enhance side vision? Tremendous advances have been made contact lenses. Today, there is a wide range of contact lens options, from daily disposables, to oxygen permeable lenses that provide incredibly good clarity and focus. Laser Surgery is a perfect option for many recreational and professional athletes. The advantage is that laser surgery may make it possible to do away with contacts or glasses completely. This means no more fogged lenses or concern about dry contacts. The American Optometric Association recommends both of the above be combined with professionally-fitted, non-prescription polycarbonate lenses for optimum performance and eye protection.

Sport-specific Glasses and Goggles. Companies like Oakley, Carrera, Bolle and Bausch & Lomb, for example produce incredibly functional prescription goggles and sports glasses. Prescription goggles or sports glasses are a perfect option for people that don’t like to wear contacts, or who prefer the optics of traditional glasses. Your optometric physician can help find and fit you with the perfect brand and model to help you get the best performance possible.