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Below is just a small sampling of the research available showing the relationship between visual training and athletic performance.

Sensorimotor abilities predict on-field performance in professional baseball

Burris, Kyle & Vittetoe, Kelly & Ramger, Benjamin & Suresh, Sunith & Tokdar, Surya & P. Reiter, Jerome & Appelbaum, Lawrence. (2018). Sensorimotor abilities predict on-field performance in professional baseball. Scientific Reports. 8. 10.1038/s41598-017-18565-7.

Baseball players must be able to see and react in an instant, yet it is hotly debated whether superior performance is associated with superior sensorimotor abilities. In this study, we compare sensorimotor abilities, measured through 8 psychomotor tasks comprising the Nike Sensory Station assessment battery, and game statistics in a sample of 252 professional baseball players to evaluate the links between sensorimotor skills and on-field performance. For this purpose, we develop a series of Bayesian hierarchical latent variable models enabling us to compare statistics across professional baseball leagues. Within this framework, we find that sensorimotor abilities are significant predictors of on-base percentage, walk rate and strikeout rate, accounting for age, position, and league. We find no such relationship for either slugging percentage or fielder-independent pitching. The pattern of results suggests performance contributions from both visual-sensory and visual-motor abilities and indicates that sensorimotor screenings may be useful for player scouting.

The role of visual perception measures used in sports vision programmes in predicting actual game performance in Division I collegiate hockey players

Poltavski, Dmitri & Biberdorf, David. (2014). The role of visual perception measures used in sports vision programmes in predicting actual game performance in Division I collegiate hockey players. Journal of sports sciences. 33. 1-12. 10.1080/02640414.2014.951952.

Abstract: In the growing field of sports vision little is still known about unique attributes of visual processing in ice hockey and what role visual processing plays in the overall athlete’s performance. In the present study we evaluated whether visual, perceptual and cognitive/motor variables collected using the Nike SPARQ Sensory Training Station have significant relevance to the real game statistics of 38 Division I collegiate male and female hockey players. The results demonstrated that 69% of variance in the goals made by forwards in 2011-2013 could be predicted by their faster reaction time to a visual stimulus, better visual memory, better visual discrimination and a faster ability to shift focus between near and far objects. Approximately 33% of variance in game points was significantly related to better discrimination among competing visual stimuli. In addition, reaction time to a visual stimulus as well as stereoptic quickness significantly accounted for 24% of variance in the mean duration of the player’s penalty time. This is one of the first studies to show that some of the visual skills that state-of-the-art generalised sports vision programmes are purported to target may indeed be important for hockey players’ actual performance on the ice.

The effect of implicit perceptual motor training on decision-making skills and underpinning gaze behavior in combat athletes.

Milazzo, Nicolas & Farrow, Damian & Fournier, Jean. (2016). The effect of implicit perceptual motor training on decision-making skills and underpinning gaze behavior in combat athletes.. Perceptual and Motor Skills. 123. 10.1177/0031512516656816.

This study investigated the effect of a 12-session, implicit perceptual-motor training program on decision-making skills and visual search behavior of highly skilled junior female karate fighters (M age1⁄415.7years, SD1⁄41.2). Eighteen participants were required to make (physical or verbal) reaction decisions to various attacks within different fighting scenarios. Fighters’ performance and eye movements were assessed before and after the intervention, and during acquisition through the use of video- based and on-mat decision-making tests. The video-based test revealed that following training, only the implicit perceptual-motor group (n 1⁄4 6) improved their decision- making accuracy significantly compared to a matched motor training (placebo, n 1⁄4 6) group and a control group (n 1⁄4 6). Further, the implicit training group significantly changed their visual search behavior by focusing on fewer locations for longer durations. In addition, the session-by-session analysis showed no significant improvement in decision accuracy between training session 1 and all the other sessions, except the last one. Coaches should devote more practice time to implicit learning approaches during perceptual-motor training program to achieve significant decision-making improvements and more efficient visual search strategy with elite athletes.

