Do You Play Sports? Your Vision Affects Performance More Than You Know

by | Apr 27, 2021 | Eye Health | 0 comments

Most casual basketball fans should know the name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. For those who don’t know, Kareem is the highest scoring player in the history of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Even more points than Michael Jordan!

Kareem was known as being dominant, tall, his patented “Skyhook” shots…and the goggles. His goggles had more to do with his success than you might think!

Eye injury prevention

A 2018 study in the scientific journal Pediatrics reported that basketball is the leading cause of sports-related eye injuries in the United States, followed closely by baseball and softball. Typically this will be a poke in the eye or getting struck in the facial area by a stray ball or player. 

In his college days at UCLA, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was known as Lou Alcindor, and his team was unstoppable. The Bruins won 88 games and only suffered two losses during Alcindor’s career. One of those came after he suffered a scratched cornea in the previous game, sapping his effectiveness. Early in Kareem’s legendary NBA career with the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers, he scratched his cornea again. This caused him to don the goggles you see him wearing in almost any photograph you’ll see from his playing days.

It may not sound fashionable, but wearing protective eyewear while playing sports has been proven by many scientific studies to markedly decrease the amount of eye injuries during play. Consider donning some protective glasses while playing sports, or encouraging your children to do so! The quality of protective eyewear has increased dramatically in recent years. The American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests polycarbonate lenses that are shatterproof, and can be worn during a variety of sports activities.

Sports performance and vision

Sports performance aligning with peak eye health is not something you hear about everyday, but when it comes to assessing the damage from concussions, which can affect your vision along with other types of head trauma or eye injuries, its importance comes into sharp focus.

Sports and performance vision evaluations are being increasingly talked about in the optometric community, and incorporated by more optometrists nationwide. With recent scientific studies also demonstrating that visual training can almost immediately improve hand-eye coordination, cognitive skills and perceptual performance, the push to talk about vision is real.

Dr. Joseph LaPlaca, optometrist and owner of Ares Elite Sports Vision in Indiana, is helping professional race car drivers, soccer teams, and even e-sports athletes train their vision. He is at the forefront of a huge investment in collegiate and professional sports to prioritize vision training for athletes.

“Training your visual system for sports will improve your reaction time, increase peripheral and spatial awareness, and improve visual and neural processing speeds, among many other great benefits,” said Dr. LaPlaca. “A full sports vision evaluation is essential for athletes before their season starts. Knowing how their visual systems function and identifying any deficits that may exist gives us a great starting point for their health and safety. If an issue arises, whether it’s in school or on the field, we have a starting point. It all starts with the eyes and it’s time we stop taking our vision for granted.”

A concussion evaluation typically includes measuring the oculomotor function of the eyes — the motion of the eye. Abnormal measures of this can indicate that a concussion has occurred. Concussions are typically more associated with football, but getting a sports vision exam can help measure a baseline for healthy individuals to determine whether they’ve suffered a concussion after a sports-related injury, according to Dr. LaPlaca. 

While Nanodropper has extensively covered the reasons why getting your annual eye exam is important for your overall health as well as your eye health, athletes might want to think about taking their vision to the next level. For any aspiring young athlete trying to make the leap to college or the pros, investing in your eyes with sports vision exams and training could provide great benefits.

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