The Importance of Binocular Vision in Sports

blue eyed person with helmet closeup

Binocular vision is a vital visual ability, especially for sports, since it helps us to understand three-dimensional relationships and depth between objects around us, like a ball or another player.

The eyes give slightly varied spatial information to our brains since they are at different positions relative to any object. The brain then makes precise judgments of depth, velocity, and distance based on the disparities in the signals received from each eye.

Athletes’ reaction times, speed, and precision all suffer when binocular vision isn’t functioning well.

For example, hitting a thrown baseball is often regarded as one of the most difficult sports abilities to master. As a batter, you need to pay close attention, have excellent eyesight, and be able to perceive depth.

The time it takes to go from pitch to plate is only 0.4 seconds. The time to make a call at bat is 0.17 seconds. At the same time, the batter has to pay attention to the ball, figure out which way it’s moving, and determine whether or not to swing. A foul ball is called if the batter is even 7 ms early or late with their swing.

And what if the batter has problems with understanding the three-dimensional space around them? Well, they could be in trouble. 

What Effect Does Reduced Binocular Vision Have on Athletes? 

Flaws in coordination between the eyes and the brain can have a negative impact on timing, depth perception, reflexes, accuracy, and speed, particularly in sports.

When athletes have reduced binocular vision, it does not mean they are always stumbling or falling over on the court. It implies that they could crash with their opponents (or even teammates) more frequently or misread the direction or speed of a ball.

By identifying any potential inadequacies in visual domains, coaches may be able to assist athletes in improving not just their visual abilities but also their athletic performance. 

Athletes who maximize the utilization of their visual system will achieve maximum performance and obtain a competitive edge.

What Visual Skills Do Athletes Need to Have?

Apart from having a great sense of depth and distance, athletes need many more visual skills to perform at their best every time they hit the court. The most significant ones are:

  • Peripheral Vision – the ability to see motion and things that aren’t right in front of us. It’s crucial for athletes to perceive opponents approaching from all sides when rushing down the field.
  • Saccades – fast, swift, and simultaneous movement of the player’s gaze from one fixed object to another. Athletes need unobstructed views of fixed targets, such as the goal or hoop at the other end of the court.
  • Accommodation – shifting focus from near to faraway objects. For instance, in football, a player could glance towards oncoming opponents before redirecting their attention to the ball.
  • Dynamic Visual Acuity – capacity to observe a moving target while either standing motionless or moving with relation to the target. It’s the eye’s capacity to make out a number on a player’s jersey, even while the garment is moving.
  • Smooth Pursuits – movement of the eyes performed automatically in order to follow a moving target, such as a ball, as it travels through its surroundings. The eye does not bounce about as much but rather follows a steady path.

Sports Vision Training

Sports vision training helps athletes enhance all of the visual abilities they need to excel on the field. 

Even if someone has “20/20 vision,” they may still have poor binocular vision, which sports vision therapy will assist in improving.

This kind of therapy is a specialized training program that focuses on strengthening visual abilities in athletes so their performance gets to a maximum level. It enables players to react faster and interpret information more precisely, resulting in a significant improvement in their game.

The Eyes Lead the Body

Blanton Collier, the great football coach, is credited with creating the notion of “the eyes leading the body.” That’s why athletes of all ages and ability levels should start with vision therapy in order to determine improvements in visual aspects, leading to optimal performance.

And the concept is right – our eyes are as important on the field as our strength, flexibility, and endurance. Without the right visual cues, we are most likely to misinterpret our surroundings, resulting in a missed point or even stumbling over other objects around us. 

Do you have trouble orienting yourself on the court and performing under your own expectations? Start exercising your eyes today with our VR Synoptophore app. Using simple eye muscle exercises that require only 15 minutes of your day, you can improve your binocular vision in the long run. 

And when you do, it will be 1:0 for you against any vision troubles you may battle with on the court.