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Sports Vision entails more than just 'clear vision.'

“You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” Sure, but you also miss 100% of the shots you don’t see.

I don’t think anyone would question the importance of comfortable, clear vision while playing sports. And we have all heard having proper hand-eye coordination is important too but Sports Vision is much more than that. Visual awareness, visual experience and good binocularity are key cornerstones needed when trying to achieve your peak performance level. You could spend hours at the gym training, building body muscle and working on your swing but if you possess poor visual sensory skills then you are at a tremendous disadvantage. So, whether you are an athlete or if you just play sports for fun on the weekends, there are steps you can take to ensure your vision is up to par and will help, not hurt, your game.

Steps to maximizing your vision and game play:

  • Use vision correction: See perfect 20/20 near and far, with both eyes and with each eye individually (if one eye is not seeing as clear as the other eye your 3D vision or depth perception might suffer). Correct for any refractive error you might have through the use of prescription eyeglasses, rec specs, contacts, or LASIK. Your eye doctor will help you to determine which mode of vision correction will best match your needs and environment. Have your optometrist also test your binocularity, eye teaming, focusing and aiming skills and follow any recommendations they might give. Sometimes further testing may be required to ensure your visual system is working as efficiently and effortlessly as it should be. If there is a problem found with your binocularity, your doctor may suggest vision therapy as a treatment.
  • Guard your eyes: Use impact-resistant eye protection. There are around 40,000 sports related eye injuries each year in the US, 90% of which are considered preventable. “Basketball and baseball cause the most eye injuries, followed by water sports and racquet sports.” (source 1Prevent sports-related injuries to the eyes, particularly in high-risk sports, by wearing the right eye protection. Sports goggles such as Rec-Specs, when made with polycarbonate lenses (the most shatter-resistant lens material available), are among the most popular modes of protection.
  • Sports Vision Therapy: Seek a sports vision therapist evaluation or sensory testing. Areas tested will be skills such as eye tracking, visual concentration, eye-hand-body concentration and control, visual memory, visual reaction time, peripheral vision, depth perception, dynamic visual acuity and visualization. The American Optometric Association provides a simple and easy explanation for each of this areas here. Optometrists specializing in sports vision can make a customized treatment plan for you to help you excel in the visual and sensory areas you test weak in. There are also coaches who have used principles of sensory testing to host their own programs and clinics like Chris McKnight’s baseball vision program and Nike’s SPARQ program (Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction, Quickness).
  • Minimize Glare: Fighting the effects of glare is a hot topic lately in outdoor sports, even the NY Times recently reported on how baseball players with lighter eyes have a heightened sensitivity to glare.
  • Protect eyes from UV: If you play outdoors, protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful UVA/UVB rays  with the proper, high quality sunglasses recommended by your eye doctor, ‘wraparound’ frames are a popular choice since they block light coming in not only from the front but from the sides as well. Some contact lenses even come with UV protection built right in. Damage to the eyes from UV light exposure over time has been known to accelerate the development of cataracts and macular degeneration.
  • Protect eyes from eye diseases: Checking the health of your eyes is crucial. Close your eyes for a moment, would you be able to play your favorite sport without your vision? Do not let preventable eye diseases rob you of your sight, take a proactive approach in keeping your eyes healthy by having them checked by an eye doctor once a year.

All of these tips are important but Sports Vision Therapy and sensory training can take your game to the next level. Chris McKnight, associate scout for the Philadelphia Phillies and creator of the baseball vision program shares with us one of his sensory exercises used to help sharpen players’ visual sensory skills.

