A Vision for Improving Athlete Performance

April 9, 2019

New technology is taking shape with contact lenses for athletes who need them to overcome vision issues. And the one leading the way is the highest-paid player in baseball: Bruce Harper.

During Spring Training, Harper began wearing new transition contact lenses that feature technology allowing the user to adapt to changing light. These new lenses, called ACUVUE OASYS with Transitions, is designed to minimize the effects of bright light on the eye.

This innovation, called photochromic technology, has been used for a several of years in “transition glasses,” in which the glass lenses darken when exposed to sunlight. But it's new to contact lenses—and Harper is leading the way to show what's possible.

"For me, it’s a one-of-a-kind product this offseason, Harper said in an article on USA TODAY Sports, “being able to be one of the first (people) to use it—especially as a baseball player where my vision is huge for me."

Harper has worn contact lenses since eighth grade, but he said in the article that they've given him issues in the past. The USA Today article stated Harper encountered headaches while wearing contacts in high school

Harper said he wore the transition lenses throughout spring training and realized an improvement with his vision. They adapt suddenly when exposed to light, he said in the article, and are "fully engaged" within 45 seconds or so.

"The sunlight and the lights of the stadium would really interfere with my eyes a little bit and make me squint a little bit harder or not be able to look in the light as long," Harper said. "So being able to have a lens that transitions into a darker lens for me has been huge. ... (That) split-second of making contact or striking out, or misreading a ball, it can definitely help me in that circumstance, as well."


Having a Clear Vision

 

Why is there a need for making sure your athletes have proper vision? Athletes continue to get bigger, faster, and stronger, so the speed and intensity of sports have increased.  If an athlete has a compromised field of vision, they may not properly respond to stimuli around them during competition.

An article on Training-Conditioning.com discusses a vision training program created by the University of Cincinnati, which uses several modalities to improve the peripheral and central vision of athletes, strengthen the accommodative (focusing) systems of the eye, and lower reaction time.

The article lists exercises that you can use for vision training your athletes, including the following drills that require essentially require no equipment:

Tracking: Using a spinning wheel with numbers on it, players must call out the numbers in order as the wheel rotates.

Reaction-trainer ball: Using a non-round ball that bounces in an irregular and unpredictable manner, players bounce it against a wall and catch it as it comes back in random directions. To make it more difficult, the athletes can change their distance from the wall, height of the throw, or texture of the wall.

Another option is to have an athletic trainer or strength coach bounce the ball in front of the athlete, which requires them to react to the bounce and catch it. As training progresses, the throws can become more challenging, forcing the athlete to exhibit a greater degree of dexterity to catch the ball.

Reaction-trainer ball exercises can also be done in groups with a competitive element. Players can bounce the ball to one another, either in random fashion or at the instruction of an athletic trainer or strength coach. When a player misses the ball, he or she is out, and the last player remaining wins.

Pitch and catch: This activity can be performed by having an athletic trainer or strength coach toss any type of ball back and forth to an athlete or instruct the athlete to bounce the ball against a wall or on a mini trampoline. It’s beneficial for cardio, eye-hand coordination, and visual tracking. To make it more challenging, we will write letters, numbers, or shapes on the ball that athletes have to call out before they catch it.

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