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Sports Vision

Sportsmen and women are often unaware just how much their performance depends upon sight. Sports performers not only have to be able to see distant objects clearly, but they also have to separate and differentiate objects from ever-changing backgrounds as well as judge distances and speeds. Good vision is very important in all sports and vital in many. Consequently, an awareness of this fact and how we can both improve and protect sports vision can help enhance performance.

Visual Sensitivity

Visual sensitivity is not just about being able to see as far as possible. At distance, the eyes need to be able to judge subtle differences in contrast between an object and its background, in all light conditions. Fine binocular sensitivity allows the distance of objects to be judged accurately and quickly. Peripheral awareness (ability to see objects and movement outside of the direct line of vision) is used to anticipate an opponent's intentions and to locate objects approaching from the side or above. The speed and endurance of the eyes' focusing system are particularly important. Good central and peripheral vision, as well as eye body coordination, is important in the avoidance of injury. Problems with eye dominance can lead to eye strain and loss of accuracy and this, in turn, will create tension which will lead to loss of control.

Visual Reaction Time

The visual system cannot make instant decisions. The fastest Olympic reaction times are around 0.2 seconds and if the time for moving the hands or feet into position is added, it is nearly 0.4 seconds. The athlete who anticipates best has the advantage and this depends on experience and optimising vision.

Association of Sportvision Practitioners

The Association of Sportvision Practitioners (ASP) was established with the aim of promoting and advancing all aspects of vision relating to sporting activities. It is a multi-disciplinary body with a membership drawn front sporting organizations and participants, as well as from commerce, eye care and sports vision specialists in the UK. The ASP has developed three main areas of interest in sports vision.

  • The first is that of the routine correction of optical dysfunction and the promotion of a more organised approach to dealing with the needs of athletes at all levels, throughout the general day-to-day work of the profession
  • The second is that of eye protection and reflects the very real concern at the number of accidents which cause damage to the eye or visual system, many of which can be prevented
  • The third is to look into ways and means of enhancing visual function to improve sporting performance

Related References

The following references provide additional information on this topic:

  • MAHOMED, A. F. et al. (2013) The effect of sports vision exercises on the visual skills of university students. Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Natuurwetenskap en Tegnologie, 32 (1), p. 1
  • ZIMMERMAN, A. B. et al. (2011) Visual acuity and contrast sensitivity testing for sports vision. Eye & contact lens, 37 (3), p. 153-159.
  • OUDEJANS, R. R. et al. (2012) Training Visual Control in Wheelchair Basketball Shooting. Research quarterly for exercise and sport, 83 (3), p. 464-469

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (1999) Sports Vision [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

Related Pages

The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic: