Sports vision is a term which encompasses the assessment, correction and enhancement of vision as well as the protection of eyes during sporting activity.
Proper attention to vision in sport ensures that
Both eyes are appropriately corrected and properly balanced
The eyes are protected against trauma and non-ionising radiation
Contrast is maximised
Eye disease is avoided where possible, recognised and treated
In most sports, success is achieved by accurately made decisions based on information obtained by vision as 85-90% of an athlete's sensory imput is visual. To be competitive in any sport it is vital to achieve the best possible performance from the whole body including your eyes. However, research at the Olympic Games has consistently shown that over one fifth of athletes have visual problems. Few realise the eyes are in danger of being injured while playing sport. Eye protection is available but few choose to wear it.
THE EARLIEST SPORTS
It is known from a relief in the temple at Karnak in Egypt, that King Tuthmosis III practised the sport of archery about 1400 years BC. This is well before the sporting contests in Olympia in 776 BC.
SPORT AND VISION
Research has indicated that optimal visual correction can improve sporting performance. During exercise it has been demonstrated that there is a reduction in the pressure inside the eye and possibly corneal oedema (cloudy front window of the eye) from an increase in lactic acid and a decrease in glucose in the blood.
Surveys have shown that around 50% of sportsmen and women, including top ranked players, have never had an eye examination even though, when asked, most agreed that vision is important in their sport. Research from the Olympic Games suggests that up to 30% of elite athletes compete with visual problems, which is a similar figure to that of drivers failing the number plate test. The average person uses only about 50% of the potential of the visual system probably due to the sedentary way of life. Many athletes do not think they have the time to spend on their vision and most are unaware that their performance would improve if they did put in the time.
SPORT AND LENSES
Contact lenses are a sports person's secret weapon. In most cases, contact lenses can immediately improve athletic performance and there is no problem with broken frames or spectacle lenses. Contact lenses don't fog up, slide down your nose, or fall off and you can wear protective eyewear over them such as goggles or sunglasses. It all adds up to better vision when it counts the most. It is known that about 10% of sportsmen and women use contact lenses and also that a further 10% of athletes remove their spectacles before playing their sport!
CONTACT LENSES CAN
Increase peripheral vision
Improve depth perception
Refine vision while moving
Enhance contrast and colour
Most athletes find that disposable contact lenses are the best option. They can be replaced daily, fortnightly, monthly or three-monthly which ever system is best for you. They may be more comfortable, require less maintenance and remain almost free of the protein deposits that can cause irritation and decrease vision. The end result is that you may see better and therefore you give yourself a greater chance of winning at your sport.
HOCKEY AND VISION
Hockey can be played at speed with the ball travelling at around 150 kph. It is becoming increasingly recognised that good visual skills ensure the correct execution of technical skills such as highly developed motor performance, ball and stick technical skills as well as requiring quick reactions, recognition and decision making ability. Excellent peripheral vision is required for mid-fielders and defenders and all hockey players require 20/20 vision, good depth perception, dynamic visual acuity, eye movement skills, co-ordination of the eyes and focus flexibility.
THE RIGHT TINT?
All lenses used outdoors should provide protection from UVA and UVB no matter how dark the tint. Lenses should not be too dark as they enlarge the pupil unnecessarily, reduce depth of field and hence the quality of vision. To decide on the best tint you should consider the brightness of the ambient light, the colour of the target and background and its contrast.
Neutral grey filters keep colurs looking natural which is important in golf, mountaineering and skiing.
Polarising filters and good for reducing reflected glare for fishing, water sports and cycling on wet roads.
Anti-reflection coatings remove the distracting reflections from lens surfaces and are recommended for racket sports, fishing, shooting and archery.
There is a CIBSE Lighting Guide LG4:Sport and a British Standards publication from 1999 which recommends levels of illuminance for a number of sports. It also includes uniformity ratios and glare ratings.
