VISION AND CLOSE WORK

It is interesting to note how eyesight has evolved. The vision system used to be more about looking far afield for what could be hunted and eaten – and what could hunt and eat us.  These days, people are spending more time with their gazes fixed on their computer or TV screens or cell phones. There are certain physical dynamics to this everyday phenomenon.  There is a lens inside the eye that flexes and focuses, so when we look at things up close, that lens has to work extra hard.

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SEE HOW YOU’RE DRIVING

Unlike some other skills we use in our everyday lives, driving relies almost exclusively on our sense of sight. We feel our feet on the ground as we move about or know we are sitting in a chair; we are fully aware of our surroundings. This sensory information lets us know where the ground or chair is. When you are driving, there is no movement of your body. It is totally about your vision and how precisely your two eyes work together. If your eyes are not aligned perfectly, you may think an object is closer or farther away....

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CATARACTS ARE A PART OF AGING

If you are coming in to your 40s, you may be noticing that your eyesight is changing. You have to strain a little to read, holding the book or newspaper farther away, or you find you need to wear bifocals. You may even notice a bit of clouding of the lens of your eyes. What is going on?   Your eyes, like many other parts of the body, are showing signs of aging. The Crystalline lens in your eye is becoming less flexible. This makes it more difficult for the lens to adjust and focus when you look from far to near.

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SPORTS VISION THERAPY HELPS ATHLETES IMPROVE RECOGNITION AND RESPONSE

Whether they’re swinging at a fastball, shooting free throws, lining up a putt or setting up a dig, athletes depend a great deal on their vision. They have to keep their eye on the ball in order to connect properly and hit a homer, make the basket, sink the putt or send a spike between two opponents.


Many pro teams have a vision therapy program for their players. The program works on improving the athletes’ recognition and response. A sports vision therapist will show a baseball player photographers of a pitcher holding a ball to help them recognize when the hurler is about to throw a fastball or a curveball. (Different pitches require different finger positions.) In the major leagues, the time from pitcher release point to bat contact is four tenths of a second, and the average major league baseball player takes about two tenths of a second to get the bat from starting position to contact position. To speed up recognition so the ballplayer can respond more quickly, the vision therapist will show him the photos for a second, half a second, a quarter of a second, down to a hundredth of a second. Football players benefit from this kind of therapy, too, as it allows them to quickly assess what play is about to be run.


Sports vision therapists use light boards to help athletes improve their reaction time. As the lights flash on and off, the athlete must touch them, and as the exercise continues, the flashes speed up.

This spurs the athlete to be more accurate. As speed of recognition and speed of response progress, so does accuracy. Other exercises sharpen important skills such as depth perception, visual spatial awareness and peripheral awareness, which enables the athlete to see the whole court instead of collapsing into tunnel vision as he or she gets stressed or tired. Different athletes will have different types of visual strength. For instance, hockey players tend to have better scores in the lower field of gaze because they focus their eyes more downward, following the puck across the ice. Volleyball players score better in upper field of gaze, watching as the ball comes over the net.


Coaches can take information from the vision therapist to put players in positions that utilize their strengths. For instance, a vision therapy exam may show a second baseman can move faster to his left than to his right, so the coach can place him in a way that will close any holes in the infield and allow him to cover more ground. But there are also exercises that use lighted arrows and pressure points to measure and help improve an athlete’s foot speed.


A recent study at the University of Cincinnati – the first of its kind – discovered

athletes who had participated in a sports vision therapy program had a significantly reduced number of concussions. The researchers concluded the athletes’ quickened response and reaction times enabled them to see the potential hit coming and avoid it.

DR. RICK GRAEBE

Dr. Graebe received both his B.S degree in Visual Science and Doctorate of Optometry from Indiana University. He is a Behavioral Optometrist and learning expert. He has been in private practice here in the Bluegrass area for the past 32 years.

more articles by dr rick graebe