Apr 23, 2015
Vision To Avoid Concussions

University of Cincinnati researchers are reporting that Bearcat football players who received vision training sustained significantly fewer concussions than those who did not. The reason, they summized, was that improved peripheral vision helped players avoid injury-causing hits.

Published Monday, April 20, in Optometry & Visual Performance, the study looked at Bearcat players who underwent vision training during the team’s preseason camps from 2010 to 2013. (Vision training continued in 2014, but last season was not included in the study.) Concussion rates from that period were compared to injury data from the four previous seasons (2006 to 2009), which did not include vision training.

Part of the team’s regular strength and conditioning program, the vision training component had players go through 40 minutes of eye exercise circuits each day for two weeks immediately prior to the start of the season. Training methods included an eye-hand coordination device that tests and improves visual motor skills by using small board-mounted target buttons that light up randomly and a tachistoscope, which trains the brain to recognize images faster. Then, during the season, players went through a maintenance program using the Dynavision D2. 

According to data from the study, as reported by UCHealthNews.com:

  • Players who received vision training sustained 1.4 concussions per 100 game exposures, while those who did not receive the training sustained 9.2 concussions per 100 game exposures—an 80 percent decrease from the pre-vision training years .
  • The decrease in injury frequency in competitive seasons with vision training was also associated with a concomitant decrease in missed playing time. (All team members for each season used the same helmet models from the same two manufacturers.)

“We believe that the vision training we performed is broadening the athlete’s field of awareness, or functional peripheral vision,” Joe Clark, PhD, a professor in the UC Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine and the study’s corresponding author, told UCHealthNews.com. “With that additional information, they can react faster to their changing environment and avoid injury-causing collisions.

“Football is a complex skilled sport with the need to integrate sensory input to be successful, and our opinion is that vision plays a key component,” Clark added. “But little to no emphasis is placed on prevention or training to reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury (TBI), which includes concussions … What we need is a strategy that can decrease the risk of injury from collisions and is easily adoptable by coaches and medical practitioners.


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