The Refractive Error of Professional Baseball Players

For MLB Players, 20/20 Vision Just Isn't Enough

The Elite Vision of Major League Baseball Players

In the professional leagues, hitting a pitched baseball has been described as one of the most difficult tasks in any sport. A baseball, barely 3 inches in diameter, is pitched at speeds over 90 mph, taking less than half a second to reach the plate. And in that time, the batter must judge the pitched ball and decide if and when to swing, in just milliseconds. It’s not difficult to understand that remarkable level of difficulty. Think about that next time you’re arguing that the Cubs only won the 2016 World Series because of the rain delay.

Generally speaking, baseball players can see with substantially more precision than the average human, with an extraordinary ability to focus on an object. Normal vision for the average person is typically described as being 20/20. Baseball players, on the other hand, have shown to have visual acuity approaching 20/12 (20/8 is often considered to be the best humanly possible vision). Elite vision clearly indicates a profound ability to quickly judge how to successfully hit a pitched ball. Maybe this can shed some light on why Michael Jordan, arguably one of the best athletes of all time, for the life of him could not successfully hit a baseball.

So to those of you normal 20/20-vision people, with the “baseball’s the most boring sport to watch” and the “baseball requires little athleticism” comments, get out and try to hit a professionally-pitched ball before judging a player for whiffing one of Corey Kluber’s pitches.

MLB players have elite vision - Smart Vision LabsWith the help of ophthalmologist Dr. Daniel Laby and the SUNY College of Optometry, we conducted a study to prove our hypotheses. During the 2016 Spring Training Season, Dr. Laby tested over 600 MLB players using our handheld wavefront autorefractor, the SVOne. The results of the study showed that the SVOne autorefraction system can successfully measure the small, yet significant, refractive errors in the sample of players that were tested. In general, almost all of these athletes are clinically proven to have little to no error in refraction, which differentiates them from the general population and consequently leads to their profound ability at hitting a baseball

The results of the exam did conclude, in fact, that baseball players tend to have visual acuity around 20/12, meaning that a baseball player can see from 20 feet away what the average person can see from only 12. And for those demonstrating slight refractive error, if left uncorrected, it could decrease vision to at least 20/20, likely making them inadequate at batting at a similar level to most MLB players.

But I’m not saying that almost all baseball players naturally have vision better than 20/20. In fact, Laby estimates that up to 20% of MLB players wear corrective lenses when playing. And players with 20/20 vision are increasingly wearing lenses to achieve this level of elite vision that so many of their teammates naturally have.

So imagine when scouting players, you can use Smart Vision Labs’ portable autorefractor to conduct vision tests. You potentially might find that a player with tremendous potential has a slight refractive error, and given even the slightest correction, it could be the difference between this rookie batting an average of .260 versus a .300.

Only about 5% of minor league players end up making it to the major leagues. By being able to accurately detect any slight refractive error and subsequently correct for that error, players are then competing for the few major-league spots on an even playing field. And even if you still don’t end up making it – just blame it on your subpar, natural 20/20 vision. Or maybe even use that “rain delay” excuse.

Like I said, hitting a baseball requires being able to judge the rotation of the ball – coming at you around 90 mph – standing 60.5 feet away. In the milliseconds it takes to reach the plate, the batter has to process what he sees and then decide how to effectively swing. The quicker the batter can identify the type of pitch thrown, the more time they have to prepare for their swing – hitting earlier on a fastball and later on a curveball. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that it just might help to be able to see as best as humanly possible.

Some MLB players have vision better than 20/12. Take Red Sox second-baseman Dustin Pedroia, for example. In his book, he wrote that his vision is “something like 20/10” – although that’s really not much of a surprise. And as if people don’t already love to gather ammunition about Yankees players, retired player Kevin Youkilis has been said to have 20/11 vision. Evidently, above-average visual acuity is essential to succeed in baseball.

So whether you’re a major-leaguer looking to improve your batting average, a minor-leaguer looking to land one of those few major league spots, or maybe you’re just someone hoping for a career in professional sports, why not ensure you’re giving yourself the best chances at successfully hitting a ball and, on a larger scale, improving your overall hand-eye coordination? With the SVL exam, you can check for these potentially minor refractive errors and subsequently correct for them. And who knows, with this newly corrected, elite vision, maybe the Indians will – after almost 70 years – finally again win the World Series.

Issy Bonebrake is a born-again New Yorker living down in the Village. She considers herself to be a self-proclaimed, cautiously optimistic futurist. As a classic rock aficionado, she enjoys binge watching rockumentaries from the coziness of her less than 500 square footage apartment. Ironically, Issy is a Cleveland Indians fan and actively asserts that the 10th inning rain delay is why they lost the 2016 World Series.

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New Study reveals the SVOne Autorefractor successfully measures the small yet significant refractive errors of professional baseball players


The Refractive Error of Professional Baseball Players

MLB Clinical Study Identifies Best Way to Track Elite Vision and Improve Batting Performance

New Study reveals the SVOne Autorefractor successfully measures the small yet significant refractive errors of professional baseball players.

New York, NY – July 5, 2017, Smart Vision Labs (https://www.smartvisionlabs.com/) announced today the release of their latest clinical study on The Refractive Error of Professional Baseball Players, The study concludes that the SVOne wavefront autorefraction system is effective in detecting extremely small, but important, refractive errors in professional baseball players.

