The topic of Sports Vision is one which is fairly unknown amongst not only the general public but even in optometric and ophthalmological circles. The first impression one might get when the term “sports vision” is used is one of sitting comfortably with a the television screen clearly in sight and a large array of snacks and other refreshments within ones grasp. The experience of then viewing your favourite sports star or team perform well would be a pleasant one which would make the “sports vision” or maybe “sports viewing” session worth enjoying regularly.
The truth is that Sports Vision has to do with vision, more specifically visual skills involved in performing visual tasks while participating in sport. Thus it is important for sportsman and sportswoman and not that important to spectators. As we all know, the variety of skills required in different sports are endless but there are some basic skills that most sports would require. Every single sport would have a specific ideal visual skill set and Sports Vision Optometry identifies these required visual skills and then develops a training program to either improves these skills if they exist in the sportsperson or develop the skills if absent. The theory is that visually skilled sportspeople are better sportspeople, and it makes sense.
Apart from looking at visual skills and developing them Sports Vision is also about protecting the eyes from injuries while playing sports. This would include protective eyewear and headgear to avoid damage to the eye when things get rough. Luckily a soccer ball is large and not too hard, so we should be fine during the 2010 Soccer World Cup. Other sports may carry more risk. A good example is formula 1 driver Felipe Massa who got hit by a flying coil spring from another car while driving his Ferrari at high speed, fortunately his helmet took the brunt of the force and he has made a full recovery. There were concerns early on about his racing career possibly ending as a result of this traumatic injury. Luckily he is still racing thanks to the protection provided by his helmet.
If you are serious about your sport and think you need your visual skills assessed you can book an appointment for a normal eye examination first. All the basic visual tests will be assessed and discussed at this time. Your optometrist can assist in fitting contact lenses for better vision and also might help with recommendations regarding protective eyewear. Many sunglass manufacturers have product designed specifically with sport in mind and these products generally perform better than ordinary generic product available from sunglass stores. For a more serious sports specific assessments and skills training program one will require the facilities of a sports vision clinic. We are fortunate to be in the vicinity of the University of Johannesburg who has a Sports Vision Clinic and trained professionals available.
Humans have enjoyed sport for centuries and will continue doing so into the foreseeable future. Sports Vision is exciting, rewarding and here to stay.