Sporting vision

Study finds that athletes’ vision may not match their elite ability 

27 Nov 2017 by Emily McCormick

Vision problems, including short and long sightedness, are common among elite cricketers and rugby players, according to the findings of a new study.

Led by University of Bradford's professor of visual development, Brendan Barrett, and Research Councils UK research fellow, Dr John Buckley, researchers reported that clear, pin-sharp eyesight might not be as important for playing sports at the highest levels.

Professor Barrett said: “You might expect sports people at the top level to take measures to make sure their vision is perfect, particularly given that in cricket for example, the ball is small and often travelling very fast.”

However, Professor Barrett revealed that the research team “found a surprising proportion of people who are playing high level sport without optimally corrected vision, or indeed corrected vision at all.”

As part of the study, researchers from the University of Bradford, the University of York, John Moores University Liverpool and the University of St Andrews performed a series of eye and vision tests on players on the England woman's cricket team, university cricket teams and the Huddersfield Giants rugby league team.

Published in Sports Medicine (Open), researchers found one in five participants had not had a sight test for five years, or never. A similar proportion of players were also found to have a visual anomaly.

Furthermore, of those who wore glasses or contact lenses off the sports field, a number chose not to wear correction when playing.

The study forms part of a wider research project that is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and is exploring what contribution vision makes to the potential of reaching elite-levels in sport.

Professor Barrett said: “There is a lot that we still don't understand about how vision contributes to the interceptive actions that are a feature of so many sports. 

“If you speak to those who are very good slip fielders in cricket for example, they have particular strategies about where they should be looking and when they should be looking there. This tells us that there is more to vision than just seeing things clearly. It's also about how vision is used to deliver the best performance.”

Image credit: Wolliwoo 


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