Super Vision Ring

“The Super vision ring is a training tool that is a circular plastic tube with 4 colored wiffle balls. Two partners face each other, one holds the Vision Ring while the partner ready to receive stands about 7 feet away. The partner holding the Vision ring will show the receiver one colored ball (out of four) and tell him/her the color (this provides audio and visual stimulation). As the partner holding the ring prepares to toss the ring, the receiver will begin to focus on the movement and the release point of the ring. The ring should make three rotations in the air, while the receiver tracks the color of the ball the tosser called out. We want the receiver to try to catch the ball, with the specific color that the tosser called out, and with their two hands out in front of the body. As the ball approaches, the receiver is using our EBH method- (otherwise know Eye Brain Hand)- as the Eye sends a signal to the brain, the Brain then sends a signal to the hands and the Hands perform the function, in this case catching the ball. 
This drill is used for speed of recognition, tracking, depth perception and eye hand coordination.”
-Chris McKnight
As you can see, if we take the seemingly simple action of catching a fly ball and break it down into steps, there are many mechanisms of that action that the eyes, brain and body have to perform and coordinate. For instance:
  • Visual Acuity: locate what player has the ball and see it clearly
  • Visual Concentration: concentrate on the ball and block out visual distractions (the crowd in the stadium for example)
  • Visual Reaction Time: read the player’s body language to know when he will hit the ball with the bat (the trigger to a cascade of events leading up to your visual reaction time)
  • Eye Tracking: follow the ball with your eyes as it flies through the sky
  • Depth Perception: use your 3D vision to see it getting closer to you
  • Dynamic Visual Acuity: focus it clear the entire time as it moves
  • Visual Memory: running up and navigating your way through the field to the ball to catch it
  • Peripheral Vision: making sure you will not collide with your teammates
  • Visualization: imagining yourself, in your mind’s eye, catching the ball
  • Eye-Hand-Body coordination (and end stage of visual reaction time): catching the ball
It would be impossible to remember or consciously perform each of these steps individually every time we catch a fly ball, so we can train our brain to remember this pathway for us. By exercising each of these sensory skills individually, we can optimize their wiring in the brain and then put it all together to enhance our performance when playing without even thinking about it.

If you have ever played golf, you have already probably practiced this method of breaking down an action into individual steps and then trying to perfect those steps when you work on your golf swing. In order to have a great swing at the ball, you must have “proper alignment, ball position, feet and hand position, posture, balance and more.” (source 2)

If you haven’t thought about other sports in that way, maybe now is the time. By enhancing each visual sensory step, your athletic performance as a whole can soar to new heights that you may have not even thought possible in the past. Seeing your eye doctor is the first step. Now let’s play ball!

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Gossip: Your ears may be doing the listening, but your Eyes are the ones taking all the notes!

The ears may lean towards gossip but your eyes find a way to protect yourself from it, if need be. An interesting experiment recently conducted at Northeastern University reveals that your eyes and brain select for information that may help save you from trouble or danger in the long run. Participants in this study were simultaneously shown a different image to each of their eyes using a mirror stereoscope. One of their eyes was shown an image of a house, while the other eye was shown an image of a human face at the same time. Each eye seeing a different image creates binocular rivalry and the brain ends up having to choose which image to pay the most attention to and it temporarily ignores or suppresses the other eye’s input. While the participants were shown these images they were told something about the face of the person in the image. They were either told a positive, neutral or negative statement and the subject matter of the statement was also social or non-social. For example, “he threw a chair at someone in his class” would be a negative, social statement, while “she drew the curtains in the room” would be a neutral, non-social statement.

The researchers then had people describe what they were seeing and for how long (the brain and the eyes may switch back and forth between the two images before deciding on which one will take over their visual consciousness completely). They found that participants reported their eyes (and brain) saw the image of a person’s face for a longer period of time when it was associated with a negative, social statement. They believe this may be a sort of protective mechanism; that if they focus on the face longer, knowing that it is a ‘bad guy,’ they may be creating a mental note to watch out for, or to stay far away from, that person in the future. Have you ever heard someone say that after they found out something about someone else, they ‘never looked at’ that person the same way? This may explain part of the reason why. Our eyes and our brain may be actively compiling a visual index of who is friend and who is foe. Interesting stuff! This gives new meaning to the phrase, I was “just looking out for you.”

(Source 1)(Source 2)

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Carrots CAN keep your eyes healthy but won't eliminate your need for glasses

I can’t count the number of times I have been asked by patients if carrots really can improve their eyesight. I think most people are looking for carrots to be a magical ‘cure’ for their refractive error. They want to eliminate their need for glasses and want carrots to make them have perfect 20/20 vision. While proper nutrition is necessary to maintain healthy eyes and can even help slow the progression of certain eye conditions and illnesses such as cataracts and macular degeneration, consuming a certain type of food can not ‘cure’ your need for glasses. HOWEVER, in recent studies it has been shown that what you eat CAN affect the sharpness of your vision! Say what, Dr. Murphy? Let me explain.

A study was recently conducted at the University of Reading where they measured the visual awareness and detection skills of 30 healthy young subjects two hours after they consumed either dark chocolate (which contains antioxidants called Cocoa Flavanols or CFs) or white chocolate (since white chocolate does not contain CF, this acted as a placebo).

*Yum! Chocolate!* Where do I sign up for this experiment again? Whoops, sorry. Back to the blog.