Enhancing Ice Hockey Skills Through Stroboscopic Visual Training: A Pilot Study

Mitroff, Stephen & Friesen, Peter & Bennett, Doug & Yoo, Herb & W. Reichow, Alan. (2013). Enhancing Ice Hockey Skills Through Stroboscopic Visual Training: A Pilot Study. Athletic Training & Sports Health Care. 5. 261-264. 10.3928/19425864-20131030-02.

Recent research has suggested that a new sport training tool may enhance vision, attention, and response timing. The tool, stroboscopic eyewear, includes lenses that alternate between transparent and opaque states to produce stroboscopic visual conditions. Previous research has demonstrated that stroboscopic training can improve visual abilities, but can stroboscopic training affect sport performance directly? The current pilot study explored this question by assessing athletic skill in professional ice hockey players. Participants trained either with stroboscopic eyewear (strobe group) or with no eyewear (control group). The strobe group averaged an 18% improvement in on-ice skill performance from pretraining to posttraining, whereas the control group’s performance did not improve. The current results demonstrate improvement in the athletic skill of professional athletes with training that added one new component—wearing stroboscopic eyewear—to their normal routines.

An above real time training intervention for sport decision making

Lorains, Megan & Ball, Kevin & Macmahon, Clare. (2013). An above real time training intervention for sport decision making. Psychology of Sport and Exercise. 14. 670-674. 10.1016/j.psychsport.2013.05.005.

Objectives: A speeded video-based decision-making training intervention was used to assess the impact of above real time training on decision-making skill in sport. Design and methods: Three groups completed pre tests and either five weeks of fast speed video training, normal speed video training or no training, followed by a post test and two retention tests in subsequent weeks. Decision accuracy was measured by awarding three, two, one, or no point(s) based on independent coach ratings of each situation. Results: Results revealed that those trained in above real time improved performance earlier in the training intervention compared to those trained in normal speed. The above real time group also retained more of the performance improvements. The transfer test for decision accuracy showed improvement following the training intervention for all groups, trends in the data reflected a higher retention rate for the fast speed group choosing the best option more frequently than normal and control groups. Conclusions: The results lend support to the general use of video-based decision-making training for team invasion sports. A greater impact is that they provide a new paradigm by adapting above real time training to decision making, to create a more game-like training scenario.

Improved vision and on-field performance in baseball through perceptual learning

Deveau, Jenni & Ozer, Daniel & Seitz, Aaron. (2014). Improved vision and on-field performance in baseball through perceptual learning. Current biology : CB. 24. R146-7. 10.1016/j.cub.2014.01.004.

Our visual abilities profoundly impact performance on an enormous range of tasks. Numerous studies examine mechanisms that can improve vision [1]. One limitation of published studies is that learning effects often fail to transfer beyond the trained task or to real world conditions. Here we report the results of a novel integrative perceptual learning program that combines multiple perceptual learning approaches: training with a diverse set of stimuli [2], optimized stimulus presentation [3], multisensory facilitation [4], and consistently reinforcing training stimuli [5], with the goal to generalize benefits to real world tasks. We applied this training program to the University of California Riverside (UCR) Baseball Team and assessed benefits using standard eye-charts and batting statistics. Trained players showed improved vision after training, had decreased strike-outs, and created more runs; and even accounting for maturational gains, these additional runs may have led to an additional four to five team wins. These results demonstrate real world transferable benefits of a vision-training program based on perceptual learning principles.

The Impact of a Sports Vision Training Program in Youth Field Hockey Players

Schwab, Sebastian & Memmert, Daniel. (2012). The Impact of a Sports Vision Training Program in Youth Field Hockey Players. Journal of sports science & medicine. 11. 624-31.

