sports vision skills

What are Sports Vision Skills?

What are Sports Vision Skills?

If you think that playing sports only involves running, throwing, tackling, and jumping, then you are missing other key skills every athlete must develop.

Sports vision skills are an integral part of every game. The eyes gather over 60% of information that is sent to the muscular and skeletal systems. Specific visual abilities affect sports performance because they directly impact motor skills. The great news is that just like physical exercise strengthens the body, visual skills can be improved with training.

Keep Your Eyes on the Ball (Maybe Not)

Every coach has said that and every player has tried to do it but focusing on a fast-moving object places a great demand on vision. A baseball hit into right field might seem like a blur but players can improve this visual ability by understanding how focusing works in a sports situation.

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Humans can only focus both eyes on an object within a relatively small space. To get a look at what this means, try the Thumb Rule. Hold your arm straight out with your thumb pointing vertically. The width of your thumb in this position gives you an idea of the size of your visual focus. Now, before you get discouraged and think you will never be able to track a tennis ball or softball that is lobbed your way, be prepared to learn a focusing trick.

While it is difficult for both eyes to focus on a ball that is moving, you can concentrate your vision peripherally. Motion is more easily detected in your peripheral vision field. And the quicker you react to the motion in sports, the better able you will be able to play.

So, instead of intensely focusing on the ball, look to the midpoint. In basketball, for instance, this can mean looking at the area between the ball and the person you are defending. The movement of either the ball or the other player will be detected more quickly and you will be in a better place visually to make the right move.

What’s Your Eye D?

Of course, you all have ID, but Eye D refers to your dominant eye. If you know which eye it is, you can improve the way you play certain sports. That’s because the dominant eye processes and sends information to the brain just a little bit faster and more accurately than the other eye.

Let’s take a quick test. Extend both arms straight out from your body, at about shoulder height. With your thumbs and index fingers, form a small triangle. Pick an object in the distance and center it in the triangle. Close one eye at a time and look at the object. The eye that sees the object centered in the triangle is your dominant eye.

Now, take this information to the playing field. If you are a golfer, line up your next shot so that your dominant eye has a clear view of the ball and the hole. Tilt your head to give that eye an unobstructed look at the path the ball needs to travel.

While a physically fit body is important in sports, remember the role of your eyes. Without their ability to focus and process visual information, athletes would literally be at a loss. Get regular vision exams to keep your eyes at their best. And remember, it’s not only about winning; it’s also about being a better and healthier you.

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What's Your Eyes' Age?

eat to protect your eyes - Smart Vision Labs

What’s Your Eyes’ Age?

Hold off on ordering yet another wrinkle cream because it might be your eyes giving your age away. Some things you’re probably doing every day are actually bad habits that can make your eyes seem older.

There are three main things your eyes react to which create an aging appearance: your health, irritation, and physical damage. These problems can build on each other which emphasize how important your overall health is.

What’s Your Beauty Eye-Q?

Is part of your beauty regimen eating well and drinking enough water? Your eyes benefit from a healthy diet and good hydration, inside and out. Dark leafy greens, citrus fruits, almonds, and eggs all contain key nutrients your eyes need to be functioning optimally. Those things could all even be part of a nice breakfast. When your eyes are working at their best, they’re not straining and creating redness and irritation.

Did you remember to pour a glass of water with your breakfast? You’ve noticed your eyes seem dry after spending a few hours working on a computer for work or after studying for a big exam at school. But one other way you might find yourself rubbing your dry eyes is if you are dehydrated. Stopping work to drink a glass of water gives your eyes a break by allowing them to focus on something else while you rehydrate them. This is especially true if you’ve been doing something that dehydrates your body, say, like drinking a few cups of coffee to stay awake while working.

Beauty Rest

It isn’t called ‘beauty rest’ for nothing. Nothing completes the “I was up all night” ensemble like puffy eyelids above your red eyes and dark circles below them. When you don’t get enough sleep, your blood vessels dilate and become visible through the thin skin under your eyes. ‘Bags’ below your eyes, as well as puffy eyelids, are caused by fluid retention. Both of these can usually be fixed and prevented by making sure you’re getting a good rest at night.

When your eyes are tired, do you rub the lids to make them feel better? That is definitely a bad habit. Tugging on the delicate eye skin creates lines and wrinkles that make you appear older. While some creasing and things like crow’s feet are a normal part of aging, breaking the habit of touching your eyes will keep any extra lines from showing up.

