Q&A: Vision training to improve athletic performance
Athletes are continually looking for ways to improve their performance and gain an advantage in training to give them a leg up on their competition.
Professional and collegiate athletes are embracing vision training and new technologies to heighten their cognitive abilities. One particular program, NeuroTracker, which is a video game designed to heighten cognitive agility by tracking spheres across a 3D screen, spread to more than 550 training facilities by 2017, according to the New York Times.
As the technology and science of vision training are becoming more commonplace, Healio/OSN asked Diane B. Whitaker, OD, clinical program director of Duke Sports Vision Center, to share information on the types of programs and technology the center uses for its clients.
Q: How did the Duke Sports Vision Center (DSVC) come to be? What is its mission?
A: DSVC started with a conversation between Dr. Terry Kim and myself in 2008. Terry is the ophthalmologist for the Duke men’s basketball team, and he wanted to know if I thought sports vision training was legitimate or not. I have a background in rehab, so I said, “If I can bring a brain-injured individual back to their baseline visual motor skills, why not take a normal or elite performer to the next level with the same tool?” I subsequently became the principal investigator for a study to answer this question in 2011. In short, we found that players get better in the training protocols, but no one has shown a direct correlation to on-court or on-field performance. Therefore, we recruited the director of the Duke Brain Stimulation Research Center, Greg Appelbaum, PhD, to help us answer these questions in 2015. The DSVC officially launched in fall 2018 under the umbrella of the Duke Sports Sciences Institute.
Q: How does the center help athletes improve and/or strengthen their vision ?
A: Cognitive visual processing speed, visual motor reaction times and peripheral field awareness can be honed with training. Every player in every different sport may have unique goals; therefore, each protocol is customized to that individual and their sport and their position.
Q: What technology does the center use ?
A: We are exploring many new platforms as they evolve. Currently we use RightEye, FitLights, Senaptec, Nike Strobes and many other vetted devices and protocols. The Senaptec sensory station, for instance, is a training module that includes programs that target eye-hand coordination, decision-making and attention to improve athletic success and injury prevention. The technology is designed to improve both speed and accuracy of visual-motor skills.
Q: Who are your clients?
A: We see recreational, college and professional athletes.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to note about the vision center?
A: We strive to set the standard for sports vision training in academic medicine by adopting and vetting new technologies that are continuously coming to market with promises for making athletes better, quicker and stronger.
Schonbrun Z. Keep your eye on the balls to become a better athlete. www.nytimes.com/2017/01/04/sports/neurotracker-athletic-performance.html. Published Jan. 4, 2017. Accessed Jan. 6, 2020.
Disclosure: Whitaker reports no relevant financial disclosures.