The aim of this study was to investigate whether a sports vision training program improves the visual performance of youth male field hockey players, ages 12 to 16 years, after an intervention of six weeks compared to a control group with no specific sports vision training. The choice reaction time task at the D2 board (Learning Task I), the functional field of view task (Learning Task II) and the multiple object tracking (MOT) task (Transfer Task) were assessed before and after the intervention and again six weeks after the second test. Analyzes showed significant differences between the two groups for the choice reaction time task at the D2 board and the functional field of view task, with significant improvements for the intervention group and none for the control group. For the transfer task, we could not find statistically significant improvements for either group. The results of this study are discussed in terms of theoretical and practical implications. Key points: Perceptual training with youth field hockey players. Can a sports vision training program improve the visual performance of youth male field hockey players, ages 12 to 16 years, after an intervention of six weeks compared to a control group with no specific sports vision training?The intervention was performed in the “VisuLab” as DynamicEye(®) SportsVision Training at the German Sport University Cologne.We ran a series of 3 two-factor univariate analysis of variance (ANOVA) with repeated measures on both within subject independent variables (group; measuring point) to examine the effects on central perception, peripheral perception and choice reaction time.The present study shows an improvement of certain visual abilities with the help of the sports vision training program.

Transfer of Training from Virtual to Real Baseball Batting

Gray, Rob. (2017). Transfer of Training from Virtual to Real Baseball Batting. Frontiers in Psychology. 8. 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02183.

The use of virtual environments (VE) for training perceptual-motors skills in sports continues to be a rapidly growing area. However, there is a dearth of research that has examined whether training in sports simulation transfers to the real task. In this study, the transfer of perceptual-motor skills trained in an adaptive baseball batting VE to real baseball performance was investigated. Eighty participants were assigned equally to groups undertaking adaptive hitting training in the VE, extra sessions of batting practice in the VE, extra sessions of real batting practice, and a control condition involving no additional training to the players’ regular practice. Training involved two 45 min sessions per week for 6 weeks. Performance on a batting test in the VE, in an on-field test of batting, and on a pitch recognition test was measured pre- and post-training. League batting statistics in the season following training and the highest level of competition reached in the following 5 years were also analyzed. For the majority of performance measures, the adaptive VE training group showed a significantly greater improvement from pre-post training as compared to the other groups. In addition, players in this group had superior batting statistics in league play and reached higher levels of competition. Training in a VE can be used to improve real, on-field performance especially when designers take advantage of simulation to provide training methods (e.g., adaptive training) that do not simply recreate the real training situation.

3D-Multiple Object Tracking training task improves passing decision-making accuracy in soccer players

Romeas, Thomas & Guldner, Antoine & Faubert, Jocelyn. (2015). 3D-Multiple Object Tracking training task improves passing decision-making accuracy in soccer players. Psychology of Sport and Exercise. 19. 10.1016/j.psychsport.2015.06.002.

Objectives: The ability to perform a context-free 3-dimensional multiple object tracking (3D-MOT) task has been highly related to athletic performance. In the present study, we assessed the transferability of a perceptual-cognitive 3D-MOT training from a laboratory setting to a soccer field, a sport in which the capacity to correctly read the dynamic visual scene is a prerequisite to performance. Design: Throughout pre- and post-training sessions, we looked at three essential skills (passing, dribbling, shooting) that are used to gain the upper hand over the opponent. Method: We recorded decision-making accuracy during small-sided games in university-level soccer players (n = 23) before and after a training protocol. Experimental (n = 9) and active control (n=7) groups were respectively trained during 10 sessions of 3D-MOT or 3D soccer videos. A passive control group (n = 7) did not received any particular training or instructions. Results: Decision-making accuracy in passing, but not in dribbling and shooting, between pre- and post-sessions was superior for the 3D-MOT trained group compared to control groups. This result was correlated with the players’ subjective decision-making accuracy, rated after pre- and post-sessions through a visual analogue scale questionnaire. Conclusions: To our knowledge, this study represents the first evidence in which a non-contextual, perceptual-cognitive training exercise has a transfer effect onto the field in athletes.