Just Hide It?

protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses and filter out the harmful UV raysYou have places to be and things like ‘sleep’ and ‘healthy breakfast’ are not on the to-do list. Your quick fix could be wearing some big designer sunglasses, like the kind that seem to cover half of your face.

Actually, this one is a good idea. Yes, the sunglasses will hide your red eyes and dark circles but they will also protect your skin from sun damage. Since this pair protects against 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays (or else you wouldn’t have bought them), their large lenses block the harmful rays from reaching your skin.

So put your shades on for now. Try to remember to get a good night’s rest when you finish your busy day. It turns out, keeping your eyes looking young and keeping them healthy are the same thing.

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do eye exercises work - Smart Vision Labs

Do Eye Exercises Really Improve Vision?

Eye Fitness or Fallacy?

“Throw away your glasses! Improve vision naturally!”

“Do eye exercises really improve vision?”

There are two camps regarding eye exercises: why aren’t you doing them and why are you doing them? The kind of health blog you follow will determine which stance you’re familiar with.

Aid or Crutch?

The first group says visual aids, like prescription glasses and contact lenses, are a crutch for your eyes. They claim you can reduce or even eliminate your need for vision correction by following a regimen of eye exercises.

The idea behind this is that most people are born with good eyesight but around 70 percent of Americans have vision problems. Therefore, most of these issues are acquired through regular life events. If you did something to create them, they can also be undone through training the eye muscles. For this reason, eye exercises tend to focus on reversing myopia, or nearsightedness.

Does it Make Sense?

do-eye-exercises-workThat kind of makes sense though, right? If your arms are weak, you get a gym membership and some barbells, and gradually increase the weights until your muscles are strong.

The problem here is that, yes, you can make muscles stronger through working out, but your eyes aren’t muscles; they are controlled by them. Each eye has six muscles on the outside which control your line of sight and one inside which moves your focus in or out. This last one, called the ciliary muscle, is what eye exercises for myopia are usually targeting. The exercises suggested are really getting you to relax this muscle. This is based on the idea that if myopia is acquired through strain and tension of the ciliary muscle, relaxing will undo it.

But vision problems like nearsightedness are refractive errors. These happen when light doesn’t reach the correct part on the inside of the eye (the retina) due to the eyeball itself being the wrong shape. Exercising the muscles in and around the eye can’t really do anything for these problems. In myopia, the eye shape is too long for the focusing muscle, regardless of how relaxed it is.

Are Eye Exercises Safe?

Depending if your stance on eye exercises is favorable or not, you might be surprised to learn these workouts are safe to do. (Just don’t drive or do anything important with your glasses off to test out any of these exercise theories!) The upside of not having a positive effect on vision is that they also don’t cause negative ones. It doesn’t hurt at all to sit on the floor with your hands over your eyes imagining being enveloped in pure darkness. Relaxation is good; just don’t expect better vision when you finally open your eyes.

Do keep in mind what you’re “learning” though. Picturing darkness just relaxes yourself, which actually might show you temporary improvement if you are suffering from eye strain, but not myopia. Rolling your eyes (like you might be doing right now at this article?) doesn’t use the interior focusing muscle at all. Reading numbers off a calendar without your glasses or contacts is just teaching you to read through your blurry vision, not to improve it.

Oh, there’s also no scientific studies or evidence to support these claims.

It might be a good idea to keep your glasses a little while longer and to have regular vision exams. They actually work, which is more that can be said for some of these eye workouts.

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Why Vision Is the Most Important Sense - Learn why at Smart Vision Labs

Why Vision Is the Most Important Sense Organ

Out of all the five senses, your vision seems the most important. Humans are fairly unique in their reliance on sight as the dominant sense and this is reflected in how complicated our eyes are relative to other creatures.

Many animals gain most of their information about the environment through their sense of smell. Your dog’s nose tells him much more about his world and who is in it than his eyes (which can actually see some color). In contrast, you can’t smell all the wildlife that visited your yard but you could see them in vivid color.

How the Eye ‘Sees’

Why are human eyes so much more capable? Basically, it is because they have more components which collect information.

When you see something, like your pet dog, your eyes don’t actually see him, your brain does. At the start of what will become your vision, light enters your eyes. Your pupil, the black center of your eye, and the iris, the colored ring around it, work together to widen or constrict the pupils so the appropriate amount of light enters the eye.