All kidding aside, the study set out to examine the effects of cocoa flavanols on vision and cognition. The experiment went like this, the 30 people were divided into two groups. One group consumed dark chocolate, the other consumed white. Then they were given a series of tests two hours later, when the CFs would have been releasing their physiological effects on the body. The tests given measured the subjects’ visual contrast sensitivity, motion sensitivity and direction detection and cognitive performance through visual spatial memory and a choice reaction cognitive task. They recorded the results and then a week later, they actually did the same experiment again with the same 30 subjects with one difference, they swapped sides! The white chocolate subjects now consumed dark chocolate and vice versa.

What they found, both weeks, was an improvement in visual and cognitive performances of the subjects who consumed the dark chocolate. The subjects who consumed the white chocolate had no real enhancement in their testing performance. This demonstrated that CFs really can temporarily improve your vision and cognition skills in as little as two hours, the effects of which are temporary. Researchers think that CFs increase blood flow to the eyes and brain and that this is what leads to enhanced functioning of those structures. They state that, “the results of the current study demonstrate for the first time that performance on tests of visual system function in healthy young adults can be improved by the acute consumption of CF.” (source)

More studies need to be done in this area to find out what this all means and how we could benefit from this knowledge but oh what fun that research will be! MMmmmm! =)

Dark Chocolate contains Cocoa Flavanols which can temporarily increase visual contrast sensitivity and visual detection.

Now I am not saying dark chocolate is better for you than carrots. I am not saying to eat dark chocolate everyday and substitute it for fruits and vegetables or your regular meal. I am not even saying that dark chocolate will cause improvements to your vision that you yourself will notice. I am bringing up this topic just to remind you that what you eat affects your body, sometimes in ways we haven’t even learned yet. So stick to a healthy, well-balanced diet. And a little indulgence consisting of a small amount of dark chocolate as a dessert every now and then is probably a very good thing.

(Source)

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1) SEE BETTER. PERFORM BETTER.

Find it a little harder for you to drive at night? It may be time for an eye exam.

CLEAR AND WELL-FUNCTIONING VISION- Improve your everyday life by ensuring that you are seeing 20/20. Good clarity and visual function can enhance your work/school performance and increase your safety as you navigate around your world. Not to mention allowing you to enjoy your environment without strain or squinting! If you paid $10 for the movie ticket, shouldn’t you be able to see it without squinting? Wouldn’t you like to be able to use the computer without that headache at the end of the day? Wouldn’t it be nice to see every leaf on every tree? Read the fine print on a medication bottle? Feel confident driving at night? Know why it’s hard for you to play those 3D video games or see the hidden picture in those magic eye posters? Your eye doctor can help with many of these issues to enhance your everyday life and make it less visually stressful!

2) FEEL BETTER. LIVE BETTER.

EYE HEALTH and OVERALL HEALTH- Do you have allergies? Systemic allergy medications not relieving your itchy, watery red eyes? Do your eyes feel dry? Are you constantly using eye drops to re-wet them? Do your contact lenses bother you every single day? Tell your eye doctor, we will evaluate your eyes and can prescribe ways to help you get relief!

Also, did you know that many eye diseases are symptomless and since they do not cause you any pain you may not even realize they are there until they start to affect your vision? Your eye doctor checks for early signs of these conditions and can help initiate treatment and closely monitor you to make sure these eye conditions do not rob you of your precious sight!

Early warning signs of systemic conditions that can affect your overall health such as diabetes, uncontrolled high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, just to name a few, are searched for during your eye exam as well. Eye exams do not replace a regular physical and check up with your general physician but during your exam, your eye doctor may pick up on signs of these conditions that you otherwise may not have even known you had or that you thought were being managed properly. So getting an eye exam is a benefit to your eye health and can also be a great benefit to your general health!

3. LOOK BETTER. PUT YOUR BEST FACE FORWARD.

Function and Fashion, new glasses can show you are well put-together!

AN UPDATED LOOK. A LOOK OF CONFIDENCE- You wouldn’t go to a job interview with a wrinkled suit, so why go with outdated eyeglasses? Get an accurate prescription and the latest style to boost your confidence and show others you are well put-together. Glasses may be something you will use everyday, it is a good idea to invest in a nice high quality pair that you will enjoy using and be proud to wear! Just like a good watch, it is an accessory you (and others) will be seeing a lot of, make it reflection of your own personal style. It is also a good idea to get a high quality pair of prescription sunglasses (again, for function-protecting your eye health from the damaging UVA/UVB light rays from the sun, and for fashion).

The time to look and feel your best is now! Call for an appointment for an eye exam today!

