Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Eyes Have It

“He’s got eyes in the back of his head”
“She’s got great court vision”

You often hear talented basketball players described this way.
But how important is it to have good vision when you’re playing hoops?

Well, you can play basketball well without being able to smell, taste, or hear.
You can even play basketball well without being able to walk or run,
but just try to play basketball with your eyes closed.
Not happening.

Vision plays an important part in balance (Try standing on one leg with your eyes open and then with your eye closed), coordination and speed (DON’T try running a suicide sprint on the court with your eyes closed) and hand-eye coordination (Throw a ball up and catch it with your eyes open, and then with your eyes closed).

Because of the constantly changing position of the ball and players, a basketball athlete needs to have excellent vision to reach his/her potential.

Different positions place different demands on your sight during a game. While guards usually play facing the hoop, a post player who plays with his/her back to the basket and turns to shoot has only a few milliseconds to find and lock in on the rim or backboard. Players who hang out around the 3-point line need better depth perception than those who are shooting mostly lay-ups.

So what can you do? A good first step is to get a sports vision specialist (usually an optometrist or ophthalmologist) to perform a sports vision assessment. This not only includes the basic eye chart testing for visual acuity, but might also include measures of dynamic (in motion) visual acuity, peripheral vision, depth perception, tracking, and visual memory. While you’re at it, a basic test of color vision wouldn’t hurt.

Once you have more information about your visual strengths and areas that need improving, there are exercises you can perform to improve your passing, catching, and shooting.

In my next entry, I’ll talk about steps you can take to protect your eyes from injury while you’re playing

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