Peer Reviewed Evidence : Sports Specific Vision Training;

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Over View of Sports Vision 2015

Sport-specific vision training (SSVT) programmes are designed to improve visual function (e.g., depth perception, dynamic visual acuity, improved visual quality, visual fatigue control and peripheral awareness). A range of exercises is typically used by vision specialists such as optometrists and ophthalmologists. Although these specialists usually work to assist individuals with visual deficiencies, more recently the same methods have been used with athletes in an effort to improve sports performance.
Specilaist research on SSVT has been shown to lead to task-specific improvements in sports performance (Smeeton et al., 2005; Williams et al., 2002).It is imperative that such programmes have an evidence based approach / scientific research regarding the efficacy of training techniques for performance enhancement in sport.

Sport Specific Vision training (SSVT)
 aims to improve the ability to detect, discriminate, and/or identify the specific sources of visual information involved in a particular athlete’s sport. For example, rather than using abstract stimuli to train an individual’s ability to detect the direction of a moving object, sport-specific stimuli are employed to improve a goalkeeper’s ability to detect the direction of motion of a shooter’s hip during a football penalty kick.

 SSVT programmes typically involves using experts from within the sport to identify the specific sources of information used during successful performance on the task (i.e., the expert-model approach). Interventions are developed that use sport- and task-specific video simulations or advanced technologies such as Eye Trackers ensure that these specific information sources are captured. In situ instructions are given to highlight the most useful places to extract information from the visual display and link this information to actions and outcomes. The effectiveness of these training interventions relies on the development of a comparable knowledge base and visual strategy to that are traits of the ‘expert performer’.
There is growing evidence that is a need for SSVT as apposed to General Vision Training (GVT)
The majority of intervention studies using general vision training programmes in the sports domain do not support the utility of GVT (see Abernethy, 1996; Williams & Grant, 1999 for reviews). Schwab and Memmert (2012) reported that a group of young field hockey players who participated in a 6-week intervention that included practice using a Dynavision D2® Trainer, Eyeport, Vision Performance Enhancement Program, Hart Charts and P-Rotator improved performance on the same visual test on which they trained. However, there was no improvement on a functional field of view task or an additional measure of transfer (multiple object tracking). Using a randomised, placebo-controlled design, Abernethy and Wood (2001) reported that while participants who underwent one of two GVT programmes did improve performance in a stationary sport-specific transfer test (by 7.25 %) participants in a control group who received no vision training also improved (by 3.3 %). To provide stronger support for the efficacy of GVT programmes, researchers need to ensure that appropriate control and experimental groups are employed so that a cause and effect relationship between GVT and performance can be ascertained. 

While there is a lack of evidence for the efficacy of GVT programmes in improving sports performance, such interventions may be useful to redress imbalances (e.g., eye dominance) or deficits in normal visual functioning. The tests used in many GVT programmes could be valuable for screening/testing vision in sport. There may be instances when the visual system of an athlete is not functioning properly and, as a result, sports performance (and general health) might suffer (e.g., Goodrich et al., 2013). GVT for screening and health purposes must not be ignored.

Support for sport-specific vision training

When sport-specific visual stimuli are used there is some evidence that training does improve sports performance (see Causer et al., 2012 for a review). Williams et al. (2002) trained anticipation of tennis groundstrokes using film-based sport-specific vision (perceptual) training. They demonstrated that anticipation could be trained through video feedback of key visual stimuli from the opponent’s action. Not only did anticipation performance improve above that seen in a matched-ability intervention group, but these improvements transferred to an on-court test of anticipation (the training group’s mean responses were 0.187 s quicker than reported for the control and placebo groups). Hopwood et al. (2011) demonstrated that highly skilled cricket players who received visual-perceptual training in conjunction with on-field training, demonstrated greater improvements in in situ fielding tests (catching success improved by 21.7 % from preto post-test) compared to those who received on-field training alone (catching success improved by 16.2 % from pre- to post-test). 

Additionally, studies examining eye-gaze behaviour in sports requiring accurate aiming have shown that skilled performance is linked to having a longer and earlier ‘quiet eye’ (final fixation prior to the critical movement) on the relevant target location. Training interventions designed to increase this quiet eye dwell time not only successfully enhance task performance (above technically-focused interventions) in laboratory settings, but also transfer to competitive sports settings (see Causer et al., 2012; Vine et al., 2012 for reviews). An important advantage of quiet eye training is that the eye movements are trained in situ. Eye tracking is just one integral part to Sports Vision Analysis and Training.


Abernethy, B. & Wood, J.M. (2001). Do generalized visual training programmes for sport really work? An experimental investigation. Journal of Sports Sciences, 19(3), 203-222

Causer, J. et al. (2012). Perceptual training: What can be trained? In N.J. Hodges & A.M. Williams (Eds.), Skill Acquisition in Sport: Research, Theory and Practice (pp. 306-324).

Clark, J.F. et al. (2012). High-performance vision training improves batting statistics for University of Cincinnati baseball players.

Goodrich, G.L. et al. (2013). Development of a mild traumatic brain injury-specific vision screening protocol: A Delphi study. Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development, 50(6),

Hopwood, M.J. et al. (2011). Does visual-perceptual training augment the fielding performance of skill cricketers? International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 4(6), 523-535.

Schwab, S. & Memmert, D. (2012). The impact of a sports vision training program in youth field hockey players. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 11(4), 624-631.

Smeeton, N.J. et al. (2005). The relative effectiveness of various instructional approaches in developing anticipation skill. Journal of Experimental Psychology-Applied, 11(2), 98-110.

Vine, S.J., Moore, L.J. & Wilson, M.R. Quiet eye training: The acquisition, refinement and resilient performance of targeting skills. European Journal of Sport Science ahead-of-print (2012): 1-8.

Williams, A.M. et al. (2002). Anticipation skill in a real-world task: Measurement, training, and transfer in tennis. Journal of Experimental Psychology-Applied, 8(4), 259

Sports Vision Training

  1. Detaied vision assessment of tasks
  2. Define Sports Specific Performance Indicators
  3. Coach involvement (Often S&C, Technical Coach)
  4. Athlete engagement & Assessment
  5. Feed-back and Proposed Vision Training.
  6. General Team and individual Regimens if indicated
  7. Audit & Review.

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