Olympic volleyball players in Beijing 2008 were found wearing spectacles without lenses as according to Phil Dalhausseur of the US men's team the lenses steam up and so the lenses are popped out and the frames are worn for the sponsors benefit only.
A study which followed 41,000 runners in the USA at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that running reduced the risk of cataract and age-related macular degeneration.
Here you can discover how top athletes become so successful and how it might be possible for you to be a winner. To excel in any sport most people will need to be seeing with two eyes together and comfortably. There are a number of visual abilities which it may be possible to improve. These include: the standard of central vision (visual acuity), the speed and strength of focusing on near then far objects and back to near again (accommodative flexibility and amplitude), ability to perceive objects at different distances and the speed achieved (depth perception and speed of stereopsis), vision of moving objects (dynamic visual acuity), control of the two eyes together (binocular vision) especially for near (convergence) and seeing around you (peripheral awareness). Other factors include contrast of the the object being viewed such as a ball against different backgrounds (contrast sensitivity), the ability to recovery from looking at the sun (glare recovery) as well as any sensitivity to light and adapting to bright light, whether you are right or left eye dominant, eye-hand and eye-body co-ordination and visualisation.
allows you see fine details from a distance like the subtle contours of a golf course or ski slope.
DYNAMIC VISUAL ACUITY
is needed to maintain clear vision when you need to follow a moving target such as a ball or when you are moving and other objects including your surroundings, are stationary. Some sports such as tennis, rugby and football require a high degree of dynamic visual acuity but others such as snooker and golf do not. In snooker and golf, a stationary ball is addressed and propelled towards a stationary target. In table tennis, for example, where the movement of the ball can be very fast, the player does not watch the complete trajectory of the ball but he notes the bat movement and a glimpse of the ball in flight in order to quickly decide which return shot to play.
keeps a ball in sharp focus while you follow it with your eyes as it move towards or away from you. It follows that if you are short or long-sighted you may need to wear glasses or contact lenses to maintain the focus.
The ex-PM likes to go running and play tennis even though he has a left ocular prosthesis (glass eye) having suffered a retinal detachment caused by a kick when he was at the bottom of a rugby scrum. He also had a retinal detachment in his right eye although eye operations were able to save some sight in this eye.
Clarence Harding was blinded in his right eye when he was gouged by an opponent in a rugby match between his side Gravesend Rugby Club and Maidstone RFC on 17 January 2010. The number eight said the ball had been nowhere near his head when he was hurt. Surgeons said the 26-year-old was unlikely to regain the sight in his right eye.
Mohammed Sissoko, the then Liverpool midfielder from Mali, received a blow from the boot of Benfica's Beto causing a damaged retina when playing in Lisbon on 21.2.06 in the European Champions League 1st leg quarter finals.
ARE YOUR EYES AT RISK?
Most sports people when questioned were unaware of the risk of serious eye injury in their sport and believed it could never happen to them. Eye injuries from sport is the most common cause of in patient admission in eye departments. In the north of England gauging the eyeball in rugby league is the most prevalent cause of ocular trauma. In the south of England, the most common cause of injury form sport is from squash balls entering the bony orbit of the front of the eye and rupturing the eyeball. Squash is the only sport which recommends eye protection for all players following the publication of a British Standards document (BS 7930-1). It is now mandatory to wear eye approved eye protection for all squash players under the age of 18 and any doubles events.
There are more eye injuries from football than any other single sport but there are more injuries from the combined racket sports of badminton, tennis and squash. In fact, 35% of sports eye injuries are from racket sports.
In squash the speed of the ball is somewhere between 130 and 145mph and the ball is small enough to fit in the eyeball socket and damage the eye more. Players can also be hit by their opponents rackets. Speeds of well over 120 miles an hour though are common. In badminton, the shuttlecock reaches speeds of 145 mph whereas in table tennis the 40 mm ball may travel at only 100 mph but being closer to your opponent you have only 6/100th of a second to react or it may have such spin that it can rotate more than 100 times per second. However, very few players are seriously injured by a table tennis ball.
