Research: The Effects of Sports Vision Training on Binocular Vision Function in Female University Athletes

An interesting piece of research, available on the website of the US National Institutes of Health, came to my attention recently. It was published in December, 2015. It is part of a growing body of research validating the efficacy of Vision Training. I’m posting it here because it also includes some practical exercises which might inspire you to try them yourself. If you are a strabismic, make sure the risk of double vision or other adverse side effects is under control by talking to a qualified Behavioral Optometrist.

URL: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4723179/ 

The Effects of Sports Vision Training on Binocular Vision Function in Female University Athletes

Abstract

“Binocular vision is the most important visual cue for spatial orientation in many sports. In this study, we investigated how binocular vision was influenced by an eye training program that may be used to improve individual’s oculomotor function. The experiment involved twenty-four female student athletes from team ball sports (soccer, basketball, handball). After an initial testing session, 12 participants were randomly allocated to the experimental group. Optometric investigation which included synoptophore testing and a test of dissociated horizontal phoria based on the Maddox method was performed three times: before the experiment, after eight weeks of eye training (3 times a week for 20 minutes), and four weeks after the experiment was terminated. Eye exercise methodology was based on orthoptic, sport and psychological aspects of performance. The phoria screening examination showed that exophoria was the most frequent disorder of binocular vision. Low fusional vergence range was also observed. Following the training period, 3 of the 6 oculomotor variables improved. The greatest effect was observed in near dissociated phoria (χ2=14.56, p=0.001 for the right eye; χ2 =14.757, p=0.001 for the left eye) and fusional convergence (χ2=8.522, p=0.014). The results of the retention test conducted four weeks after the experiment confirmed the effectiveness of the vision training program. The results of the study suggest that binocular functions are trainable and can be improved by means of appropriate visual training.”

Keywords: orthoptic exercise, oculomotor function, sport training

Procedure

“The experimental group participated in a special training program to improve their visual ability over eight weeks, 3 times a week for 20 min. Optometric examination was performed three times: a pre-test (before experiment), a posttest (after eight weeks of experiment) and a retention test conducted four weeks after the completion of the experiment. The training program was controlled by a psychologist and a vision improvement teacher. Orthoptic exercises were administered specifically as:

  1. An extraocular muscle warm-up: smooth pursuit eye movements in different directions with closed and opened eyes (central focus, lateral right/left, up/down; upper right/left, lower right/left, circular movements right/left), resting.
  2. Horizontal and vertical saccadic eye movements (e.g. searching out numbers in a whole square divided into four quadrants with randomly positioned digits: in order, i.e. 1, 2, 3 etc., or 2, 4, 6, 8 etc., or in other configurations specified by the coach in each quadrant or in the whole square, searching a light signals placed in different distance on the court, incorporating specific movement to the task (e.g. keeping a ball).
  3. Smooth pursuit eye movement (e.g. following the partner’s finger plotting different patterns in the air – the number eight, the sign of infinity, a circle, a spiral, etc., following the moving object held by the partner using a dice while reading the number of spots on the dice, or a ball with a letter or number written on it).
  4. Near-far-near charts were used to improve oculomotor functions. Participants read letters up close (20 cm) followed immediately by letters at 6 m. The participants focused back and forth on the card and counted how many iterations they could do. The cards had rows of random letters so that the subjects had to track their progress in a similar fashion to the saccades.
  5. A Brock string, a 3 m (and 6 m) string with 3 colored beads (diameter of 18 mm). The subjects had the nearest end of the string by their nose and had it extended away from them parallelly to the ground. The subject needed to focus on the subsequent beads, set along the string, back and forth for 1 min. We used this exercise with the string under different conditions, e.g. standing, walking, an unbalanced body position, double bead string fixation exercise, etc. This required adaptation and convergence of the eyes to find and focus on the beads. Athletes developed the ability to perceive images from both eyes and to shift fixation quickly and accurately from one point to another.
  6. For fusional convergence and divergence training we used exercises with free space fusion cards, eccentric circles cards, variable vectograms, dynamic vision exercises with objects/symbols at different distances: near and far. The subject followed this training with increasing difficulty, e.g. standing with a changing position of the objects, walking, an unbalanced body position, incorporating specific movement to the task (e.g. keeping a ball).
  7. Relaxing exercises (relaxation massages, palming).”

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