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The eyes are the windows of the soul, they give away our emotions and our interest. Maintaining good eye contact is an art. It is commonly misunderstood that more eye contact is always better, but this is not always the case. There is a delicate balance to maintaining your direction of your gaze into the other person’s eyes and breaking that contact for brief intervals. Too much eye contact can be intimidating, too little may imply a lack of interest or lack of self-confidence.

Maintain nice, friendly eye contact with breaks.

Don't be 'Mr. Stare' or 'Ms. Glare.' No one likes to be peered at, it can give the wrong impression.

When your eyes start to shut and you have to prop up your face, you are definitely giving off the vibe that you are not interested.

Alert but aloof! It's ok to look away but don't forget to check back in or you could seem like you're lost in a daydream and not listening.

As you can see, how and when you use eye contact can be an important form of non-verbal communication. It can be used to express interest and open a channel of understanding between two people. However, the length and intensity of eye contact can change its meaning. Also, different cultures can interpret eye contact in their own unique ways and there are certain socially accepted norms that vary across the globe. Seem complicated? It can be.

Eye Contact around the World:

For us in the U.S., eye contact is always said to be important. If you maintain good eye contact with someone, it displays you are confident and in control. But how much is too much? Or too little? Have you ever met those people who take eye contact to the extreme? They stand a little too close, giving you a long, purposeful gaze that can last minutes without release? At what point does ‘good eye contact’ cross over to just plain creepy?

According to frequently referenced experiments by Argyle and Dean, direct eye to eye contact should typically last 3 to 10 seconds, anything lasting longer than 10 seconds sets a mood for uneasiness and anxiety. (source 1) Also, the amount of eye contact has a direct relation to the physical distance between the two people. Therefore, if you are sitting or standing closer to someone, there seems to be less direct eye contact then if you were more than a few feet away from them which makes sense. It is logical that if you were five or six feet away from them that you would want to relay your feelings of interest and attention to what they are saying through well-maintained eye contact. On the flip side, if you are in very close proximity to someone, intense direct eye contact could be taken a variety of wrong ways including flirtation or the desire to intimidate, dominate or overrule that person. This might cause anxiety and produce an uncomfortable feeling to the recipient.

The etiquette of eye contact in France, Spain, Germany and other European countries is similar to the rules we discussed above in the United States. However, in some cultures, direct eye contact can be considered aggressive, confrontational, rude or even disrespectful. This is traditionally the case in Asian, Indian, African and most Latin-American cultures. In these areas, avoiding or using minimal eye contact with others can be thought of as a sign of respect and keeping peace with those who ‘out-rank’ you such as your elders, teachers or bosses. In the Muslim world, a man maintaining eye contact with another man is a sign of trustworthiness and honesty, however, women and men usually use minimal eye contact or avoid it altogether. (source 2) Travelers to other countries, particularly on business, should take it upon themselves to learn about cultural norms in the country they are visiting so that they can better communicate with people there without any misunderstandings.

Eye Contact and the Brain:

But why are the eyes so important, why are they so tied to our emotions? The answer lies in the brain. Social interaction and communication areas of the brain are stimulated and set off by direct eye contact. These areas are often referred to as the ‘social brain.’ (source 3) It is almost like direct eye contact is the key which turns on the socializing engine in the brain. And this is something that is innate in humans, we are built this way. It has been proven that “sensitivity to eye contact is present even in newborns” (source 3) and “neuroimaging studies have also demonstrated that eye contact modulates cortical activation in infants as young as 4 months of age.” (source 3). It appears that babies seek out and direct their attention towards a person who is giving them direct eye contact, finding it pleasing to them.

In other species, such as dogs, direct eye contact is interpreted as a challenge and can result in aggressive behavior but in humans, it is favorable. “Some researchers argue that the depigmentation of the human sclera, which does not exist in other primate species, has evolved for effective communication and social interaction based on eye contact.” (source 3) So obviously, we are built to detect and seek out eye contact from others and it can automatically stimulate a whole host of emotions based on how it is interpreted by the perceiver.

Concluding Thoughts:

Practicing the art of good eye contact is a nice idea but it is always best to be yourself. Read the situation and use the other person’s behavior as feedback to determine how much eye contact to give. Do what feels comfortable for you and what seems to be most comfortable for the other person. Eye contact demonstrates self-confidence, a willingness to listen and is an important part of body language so practice using it to better convey your emotions, ideas and opinions in a positive, friendly way. Doing so can take your communication and social interaction skills to the next level.


