Sport and vision: which visual skills are most important?

Vision is a basic neurophysiological complex process in the motor and sensory system of the human body. If we analyze the importance in sport of motor coordination and anticipation, we can assess the importance of sight and vision in game actions.

So, what are the most important visual skills in sport?

The most important are static visual acuity, dynamic visual acuity, ocular mobility, visual field, binocular vision, accommodation, eye-hand coordination, reaction time and visualization.

  1. Static Visual Acuity (SAV): is the ability to recognize images and their details when observer and object are at rest. Its limitations are due to refractive defects (most cases), ocular pathology or alterations in the optical pathways.
  2. Dynamic Visual Acuity (D.V.A.): allows detecting and recognizing moving images. This ability improves with training, and the best results occur in female athletes.
  3. Ocular Motility (OM): the extraocular muscles of the eye allow the eye to explore space and follow moving objects.
  4. Visual field (V.F.): there is the peripheral and central visual field. The central field concentrates the maximum vision and analyzes objects with precision, while the peripheral field is used to identify what is happening around the fixed object. Almost all athletes need peripheral vision, although it is even more important in team sports.
  5. Binocular vision (B.V.): Binocular vision is the result of integrating the image from each eye into a single image, creating a high quality image that allows you to see in 3D and perceive the position of objects in space (stereopsis).
  6. Accommodation (AC): Accommodation is the ability of the lens to change its shape and maintain image sharpness when focusing at different distances. It is very important in speed sports.
  7. Eye-hand coordination (E.O.C.): coordination is essential to obtain a motor response to a visual stimulus.
  8. Visual reaction time (V.R.T.): this is the time that elapses between the athlete’s perception of a stimulus and the receiver’s response. The shorter the time, the greater the athlete’s advantage. Soccer goalkeepers, handball players, basketball players or tennis players need high values of T.R.V.
  9. Visualization (V): is the ability to create mental images. By imagining the activity, muscle memory is developed. These are sensory experiences that should include as many as possible, such as olfactory experiences like the smell of a soccer field or auditory experiences like the sounds of a racquet being hit.
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As a conclusion, it should be noted that the physical capabilities of each individual will facilitate the practice of one sport or another, for example, a person with a tall height will have skills to play basketball, but if he wants to be a hockey player, that height will be an impediment.

When failures are detected in the execution of some actions and these do not improve with training, it is recommended that the athlete undergoes a complete visual examination, since it is common that limitations are detected in some visual ability, and the better the visual skills of the athlete, the more accurate their movements will be.