Enhancing Cognitive Function Using Perceptual-Cognitive Training

Parsons, Brendan & Magill, Tara & Boucher, Alexandra & Zhang, Monica & Zogbo, Katrine & Bérubé, Sarah & Scheffer, Olivier & Beauregard, Mario & Faubert, Jocelyn. (2014). Enhancing Cognitive Function Using Perceptual-Cognitive Training. Clinical EEG and neuroscience. 47. 10.1177/1550059414563746.

Three-dimensional multiple object tracking (3D-MOT) is a perceptual-cognitive training system based on a 3D virtual environment. This is the first study to examine the effects of 3D-MOT training on attention, working memory, and visual information processing speed as well as using functional brain imaging on a normative population. Twenty university-aged students were recruited and divided into a training (NT) and nonactive control (CON) group. Cognitive functions were assessed using neuropsychological tests, and correlates of brain functions were assessed using quantitative electroencephalography (qEEG). Results indicate that 10 sessions of 3D-MOT training can enhance attention, visual information processing speed, and working memory, and also leads to quantifiable changes in resting-state neuroelectric brain function.

Distinct eye movement patterns enhance dynamic visual acuity

J. Palidis, Dimitrios & A. Wyder-Hodge, Pearson & Fooken, Jolande & Spering, Miriam. (2017). Distinct eye movement patterns enhance dynamic visual acuity. PLOS ONE. 12. e0172061. 10.1371/journal.pone.0172061.

Dynamic visual acuity (DVA) is the ability to resolve fine spatial detail in dynamic objects during head fixation, or in static objects during head or body rotation. This ability is important for many activities such as ball sports, and a close relation has been shown between DVA and sports expertise. DVA tasks involve eye movements, yet, it is unclear which aspects of eye movements contribute to successful performance. Here we examined the relation between DVA and the kinematics of smooth pursuit and saccadic eye movements in a cohort of 23 varsity baseball players. In a computerized dynamic-object DVA test, observers reported the location of the gap in a small Landolt-C ring moving at various speeds while eye movements were recorded. Smooth pursuit kinematics—eye latency, acceleration, velocity gain, position error—and the direction and amplitude of saccadic eye movements were linked to perceptual performance. Results reveal that distinct eye movement patterns—minimizing eye position error, tracking smoothly, and inhibiting reverse saccades—were related to dynamic visual acuity. The close link between eye movement quality and DVA performance has important implications for the development of perceptual training programs to improve DVA.

Response Time, Visual Search Strategy, and Anticipatory Skills in Volleyball Players

Piras, Alessandro & Lobietti, Roberto & Squatrito, Salvatore. (2014). Response Time, Visual Search Strategy, and Anticipatory Skills in Volleyball Players. Journal of ophthalmology. 2014. 189268. 10.1155/2014/189268.

This paper aimed at comparing expert and novice volleyball players in a visuomotor task using realistic stimuli. Videos of a volleyball setter performing offensive action were presented to participants, while their eye movements were recorded by a head-mounted video based eye tracker. Participants were asked to foresee the direction (forward or backward) of the setter’s toss by pressing one of two keys. Key-press response time, response accuracy, and gaze behaviour were measured from the first frame showing the setter’s hand-ball contact to the button pressed by the participants. Experts were faster and more accurate in predicting the direction of the setting than novices, showing accurate predictions when they used a search strategy involving fewer fixations of longer duration, as well as spending less time in fixating all display areas from which they extract critical information for the judgment. These results are consistent with the view that superior performance in experts is due to their ability to efficiently encode domain-specific information that is relevant to the task.

Sports vision training: A review of the state-of-the-art in digital training techniques

Appelbaum, L. G., & Erickson, G. (2018). Sports vision training: A review of the state-of-the-art in digital training techniques.International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 11(1), 160-189.