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Larger Pupils, Long Glances; these are what Valentine’s Days are made of.

Eye Love You.

It is undeniable that the eyes and love are connected somehow. Just think of all the ways the eyes are romantically referenced and you will begin to realize, there is a reason they call it “love at first sight” and “bedroom eyes.” Some say there is a ‘science of love’ and that it is scientifically proven that “both men and women use the direction of a person’s gaze as a signal of whether that person finds you interesting enough to look you directly in the face – and that sign of interest is, in itself, seen as attractive to the observer.” (source 1)

Zick Rubin, a psychologist at Harvard, studied couples who are in love and found that they look at each other “75 percent of the time when talking and are slower to look away when someone dares to intrude. In normal conversation, people look at each other for 30-60 per cent of the time.” (source 2)

Makeup emphasizing the Eyes

So what do you do to make someone fall head over heels for you? The ‘eyes’ have it, and women have known this for centuries. The art of  women skillfully drawing attention to the eyes to seem more attractive to men can be observed throughout history. Through the modern day use of mascara, eyeliner, eyeshadow, and eyelash growth enhancers like Latisse, women feel more beautiful and physically attractive by emphasizing their eyes. In the 1500s, women in Italy even used extracts from the Belladonna plant to dilate their pupils. They thought that bigger pupils would make their eyes seem more “dreamy” and would make men fall in love with them. (source 3)

And you know what? They were right! Bigger pupil size has been proven to be a sign

The Look of Love

of being in love. When you are in love and looking at your ‘object of affection,’ your nervous system is stimulated. Your heart races, your pulse quickens, and your pupils dilate as part of a neurochemical response. Why do you think they make it so dim in some romantic restaurants? They are trying to set the mood for men and women to feel more intimate and attracted to one another.

On this Valentine’s Day, don’t forget to look long and lovingly into your sweetheart’s eyes before whispering sweet nothings into their ear! The eyes really are the windows of the soul and perhaps the key to winning your soulmate’s heart!  Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Can you imagine walking this street blindfolded? Thanks to the help of guide dogs, those who do have vision loss are not alone.

While out and about on the busy streets of New York City, you can see some pretty fascinating things. One thing that has always fascinated me is seeing people with vision loss make their way around the bustling streets of Manhattan alone. Well, not entirely alone. They have an amazingly talented canine companion with them, their guide dog. This is not just any dog, it has been extensively trained to proudly and precisely lead the way for its owner or handler.

But guide dogs do more than just lead the way! They have to know how to work as a team with their handler to keep them both safe at all times. This means stopping at all curbs and remaining there until being told to proceed, stopping at the bottom and top of stairs, and watching out for narrow passageways or low hanging beams overhead that the handler would not be able to fit through or might bump their head on! That to me is really profound, they are actually aware of the physical space around not only themselves but also around the much taller and larger person next to them. Guide dogs also know how to carefully navigate through the environment around them. They easily move around obstacles and ignore distractions such as food, other people, and other dogs. These dogs are so smart they actually bring their handlers up to elevator buttons and also can bring them to familiar destinations that the handlers ask for, like their favorite coffee shop or their doctor’s office. Boarding buses and subways is also not a problem for the dog and their handler (source 1). These dogs give their handlers a sense of freedom and independence that they may not be capable of otherwise without the help of a friend or family member.

Perhaps the most incredible thing these clever canines practice is something called Selective Disobedience. This means ignoring the handler’s verbal commands when the dog knows it might put them both in danger! It takes a very intelligent dog to override all his training and trust his better judgement against the word of his owner.

Black Labradors are one of the types of dogs picked to be guide dogs, although this little guy is a Lab/Boxer combo.

You might think that these dogs do so much work that they have little time for play but that is not the case. They, like some people, actually enjoy their work, it gives them a sense of pride and energizes them. When the work day is done and they are at home and out of their harness, they can play and receive praise just like other dogs do (source 2).

However, if you see a guide dog ‘on the job,’ meaning, in its harness with its handler, it is important not to talk to the dog, pet the dog or offer it treats. Doing so may distract the dog from its crucial role of helping its handler and staying focused.

To find out more information about guide dogs, or to learn how you can help raise guide dog puppies for a year before they go into ‘active duty’ at the training academies, you can visit the following websites.

Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind on Long Island in Smithtown, NY

Freedom Guide Dogs Central New York near Utica, NY

Also, please consider making a donation to this inspirational and important cause. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I did writing it! I learned a ton and my appreciation and amazement for guide dogs and their handlers grew tenfold. What a great team!

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