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Eyeing Perfection

Photonics Spectra
Jun 2008
Michael A. Greenwood

Athletes who can sink a basket from 20 feet out, hit a blistering fastball or throw the perfect touchdown pass when the game is on the line all have something in common: perfect eyesight.

If an athlete’s visual acuity is even slightly off, it is likely that his performance will suffer. A batter with bad eyes is less likely to connect with the ball.

Athletes, of course, have easy access to optometrists to improve their vision. Now they also have the option of visiting a sports vision clinic that opened in Houston in early 2008 and that caters to professional and amateur athletes alike who are seeking to gain a visual edge over the competition.

The Sports Vision Performance Center offers a variety of tests and equipment that can potentially improve someone’s visual abilities, perhaps to even better than 20/20.

Opened by Kevin Gee, an assistant clinical professor with the University of Houston’s College of Optometry, the clinic focuses on the basic visual skills that virtually all athletes need if they are to excel: depth perception, color, judging the speed and accuracy of movements, and contrast sensitivity.

PeregOpto_Eye-Tester.jpg

The Dynavision is a peg-board that requires athletes to hit red buttons as they light up. The device is used to test reaction times.


Clients are exposed to a 3-D movie projected onto a computer screen with shimmering objects to gauge their depth perception, to a lighted batting test that measures timing and accuracy to within one-thousandth of a second, and to a vertical lighted peg-board to determine peripheral awareness and accuracy of movement.

The clinic has examined the eyes of every member of the women’s softball team at the university, and the coach believes that the vision therapy is producing some eye-catching results on the ball field.



GLOSSARY
depth perception
The direct appreciation of the distance between a given object and the observer, or between the front and back of a solid object. Real depth perception is achieved by the retinal disparity formed by the different viewing positions of each eye; in apparent depth, the disparity is formed synthetically; e.g., a stereogram.
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