Jul 27, 2020
Vision Training Helping Duke Baseball Keep Eye on the Ball

For the Duke baseball program, seeing is not just believing — it’s helping turn would-be ground balls into frozen ropes.

In a new study conducted by Duke Health researchers, a training regimen for the eyes has shown the potential to help student-athletes improve coordination drills, according to a story from Duke Today.

The study, published in the Psychology of Sport and Exercise journal, showed how college baseball players can improve their batting practice performance through vision training.

Photo: Peter Smith / Creative Commons

“This was a first-of-kind study comparing players who were randomized to either undergo dynamic vision training drills or placebo drills that were matched in difficulty, but did not alter vision,” senior author Greg Appelbaum, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University School of Medicine, told Duke Today. “While the study size was small, the methodology was rigorous and we were able to determine a benefit from the intervention compared to the placebo.”

With 24 student-athletes from Duke and Indiana University, researches had half of the players undergo various vision training exercises that got progressively harder. According to the story, some of those exercises included the following:

  • Tossing and catching a ball wearing eyewear that created a strobe effect to improve hand-eye coordination.
  • Assessing when a runway of fast, moving lights would intersect from opposite directions in a drill designed to enhance anticipatory skills.
  • Using computer screens to track the movement of small targets over space or between screens to build dynamic and binocular visual skills.

Results demonstrated that the players who underwent the active intervention showed significant improvements in batting practice, hitting the ball further and with a higher arc, compared to those from the placebo group. While no significant improvements were identified in the actual game statistics, the authors told Duke Today the availability of these data were limited, because many of the enrolled players did not play during the seasons before or after the visual training occurred.

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“The act of hitting a pitched baseball is widely considered to be among the most challenging activities in all of sports,” Appelbaum said to Duke Today. “Our study demonstrates that vision training can lead to better batting performance. These findings are also likely not limited to baseball and, in fact, could be applied to other sports and activities in which people need to make rapid decisions on visual information such as marksmanship or tennis.”

To read the full story from Duke Today on its study on vision training in baseball players, click here

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