Vision And Sport Performance
The Impact Of Vision Problems
Vision may be the most variable and selective of all the senses. Attempting to observe fast movements that occur in sport places great demands on human vision..
The eyes send information to the brain where it is integrated and interpreted as a three-dimensional (3D) phenomenon. The integration of visual information from both eyes into a 3D image is called fusion. Without a conscious effort to attend to something, the eyes will continuously move throughout the visual field. When something gets our visual attention we may focus both eyes on the object. This pause is called a fixation.
Fixations are important because focusing ability is limited to 3 degrees (Kluka, 1991). Our ability to see fine detail is limited to being able to focus both eyes on an object that we can keep within this small arc. The Thumb Rule can be used to get a feel for the size of this area of visual focus (Groot, Ortega, & Beltran, 1994). Extend your arm forward, holding your arm straight with your thumb pointing vertically. The width of your thumb in this position is a good approximation of the focus of your visual field. Note that as you read these words and you focus on one word, the words to either side in your peripheral vision are not in focus.
Because the focus of the visual field is so small, peripheral vision becomes very important, particularly in sport. Peripheral visual information is processed quickly to facilitate the detection of motion so that visual focus can be directed to other events. Peripheral vision is stressed in basketball because awareness of motion to the side or above allows the eyes and the athlete to react to more game events. Figure 1 illustrates a situation in a basketball game where the defender, with eyes fixed on the player with the ball, may be very sensitive to a cut down the lane by another player, but will not likely be able to determine detail (opponents identity or the quality of coverage by a teammate). If the opponent did not have the ball, a basketball coach might advise players to focus vision on the "midpoint" between the ball and the person they are defending to better utilize their peripheral vision.
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