Athletes need excellent vision to perform well in their sports, and many athletes have turned to vision training programs as a way to augment their traditional training regimen. The growing practice of ‘sports vision training’ relies on the notion that practice with demanding visual perceptual, cognitive, or oculomotor tasks can improve the ability to process and respond to what is seen, thereby improving sport performance. This enterprise is not necessarily new, but has been advanced greatly in the past few years by new digital technology that can be deployed during natural training activities, by perceptual-learning-inspired training programs, and by virtual reality simulations that can recreate and augment sporting contexts to promote certain sports-specific visual and cognitive abilities. These improved abilities may, in turn, instill a competitive advantage on the playing field, underscoring the potential value of these approaches. This article reviews emerging approaches, technologies and trends in sports vision training. Where available, critical review of supporting research is provided.

The Hand-eye Coordination of Professional Baseball Players: The Relationship to Batting

Laby, DM, Kirschen, DG, Govindarajulu, U, DeLand, P. (2018). The Hand-eye Coordination of Professional Baseball Players: The Relationship to Batting. Optom Vis Science. 2018 Jul;95(7):557-567

Significance: A visuomotor skill (eye-hand visual-motor reaction time [EH-VMRT]) important for baseball performance is described. Eye-hand visual-motor reaction time represents the integration of visual information, perceptually based decisions, and motor movements to accomplish a specific task. The speed at which this occurs depends on many factors, some visual, some perceptual, and some motor related. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to describe the EH-VMRT ability and evaluate its relationship to the baseball batting performance of professional baseball players. Methods: A commercially available EH-VMRT system was used on 450 professional baseball players. Results were retrospectively compared with standard, career, plate discipline metrics. Results: Statistically significant correlations were found between the EH-VMRT metrics and plate discipline batting metrics. Better EH-VMRT ability also correlated with longer service in, and likelihood to achieve, the major-league level. The better (top 20%) EH-VMRT group had three fewer at bats before gaining a walk (22% decrease), as well as swinging 10 to 12% less often at pitches outside the strike zone and 6 to 7% less often at pitches in the strike zone as compared with the bottom 20% group. In addition, EH-VMRT displays a threshold-like relationship with the ability to gain a walk. Conclusions: These results describe the EH-VMRT ability of professional baseball players and show a significant relationship between the EH-VMRT ability and batting performance. These results may suggest a possible role in player selection, indicating that batters with better EH-VMRT may be more likely to reach the major-league level and be more productive for their team. Further studies will be needed to demonstrate whether training better EH-VMRT results in improved batting performance.

High-Performance Vision Training Improves Batting Statistics for University of Cincinnati Baseball Players

Clark JF, Ellis JK, Bench J, Khoury J, Graman P (2012) High-Performance Vision Training Improves Batting Statistics for University of Cincinnati Baseball Players. PLoS ONE 7(1): e29109. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029109

Purpose: Baseball requires an incredible amount of visual acuity and eye-hand coordination, especially for the batters. The learning objective of this work is to observe that traditional vision training as part of injury prevention or conditioning can be added to a team’s training schedule to improve some performance parameters such as batting and hitting.

Methods: All players for the 2010 to 2011 season underwent normal preseason physicals and baseline testing that is standard for the University of Cincinnati Athletics Department. Standard vision training exercises were implemented 6 weeks before the start of the season. Results are reported as compared to the 2009 to 2010 season. Pre season conditioning was followed by a maintenance program during the season of vision training.

Results: The University of Cincinnati team batting average increased from 0.251 in 2010 to 0.285 in 2011 and the slugging percentage increased by 0.033. The rest of the Big East’s slugging percentage fell over that same time frame 0.082. This produces a difference of 0.115 with 95% confidence interval (0.024, 0.206). As with the batting average, the change for University of Cincinnati is significantly different from the rest of the Big East (p=0.02). Essentially all batting parameters improved by 10% or more. Similar differences were seen when restricting the analysis to games within the Big East conference.

Conclusion: Vision training can combine traditional and technological methodologies to train the athletes’ eyes and improve batting. Vision training as part of conditioning or injury prevention can be applied and may improve batting performance in college baseball players. High performance vision training can be instituted in the pre-season and maintained throughout the season to improve batting parameters.

