Not only do poor visual skills cause difficulties in reading and learning in the classroom, but they also significantly affect your child’s performance on the field as an athlete. The visual system accounts for over 80% of the sensory information our brain relies on for directing the dynamic movement of the body. A great example of the complexity involved in a sports-related task can be examined by a baseball player at bat…
Picture yourself standing at home plate waiting to swing at a pitch. To stand in position holding the bat (prior to hopefully connecting with the ball) the body’s muscular, skeletal, and nervous systems have to function properly to send/receive messages to and from the brain. These messages communicate crucial information: where your body is in space in relation to the ground and other objects, the amount of force in the grasp you have on the bat to hold it in position, which muscles to engage to keep your body in the proper stance and upright against gravity, etc.
All of that work is just to stay in position while you await the pitch! Now your visual system has to track a moving object (the ball) as it comes toward you so that you can determine whether or not to swing at it… all in a split second. Your brain has to quickly command the muscles in your body to rotate your hips and shoulders, coordinate the movement of your arms to swing the bat, shift your weight from your back leg to the front leg as you maintain your balance, and time it all to connect with the ball based on accurate visual input received through your visual system.
As you can see, there is a multitude of information being processed and commands from the brain being executed based on the information you receive through your visual system. The following visual skills are essential to sports performance and are areas where deficits can occur.
- Dynamic Visual Acuity - the ability to see moving objects clearly.
- Visual Tracking - eye movement and coordination; the ability to "keep your eye on the ball.”
- Eye Focusing - the ability to change focus from one object to another quickly and clearly.
- Peripheral Awareness - the ability to see action or objects that are in your side vision.
- Depth Perception - the ability to accurately judge the distance between objects and see in three dimensions.
- Eye-Hand or Eye-Body Coordination - the ability to use your eyes to effectively direct the movements of your hands/body.
These skill areas, if impaired, are able to be improved with the implementation of vision therapy treatment. Just like practicing an instrument to improve your muscle memory of specific chords or performing cardio work to build your endurance, strengthening your brain’s ability to process and coordinate your visual skills with therapeutic activities helps create a more efficient and effortless system.