The important factors determining the extent of injury is the kinetic energy of the projectile, the point of impact, the shape of the ocular structures and the shape of the projectile. It is important to incorporate a suitable filter in ski visors and goggles to protect against the strong reflectivity of snow at high altitudes.
Ex-Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, lost his left eye from a retinal detachment after being kicked in the head during an end-of-term rugby union match at his old school. He now has a prosthesis (glass eye). He has had a detachment in the right eye also.
Steve Davis, the ex-world champion snooker player, attributed a resurgence in form by reaching the final of the 2005 UK Championship, by looking at the cue and object ball first before getting into position to play the ball. Unfortunately for him he was beaten in the final by Ding Junhui, a teenage Chinese boy about half his age. However, in 2010 at the World Championships in Sheffield he beat the world Champion, John Higgins, in the second round attributing his success this time to just concentrating on one thing at a time and in this case on keeping his head still during the shot.
Formula One driver, Ralf Schumacher, wears glasses at present but has been advised to use contact lenses as spectacles are too dangerous to wear while driving his motor racing car.
Rubens Barrichello and Jacques Villeneuve are contact lens wearers as was Jonathan Edwards when he was winning his World and Olympic titles but he has since had laser surgery.
The participation in the sport of boxing has caused many boxers to suffer eye injury amongst them Frank Bruno who suffers from retinal detachments. In fact, a study has shown that after five defeats the risk of suffering retinal detachments is around 20% and after 75 bouts a 95% chance.
Dutchman, Edgar Davids, is the only footballer allowed by FIFA to wear spectacles while playing. The spectacles have no lenses but are used to protect his eyes from acute glaucoma which occurred following an incident which damaged the bony structure around his eye. There is a possibility that this FIFA ruling soon may be relaxed to prevent the increasing occurrence of serious eye injuries occurring in football.
Ex-England cricketer, David Steele, used to play in spectacles as did his fellow Yorkshireman Geoff Boycott until he switched to contact lenses. Geoff Lawson who played test match cricket for Australia, and is now manager of Pakistan, trained as an optometrist. President Bashar al-Assad of Syria (shown to left) is married to a British-born wife and he was studying ophthalmology in London when he was summoned back to Syria when his elder brother died to be trained as the next president which he now is. However, he is not particularly well known for his sporting prowess.
The British Standards publication covering eye protection in sport covers racket sports only. It is referred to as BS 7930-1998 although only Part 1 is available now and relates to the playing of squash. The lens used in eye wear for squash has to be of polycarbonate and the eye wear should be able to withstand at four separate points the impact of a yellow dot squash ball at a speed of 40 metres per second.
Mountain climbing can cause the blood vessels at the back of the eye to burst. Known as "high altitude retinal haemorrhage" it can occur as a result of oxygen deficiency (hypoxia) where there is an increase in retinal blood flow, stress from physical exertion and valsalva movements in mountain climbing.
Glare can be caused when the sun's rays reflect off a shiny surface such as water, snow or sand bunkers. Polarising lenses consisting of a film of vertically orientated iodine crystals can cut out the polarised or reflected glare and give better and more comfortable vision to those involved in sport such as anglers, rowers, sailors, skiers and golfers. When the sun is reflected off a wet road polarising lenses can be of help to joggers, marathon runners and cyclists.
Northampton and potential England Hooker , Dylan Hartley was banned for 6 months in 2007 by the RFU disciplinary committee for eye gouging two Wasps player's in a premiership match. It is believed to be the longest suspension dished out to a top-flight England player since former Bath prop Kevin Yates received a six-month ban after being found guilty of ear-biting in 1998. Judge Jeff Blackett, chairman of the three-man panel, said: Contact with an opponent's eyes is a serious offence because of the vulnerability of the area and risk of permanent injury.
Italy back-row Mauro Bergamasco was handed a 13-week ban in February 2008 after pleading guilty to gouging the right eye of the Wales full-back Lee Byrne when they clashed on the final whistle of Wales' 47-8 home win.