An Exploratory Study of the Potential Effects of Vision Training on Concussion Incidence in Football

F Clark, Joseph & Graman, Pat & K Ellis, James & Mangine, Robert & T Rauch, Joseph & Bixenmann, Ben & Hasselfeld, Kimberly & Divine, Jon & Colosimo, Angelo & Myer, Gregory. (2015). Article 4 An exploratory study of the potential effects of vision training on concussion incidence in football. Optometry & Visual Performance. 3.

Background: Vision training has become a component of sports enhancement training; however, quantifiable and validated improvement in visual performance has not been clearly demonstrated. In addition, there is minimal literature related to the effects of vision training on sports performance and injury risk reduction. The purpose of the current investigation was to determine the effects of vision training on peripheral vision and concussion incidence. Methods: Vision training was initiated among the University of Cincinnati football team at the beginning of the 2010 season and continued for four years (2010 to 2013). The sports vision enhancement was conducted during the two weeks of preseason camp. Typical vision training consisted of Dynavision D2 light board training, Nike strobe glasses, and tracking drills. Nike Strobe glasses and tracking drills were done with pairs of pitch-and-catch drills using footballs and tennis balls, with instructions to vary arc, speed, and trajectory. For skilled players, “high ball” drills were the focus, whereas for linemen, bounce passes and low pitch drills were stressed. Reaction time data was recorded for each athlete during every Dynavision D2 training session. We monitored the incidence of concussion during the four consecutive seasons of vision training, as well as the previous four consecutive seasons, and compared incidence of concussions (2006 to 2009 referent seasons v. 2010 to 2013 vision training seasons). Results: During the 2006-2013 pre- and regular football seasons, there were 41 sustained concussion events reported. The overall concussion incidence rate for the entire cohort was 5.1 cases per 100 player seasons. When the data were evaluated relative to vision trained versus referent untrained player seasons, a statistically significant lower rate of concussion was noted in player season in the vision training cohort (1.4 concussions per 100 player seasons) compared to players who did not receive the vision training (9.2 concussions per 100 player seasons; p<0.001). The decrease in injury frequency in competitive seasons with vision training was also associated with a concomitant decrease in missed play time. Discussion: The current data indicates an association of a decreased incidence of concussion among football players during the competitive seasons where vision training was performed as part of the preseason training. We suggest that better field awareness gained from vision training may assist in preparatory awareness to avoid concussion causing injuries. Future large scale clinical trials are warranted to confirm the effects noted in this preliminary report.

Vision Training Methods for Sports Concussion Mitigation and Management

Joseph F. Clark, Angelo Colosimo, James K. Ellis, Robert Mangine, Benjamin Bixenmann, Kimberly Hasselfeld, Patricia Graman, Hagar Elgendy, Gregory Myer, Jon Divine, (2015). Vision Training Methods for Sports Concussion Mitigation and Management. J Vis Ex. 2015; (99): 52648.

There is emerging evidence supporting the use vision training, including light board training tools, as a concussion baseline and neuro-diagnostic tool and potentially as a supportive component to concussion prevention strategies. This paper is focused on providing detailed methods for select vision training tools and reporting normative data for comparison when vision training is a part of a sports management program. The overall program includes standard vision training methods including tachistoscope, Brock’s string, and strobe glasses, as well as specialized light board training algorithms. Stereopsis is measured as a means to monitor vision training affects. In addition, quantitative results for vision training methods as well as baseline and post-testing *A and Reaction Test measures with progressive scores are reported. Collegiate athletes consistently improve after six weeks of training in their stereopsis, *A and Reaction Test scores. When vision training is initiated as a team wide exercise, the incidence of concussion decreases in players who participate in training compared to players who do not receive the vision training. Vision training produces functional and performance changes that, when monitored, can be used to assess the success of the vision training and can be initiated as part of a sports medical intervention for concussion prevention.