Athlete Vision Centre

Boosting Vision and Sports Performance

Sports Vision Therapy

Vision and Sports

Seeing is our dominant sense and drives the body for success. About 80% of what an athlete takes in, is channeled through the eyes, processed to make sense of what is seen and then directs performance which is fine-tuned with visual feedback.

Vision problems contribute to reduced sports performance despite good body-coordination.  These visual skill deficits may not be detected during a basic eye exam. A patient may have 20/20 vision clarity yet still have visual interferences limiting sports performance. Advance testing of an athlete reveals the level of eye-coordination, body-coordination and how well the eyes leads the body for performance.

Binocular Vision and Visual Performance

Binocular vision occurs when both eyes track as a team. The brain compiles two images, one from each eye, to create a single 3-D view of the world. Advantages of synchronized eyes include improved vison performance (1.5 times better), visual comfort, judgment of depth and eyes that appear straight.

Performance is enhanced when the synchronized eyes deliver the full complement of visual information. The brain receives this high quality visual information which it analyzes, catalogues, stores for future reference and combines it with current muscle-memories to drive the body to compete.

For some players, the effortless process of making sense of what is seen and driving body-performance is challenged and not robust; one or more visual sub-skills may be fragile and lose their auto-pilot mode with stress during a game.

 For others, just a single visual skill may be sub-par and not automatic causing poor eye-coordination or performance interference.

What to look for:

  • practice has diminishing returns on performance
  • challenges with sports that require aiming at a single fixed target (e.g. shooting, putting)
  • challenges with sports that require tracking and intercepting a moving target (e.g. catch a ball, hit a ball or stopping a puck)
  • blurred vision while competing
  • while playing sports
    • eye strain
    • burning or tearing eyes
    • eye rubbing
    • tired eyes
    • double-vision
  • poor attention
  • loss of concentration
  • seems to know the sport mechanics yet delivers sub-par performances
  • decrease performance throughout the game
  • drifts in and out of “the zone” during play
  • difficulty following moving objects (worse than teammates)
  • squints often during demanding sport tasks
  • turns head to use a preferred eye
  • performance is better in sports with larger balls –  or no balls or hockey pucks

Sports and Concussions

ATHLETE VISION CENTRE AND CONCUSSION
Boosting Vision and Sports Performance

A CONCUSSION IS A FORM OF MILD TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY.
Concussions are a result from a direct blow to the head or, indirectly from something such as whiplash.
The impact causes the brain to hit against the inside of the skull causing brain bruising. It is estimated that nearly ½ a million (~500,000) concussions occur yearly in the Canada.

CONCUSSION SYMPTOMS CAN PERSIST.
10-20% of concussions result in symptoms that can last weeks, months, or more. When these symptoms persist, a condition known as Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS) occurs.

GENERAL SYMPTOMS
CONCUSSIONS HAVE THESE TYPICAL SYMPTOMS. * Vision related

  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Disorientation
  • Vomiting and/or Nausea
  • Unsteadiness
  • Light sensitivity*
  • Blurred Vision*
  • Double vision*
  • Loss of place when reading*
  • Post-traumatic amnesia
  • Dizziness

THE MISSING LINK
UP TO 1/2 OF SYMPTOMS ARE VISUAL, MEANING VISION IS OFTEN THE MISSING LINK.

Recent research suggests that over 50% of patients with concussion or post-concussion syndrome have visual problems that may cause headaches, eye-headaches, double vision, eye strain or blurred vision.
Seeing is our dominant sense and about 80% of all the information processed for sport is channeled through our eyes. Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS) may interfere with the efficiency and effectiveness of how vision drives the body. This makes the athlete work twice as hard for current performance.
For some athletes with PCS, the effortless process of making sense of what is seen or guiding the body is altered. One or more visual sub-skills may be fragile and lose their auto-pilot mode and result in interference with sports performance.

