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Training Your Eyes: Essential Vision Skills for Athletes

Vision Training for Athletes No matter what sport you're playing and what level you play at, good vision is necessary to improve your skills, play the best that you can and protect yourself. Even sports that are “no contact” could be dangerous if you can't see well, and just seeing 20/20 isn't enough; your eyes need to work together properly as a team. Knowing which vision skills you need to work on and learning the best ways to improve should start with a full evaluation by a sports vision specialist.

What the sports vision specialist should look for
In addition to your regular vision and eye health exams and screening, the sports vision specialist should give you a number of tests to test your vision skills. These tests should include reaction time and speed, visual tracking skills, hand/eye coordination, visual recognition skills, visual alignment and depth perception. All of these skills are essential for good vision during sports. Your eyes tell your brain for what it needs to do next - catch, hit or get out of the way, depending on the situation. If your eyes are not tracking in perfect synchronization for instance, the message received by the brain can be slightly off, leading to a slower reaction time and possible injury that could have been avoided. In addition, the ability to use your eyes in tandem with each other can cut needless head movements and allow for more efficient vision.

Watch a professional level hockey goalie and you'll see how little his head moves when the play is in close. He'll laser focus on the puck and barely move his head to keep track of it. That six ounces of hardened rubber is going to be repeatedly launched at him at speeds of 100 miles per hour or more, and he must follow it perfectly. The ability to track properly with both eyes gives the goalie the speed and accuracy to stop the majority of the pucks, win the game and avoid injury for himself. If his eyes are not up to the task, he will have to work twice as hard to manage his tasks and will eventually find himself playing in the minor leagues.

Training options for the eyes
All athletes know there's training that must be done so they can be at the top of their game at all times. They lift weights to be stronger, do cardio for better heart and lung health. They run so they can be faster and more agile. Many athletes do yoga so that they can be more flexible and less prone to injuries and aches and pains. In addition to all of that, it's also necessary to train the eyes. Training options may include sessions at the doctor's office or things that can be done at home. Often, these training options are computer-based. One such program, for example, is meant to build up strength and endurance for the eye and is typically done one to three times a week for up to 20 minutes.

Disadvantages of training sessions
Going to the doctor's office one to three times per week may be hard to fit in to an athlete's schedule, especially for the student stand-out or the professional who's already over scheduled as it is. In addition, the training sessions done in the doctor’s office can be very expensive for the amateur level athlete, typically costing around $65 each time. Even done just once a week, that adds up to $260 per month. If you're one of the athletes who needs three sessions per week the cost goes up to $780 per month.

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