April is Sports Eye Safety Month, and sight is a very important sense to athletes. Better athletes have better visual performance and reaction time. In addition to providing eye protection, is there a way for eye care professionals to help their athletic patients elevate their game? Graham Erikson, OD, is an expert on vision and athletic performance and shared a quick video of his thoughts on the topic.
Steps for Helping Athletes
The first step is usually refraction and vision correction. What can we give patients to help make their vision as sharp as possible? Then, we look at filters like sunglasses and hats. How can a filter help athletes see aspects of their performance better and deal with changing lighting conditions? Some eye care professionals even suggest visual performance training. This can sometimes improve aspects like depth perception, eye-tracking, and hand-eye coordination, but is there something more eye care professionals can do?
Nutrition and Visual Performance
It’s well documented that the carotenoid zeaxanthin improves visual function for older demographics but supplementing with this antioxidant has also been proven to help young, healthy individuals. A study in 2014 proved zeaxanthin can improve contrast sensitivity, photo-stress recovery, and glare disability. More than visual performance, zeaxanthin also concentrates in the brain. The same study showed a 10% faster processing speed for the individuals supplementing with higher levels of dietary zeaxanthin, meaning they had faster reaction times.
What This Means for Eye Care
For athletes, even 10% improvement can mean the difference between average play and exceptional performance. While the athletic demographic is the obvious beneficiary, most of the population can benefit from better visual performance and processing. By prescribing a nutraceutical with at least 8 mg of zeaxanthin, practitioners can help their patients begin to see their best.
Bovier ER, Renzi LM, Hammond BR (2014) A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study on the Effects of Lutein and Zeaxanthin on Neural Processing Speed and Efficiency. PLoS ONE 9(9): e108178. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0108178
Haddrill, Marilyn. “Sports Vision Tests and Training.” Edited by Donald S Teig, All About Vision, AAV Media, LLC., Jan. 2016, www.allaboutvision.com/sportsvision/treatment.htm.
“Visual Performance Assessment & Training.” American Optometric Association, American Optometric Association, 2018, www.aoa.org/optometrists/tools-and-resources/sports-and-performance-vision/visual-performance-assessment-and-training.