The incoming light travels through two layers: the cornea and the lens. The cornea at the front of your eye, and the lens, located right behind your pupil, work in tandem to focus the light ray onto a specific spot at the back of your eye, on the retina.

At the retina is where the raw sight data your eyes collected from light begins to be translated into useful visual information. The light focused on the retina triggers photoreceptors which are used to create visual cues. The retina contains two types of photoreceptors: rods and cones. There are about 120 million rods and up to 7 million cones. Rods are more sensitive than cones but cannot detect color, which the cones can.

Humans have 3 types of cones which perceive the presence of red, green, and blue. These combine in different levels to create the full range of color we see. In case you’re wondering, your dog only has 2 of these, yellow and blue, which means his vision is closer to a human with red-green colorblindness than just black and white.

Now that information about the item and its color are collected, the rest of the work is left to the brain. This new data is sent along the optic nerve to the brain, which is what tells us what we are looking at. Along with what we are seeing, the brain sends information about the context: what does looking at this mean, is it dangerous, or other related memories.

Also your eyes and brain are constantly doing all of this. All in a tiny fraction of a second.

The Eye as a Sense Organ

The way sight works is why it is one of the five senses. The eyes are the physical portal through which data from your environment is collected and sent to your brain for processing. The brain plays its part by converting the light that went into your eyes into usable information – how far away, how bright, what color.

So if you were to look at your dog, you would see that, yes, it is a dog but also what breed he is and that he is your pet and would probably like his ears scratched.

Humans are built to collect information with their eyes and even reduced vision quality creates a negative effect. A regular vision test is a small investment for something that has such a huge impact on our lives.

Our eyes aren’t just performing a task, they are the portal through which our brain can tell us about our world, learn new things, and make wonderful memories. All of which are reasons why vision is such an important thing to take care of.

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Blue light and your eyes - Smart Vision Labs

Seeing Blue?

You have probably heard that spending long hours using the computer can cause eye strain but do you know why? Learning about the connection between computer monitors and digital eye strain will also clue you in on how to reduce the uncomfortable side effects.

Why Does Using a Computer Hurt Your Eyes?

Initially, you might think it has to do with the light being too bright for your eyes. But this is only part of the answer. It is indeed the light from your monitor that causes eye strain but it is a certain type.

Your computer screen emits blue light and that specifically is what your eyes are reacting to. Blue light is also called high energy visible light, or HEV light. For reference, it is only one stage lower in energy than ultraviolet (UV) light. Blue light is the highest energy light that we can also see, therefore the name HEV.

Digital eye strain occurs because your eye isn’t very good at blocking light in the blue part of the spectrum. While only a tiny bit (less than one percent) of UV light actually reaches the sensitive retina, nearly all blue light does. (Note that sunglasses are necessary to block 100 percent of UV rays because even the small amount that gets through is very damaging.) Blue light tires your eyes out because it is both high energy and is easily scattered. It doesn’t focus as well the rest of the light spectrum which causes the eye strain you feel after staring at your computer screen.

How Do You Avoid Blue Light?

Well, you can’t, not entirely. While blue light is associated with digital devices like computers and smartphones, the sun itself is a natural source of this light. The white light from the sun is made from the combination of all the colors which compose the light spectrum, blue included. The sun is the primary source of exposure to HEV light.

Additionally, you actually don’t want to avoid all of it. Keep in mind that sunlight contains blue light and exposure to the sun, so your body can manufacture vitamin D, is essential to good physical and mental health. The presence of blue light also helps your body maintain its natural sleep/wake cycle, called circadian rhythm.

Of course, there are many man-made sources which emit blue light as well. But, unlike with sunlight, we can limit our exposure to these. Smartphones, tablets, computer monitors and television screens are indoor sources of blue light. Lamps with fluorescent or LED bulbs also shine using blue light. While these items all give off way less HEV light than the sun, we also spend quite a bit of time exposed to them, which increases their negative effects.

Solutions to Blue Light Exposure

Just as people have created the issue of digital eye strain from blue light with the prevalence of computers, they have also invented solutions so we can continue using our electronics in comfort. Of course, taking frequent breaks to rest your eyes is always helpful, regardless if you are using a phone or computer.