OVERCOMING CONCUSSION-RELATED VISION PROBLEMS FOR ATHLETES
Optometrists have a great understanding of the visual system. They have the opportunity to retrain the visual sub-skills through a program of vision therapy or neuro-optometric rehabilitation. This helps eliminate the visual symptoms most commonly associated with post-concussion syndrome (PSC) and boost vision and sports performance.

GETTING TREATMENT
YOU WILL WANT AN OPTOMETRIST DEDICATED TO NEURO-OPTOMETRIC REHABILITATION (VISION THERAPY)

Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation represents a specific area of optometry, which addresses deficits in eye-teaming, focusing, visual tracking, visual processing problems, and related visual problems. These problems are common with patients who have concussion and other forms of acquired brain injury. Treatment involves spectacle lens prescriptions, prisms, filters, special tints and vision therapy which can provide symptomatic relief.
Vision therapy entails a variety of non-surgical therapeutic procedures designed to vitalize visual function. Vision therapy involves a series of treatments during which carefully planned activities are carried out by the patient under professional supervision. The targeted treatments are determined by the nature and severity of the diagnosed condition. Vision therapy is done to boost visual sub-skills and sports performance – not to simply strengthen eye muscles.

Athletes with vision problems show their struggles in different ways. With symptoms listed above the athlete likely has significant visual challenges in areas of sustain performance during competivie-stress, consistent shooting (or putting), consistent tracking or intercepting a ball or puck, and visual-guided body performance.

We have 4 steps to boost vision and sports performance.

  1. A Complete Digital Eye Exam is the first step. The OHIP benefit eye-exam covers the vast majority of the investment for patients up to 19 and over 65 years of age, while the remainder is $98, otherwise the examination is $214.

Complete a 3-hour appraisal of:

  – 12 visual sub-skills

  – 4 eye-coordination skills

  – 4 body-coordination skills

  – 1 recorded sport-specific eye tracking task

The investment to determine candidacy is $550.

  1. Start vision therapy if:
  • two or more of the visual sub-skills are below normal
  • eye coordination is below body-coordination skill, or
  • recorded sport-specific eye tracking is sub-par 
  1. Support activities are essential for success. These supportive activities use specific software programs and custom eye-exercises. They are completed 5 times per week for 30 minutes per day.

Dr. Gall is an optometrist who cares for patients and is excited when they reach their potential and achieve success. From the beginning, Dr. Gall has offered vision therapy as an option for success. In 1993, Dr. Gall received his Doctorate in Optometry, and then in 1995, he received his Master of Vision Science in the area of binocular vision after which he started his practice. In 1999, he received his Fellowship from the American Academy of Optometry (AAO), earned by only 5% of optometrists who give back to the profession in terms of research and leadership. In the fall of 2010, he moved his practice to a larger facility and opened the Oakville Centre for Vision – Vision is the Difference with its four centres of excellence. Upon studying for two years, in 2015 Dr. Gall was awarded the Diplomate in Binocular Vision Perception & Pediatric Optometry (Dip. BVPPO), earned by less than 1% of optometrists, which clearly demonstrates his lifelong learning to provide advanced care in this specialized area of optometry.

Dr. Gall’s Vision Therapist, Heather, plays a vital role in caring for patients and motivating them to achieve success for lifelong learning. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, over 7 years of experience with vision therapy and works closely with Dr. Gall while providing individualized vision therapy.

The philosophy of the Vision Performance Centre – Enhancing Vision and Its Connections, is based on the work of Drs. Mitchell Scheiman and Bruce Wick (Clinical Management of Binocular Vision, 4th Ed. 2014), Drs. Sidney Groffman and Harold Solan (Developmental & Perceptual Assessment: theoretical concepts and diagnostic testing. 1994) and Drs. Elizabeth Caloroso and Michael Rouse (Clinical Management of Strabismus. 1993) which are guiding references for any practice offering vision therapy.