According to the study, hitting a baseball is one of the most difficult activities in sports. Previous research has found that professional baseball players have visual acuity of approximately 20/12. In comparison, the visual acuity for the general population is two lines worse, or 20/20. Clear and sharp vision is extremely important for a batter to have the best chance to actually hit the ball successfully. Small deviations in the refraction of the eye can, reduce vision and thus negatively impact the performance of a baseball player.

Even a small refractive error, left uncorrected, could decrease vision to the “normal” 20/20 level (or perhaps even worse), which is likely insufficient to allow optimal batting performance. Additionally, the impact of any refractive error, if present, on the batter’s visual function is often greater than what is seen in the average population with a similar refractive error (authors’’ clinical experience).

The baseball, barely 3 inches in diameter, is often thrown at speeds approaching 100 mph from a distance of 60 feet 6 inches. The batter must predict, based upon the initial trajectory of the ball as well as the ball’s spin, where and when it will cross the plate allowing him to strike it with a wooden bat a mere 2.75 inches in diameter. It is not difficult to understand why hitting a baseball is often termed the most difficult task in all of sports and why excellent visual function is required for success. In fact, baseball is one of the rare times in life when you are considered highly skilled for being successful only 30% of the time.

“We are excited by the results of this study” said Yaopeng Zhou, Smart Vision Labs, CEO and Co-Founder. “This is the 3rd clinical study to validate the accuracy of our device and its ability to pick up on the smallest changes in refraction. Gaining the trust of the teams in this MLB study was an additional vote of confidence.“

“The SVOne is extremely accurate and an exceptional tool to measure vision correction”, said Daniel M. Laby, MD; Director of the Sports and Performance Vision Center at the SUNY College of Optometry. The device is able to detect extremely small focusing errors which can make a huge difference in professional ball player’s success.”

Methodology
The study was lead by Daniel M. Laby, MD, Director of the Sports and Performance Vision Center at the SUNY College of Optometry In New York City. The study included 608 MLB players (both minor and major league), from five teams, during the 2016 spring training season. All MLB players were males. Of the 608 players screened, 557 had autorefraction performed (51 players did not complete autorefraction due to their unavailability or not being able to complete the test). Players who had refractive surgery (25) or players who were wearing contact lenses at the time of their screening (116) were not considered eligible for analysis. Additionally, three (3) players were not entered properly into the autorefraction database and could not be identified, and thus included, in the analysis. Thus, a total of 413 players were deemed eligible for final inclusion in the study analysis. Screening took place in a dedicated room at each team’s spring training facility. Screening consisted of a brief ocular history followed by autorefraction using the Smart Vision Labs SVOne autorefractor, other tests of vision (OptimEYEs), hand-eye coordination and reaction time (SVT) as well as visual concentration and multiple object tracking (Neurotracker) were also performed.

This study, as well as all of the Smart Vision Labs published clinical studies can be found here:
https://www.smartvisionlabs.com/how-it-works/accuracy/

In addition to baseball, additional studies have been conducted involving other sports which highlight the relationship between elite vision and performance. A study recently performed in the UK, published on June 8, 2017 in Science and Medicine in Football, concludes that the vision of soccer players is superior to that of healthy non-athletes. These results were confirmed in an additional study from the John Moores University, Liverpool in cricketers.

About Smart Vision Labs

Smart Vision Labs is making vision care less expensive, less complicated, and more accessible. Using the SVone Autorefractor doctors and optical stores can use the power of wavefront aberrometry to provide accurate prescriptions for glasses in minutes. Their proprietary technology shrinks expensive, bulky equipment into a portable device that can be adapted to both a stand alone autorefractor as well as a telemedicine platform. Founded in 2013, Smart Vision Labs aims to increase access to vision care by leveraging technology and innovation. Over 60,000 vision tests have been performed to date in 23 countries, including in partnership with numerous nonprofit organizations and NGOs providing eye-care services to underserved populations here in the US, as well as in India, China and Africa.

If you are interested in providing Smart Vision Exams technology in your store or practice contact sales@smartvisionlabs.com


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.

via GIPHY

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.

via GIPHY

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Sports Vision Care and Athletic Success

In baseball, hitters are said to have a ‘good eye’ when they can distinguish between balls and strikes better than average. A ‘good eye’, though, is associated more with good judgment and restraint than with excellent vision. Sports vision care is vital to athletic success. 

For all the physical traits valued in young athletes—strength, agility, speed, endurance, etc.—there is little focus on vision. And yet it appears self-evident that good vision is of utmost importance in any sport.

“Participation in sports and recreational activities continues to increase exponentially each year, and there has never been a greater opportunity or need for optometrists to meet the unique vision care needs of athletes.” –AOA Sport Vision Section 

baseball sunglasses sports vision care

The Sports & Vision Section of the American Optometric Association (AOA) states, “Vision, just like speed and strength, is an important component in how well you play your sport.” For baseball alone, the AOA lists 17 skills important for success: peripheral vision, depth perception, speed of focusing, color perception, and eye dominance, to name a few. Excellent depth perception, for example, is crucial for fielders judging the trajectory of balls hit high into the air.

Mobile optometry equipment can increase the ease and frequency of eye exams for athletes. At the highest levels of competition exercise regimens are planned down to the minute and nutrition measured down to the gram. Here, the ability to fine-tune a prescription month-to-month or week-to-week could prove essential.

The low cost of new handheld mobile optometry equipment expands opportunities not only for optometrists specializing in sports vision care but also the number of optometrists that can explore this specialty. Sports vision care is essential for athletes at the highest level of play as well as developing athletes at all levels.

In sports, there are winners and losers, but the advent of handheld, mobile optometry equipment is a win-win situation.

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