For your eyes, both anti-reflective lens coatings and special computer glasses are available. If you already wear prescription glasses, opting for an anti-reflective coating means you don’t have to do anything extra to protect yourself, other than make sure your glasses are actually on while using your device. If you prefer contact lenses or don’t need any vision correction, yellow tinted computer glasses are worth considering.

You could also block the blue light on the device itself. There are screen protectors available which filter it out while they keep scratches off your device. Some devices also have a setting built in to manage blue light.

So to keep your eyes from seeing red, limit the amount of blue that goes into them.

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Get your eyes tested by taking a 5-minute Smart Vision Exam. Find one of our premier providers near you.


Are Eye Doctors Seeing Things Correctly? - Smart Vision Labs

Are Eye Doctors Seeing Things Correctly?

No, this isn’t about whether your eye doctor has 20/20 vision and is therefore physically qualified to examine you. (Although that might be a good topic!) This is about your eye doctor ‘seeing’ the law when it comes to obeying the consumer protection guidelines.

Let’s Look at the Eyeglass Rule

The federal law states:

  • Your eye doctor must give you one copy of your eyeglasses prescription immediately after the vision exam.
  • Your eye doctor must not make the eye exam conditional upon you buying glasses or contacts from that establishment.
  • You may not be charged an additional fee for receiving your prescription.
  • You do not have to sign a waiver disclaiming the liability of the eye doctor and the diagnosis of your eyes’ condition if you choose purchase glasses or contacts elsewhere.

Let’s Look at the Contact Lens Rule

This federal law states:

  • The patient shall receive a copy of the prescription without incurring an additional charge for it.
  • The patient does not need to sign a waiver or release after receiving the prescription to remove any liability of the eye doctor.

Basically, whether you wear corrective glasses or contact lenses, you are entitled to a copy of your prescription after your vision exam. It’s the law.

Why FTC May be on the Eye Chart

While the standard eye chart with the large letter E at the top will not be redesigned to include the letters FTC, the Federal Trade Commission will indeed be keeping a closer eye on vision exams. That’s because many eye doctors are deliberately ignoring these consumer protection laws.

The laws are meant to benefit the patients and give them freedom of choice when purchasing corrective glasses or contacts. No one should have to purchase eye-wear from the place where they had their vision exam except if they choose to do so. Many people like to shop around and compare prices and these consumer laws protect that decision.

To better enforce this, the FTC has made a proposal that would require a patient to sign and acknowledge that they received a copy of their contact lens prescription. The eye doctors would be required to keep their signed forms on file for three years.

Additionally the FTC has another provision that encourages the use of Internet portals whereby patients could get a copy of their prescription online. The portal would be password-protected to ensure security and the patient’s right to privacy, but would also provide easy accessibility to this important information.

Interestingly, while reviewing the current compliance of eye doctors concerning contact lens prescriptions, the government agency did not find any increased risk for the patient if they bought contact lenses from other retailers. This is additional encouragement and motivation for patients to shop around and purchase their corrective eye-wear from a place that will also fit into their financial budgets.

Nearsighted Eye Doctor?

You won’t need to give your eye doctor a vision test to determine a nearsighted condition. If the doctor wants to keep your purchase ‘near’ (as in you must buy glasses or contacts in the place where you got your exam) then you may be best served by requesting your prescription so you can shop elsewhere.

The law is the law and there is really only one way to ‘see’ it.

Editor’s note: When you take a Smart Vision Exam you have access to your contact lens or eyeglass prescription through our telemedicine platform. 

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Color Blindness Explained - Smart Vision Labs

The Shades of Color Blindness

Do you remember “The Dress?” People were agonizing over whether it was blue and black or white and gold. What did you think it was?

This photo made a lot of people think about the eyes and specifically why we see colors. It also made many of us wonder if we have a vision defect and are not seeing colors as they really are.

The Science of Color Blindness

On a purely physical basis, being able to see color involves a few special parts of the eyes called photoreceptors. The two main types are rods and cones and they are named after their respective shapes. Both are located at the back of the eyes and each has a specific function.

After light reaches the eyes, these photoreceptors create electrical signals that ‘tell’ the brain what color the eyes are seeing. Rods help us see in lower light and the images will be mostly black and white depending on the darkness around you. Cones are what allow us to see in color and they need bright light to work well. The three types of cones enable us to see the main colors: red, green and blue.

Sometimes a genetic defect can make one or more of the cones not work properly. This condition is often called color blindness and affects about nine percent of the population. Men are usually more affected than women.

When is Color Blindness a Problem?

People with color vision deficiency often report that this condition is frustrating but not severely problematic. For instance, some of the milder problems associated with this impairment involve wearing mismatched clothing or eating unripe bananas since a green and yellow banana are both shades of the same color to them.

Differentiating between the red and green of a traffic light can be difficult but this can be easily solved by noticing where the bulb is lit up since red is always at the top. Another problem is undercooking meat since the red color may not be easily distinguished.

Overall, being color blind is not considered a disability; rather it is a vision problem that may be improved through special lenses that enhance color perception.

What Color is the Dress?

The dress is blue and black but the bluish tint in the photo changes a person’s perception of the dress’s true color. That’s why the black part looks gold and the blue part looks white.

The reason why people see the dress differently is based on their individual sensitivity to the blue lighting in the photo. Our individual visual system decides if the blue illumination is either more or less reflective on the dress. By discounting the blue, you would see a white and gold dress.

Are Seeing Colors Purely Arbitrary?

Although there is a biological process for determining the presence of color in the things around us, there is also a level of physical interpretation involved. The electrical signals from the cones to the brain can be ‘wrong’ if one or more of the cones are not functioning properly. In that case, the person may not see the true color, but a shade of it or none of it. Sometimes color blindness is only present in dim light, with the person seeing colors correctly in brighter conditions. A vision exam can help diagnose this condition and make you aware of it.

And the next time someone asks you if the dress is blue and black or white and gold, you will have a better understanding of why you see it as you do.

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Why does my vision keep getting worse? - Smart Vision Labs

Why Does My Vision Keep Getting Worse?

It can be discouraging when your vision exam results show you need a stronger prescription. This is especially true if you are careful to always wear your glasses when you need them, whether it is just while reading or all the time. After an exam, hearing that your vision is now worse isn’t the news you were hoping for.

Don’t get upset and blame your glasses though. There are many reasons why your eyes don’t see quite as well as they did at your last vision test. And none of them have to do with your glasses.

Growing Up…

The eyes change shape in order to focus incoming light on the correct spot on the retina. However, children’s eyeballs are still small and aren’t finished growing to their full adult size yet. This limits the flexibility of the eye and inhibits its ability to focus. It is fairly common for children to be farsighted because of this. As their bodies and eyes grow, their near vision can actually improve.

Vision changes due to eye growth are more apparent if they are wearing eyeglasses already. The continued development of the eyes in children means they will also need to update their prescription eyeglasses more often than an adult. Their lenses may become too weak even within a few months if they are going through a growth spurt.

…or Growing Old

Aging again becomes a factor in deteriorating vision after age 40. As you get older, along with the rest of your body, your eyes lose elasticity which weakens their ability to focus. In order to see objects close up, the eyes contract and the lens thickens, which makes the lens of the eye more convex. The reduced elasticity due to aging makes it more difficult for your eyes to shape themselves properly to look at things near to them, like when reading a book. Because the eye can’t compensate for this, corrective lenses are needed.

Tiredness and Eye Strain

Sometimes, weak vision is temporary. Blurry vision that goes away on its own may be caused by eye strain, not an out-of-date prescription. Noticing that your eyes feel tired, itchy, too dry, or too watery are some other signs. When doing something strenuous for your eyes, such as using a computer, taking frequent breaks about every 20 minutes to focus your eyes on something else will relieve the stress.

It’s Not Your Glasses

A common myth is that wearing glasses will make your eyes weaker. The idea behind this is that, because the lenses are doing the focusing work, your eyes can become “out of shape” due to lack of practice resulting in becoming dependent on the glasses to see at all.

It is actually because your eyes are (literally) out of shape that you need vision correction in the first place. Common vision problems, like near or far-sightedness, are caused by the shape of your eyeball being too long or too short which prevents the incoming light from focusing on the correct spot in your eye. All the eyeglass lenses are doing is redirecting the light where it needs to go, depending on what vision issue you have.

If you need vision correction for something like astigmatism, leaving your glasses at home will not make your eyes work harder at fixing it. They will, in fact, work harder which will leave you suffering the effects of eye strain.

So, don’t be discouraged at your next vision exam. Prescription eyeglasses are not an indication that your eyes are failing; consider them a way to lend a helping hand to your eyes.

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