What do you and Larry Fitzgerald, former Pro Bowl MVP and record-holding wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals, have in common?
a) You both enjoy the weather in Arizona?
b) You both will watch this year’s Pro Bowl —you from your couch, him from the field?
c) You have both improved your vision using eye exercises?
If you answered “c,” you may already know why Larry Fitzgerald broke records for most catches, most yards, and most touchdowns by a receiver in single playoffs postseason in 2009. Called the “best pass catcher in the NFL today,” Fitzgerald credits vision training he received as a child from his grandfather, an optometrist, for his amazing success.
According to the Quincy, Massachusetts, Patriot-Ledger, Fitzgerald has “an uncanny knack for lifting his 6-3 body off the ground at precisely the right moment, at the right height, so he can be exactly where he needs to be to grab the ball.”
This ability was not ingrained; as a boy, Fitzgerald was fidgety and hyperactive. But his grandfather began to use vision drills, such as asking his grandson to balance on a board while trying to track a dot, or walk on a wood rail while focusing on an object.
This vision training was designed to improve perception, hand-eye coordination, reflexes, focus, and more.
Here’s an example.
Those with poor binocular vision, whose eyes don’t look at one spot at the same time, may have poor depth perception. According to the Visual Fitness Institute, baseball outfielders may have trouble judging a fly ball that momentarily gets lost in the sun. In football, they may not be able to catch a pass over the shoulder.
If there’s a problem in this area, training can help, says Sue Lowe, chair of the American Optometric Association’s Sports Vision Section. She likens it to military fighter pilots who can learn to judge distances at altitudes where there are no background cues. They teach themselves to judge the distance by training themselves to rely purely on how the eyes must adjust to focus on a distant object.
Vision trainer Ryan Harrison, who works with athletes in many sports, including beach volleyball, uses a string with five plastic baseballs attached to it for one of his exercises. You hold one end up to your nose and focus on the first ball until the string changes into two strings that intersect at the baseball.
Sounds like the “string bead” exercise in the Rebuild Your Vision Program to me.
“Essentially, you’re doing curls with your eye muscles,” notes Ryan, in an interview in Beach Volleyball Magazine. “This exercises the eyes’ tracking muscles. There are seven muscles in the eyes and we are working six of them to get them to track better. If the strings intersect before the ball, everything looks closer to them than it actually is, and you’ll react too quickly. If it’s behind the ball, you’ll react too late.”
Today’s aspiring athletes routinely incorporate eye exercises into their training. “Sports vision training,” as it’s called, is used to hone visual skills in every sport from archery to wrestling. Visual alignment, depth perception, peripheral vision, and tracking are just a few areas of concentration. Sue Lowe notes that the field of sports vision training goes back 75 years. “It’s all based upon the fact that vision is learned, just like walking and talking,” she says. “And because vision is learned, it’s something that can be rehabilitated.”
Athletes themselves say vision training helps, says Barry Seiller, MD, director of the Visual Fitness Institute in Chicago (which developed some of the first vision training programs for Olympic athletes).
Of the athletes who went through the Georgia Tech sports vision program, 77 percent reported it helped their athletic performance. So the next time you’re thinking about skipping those eye exercises, pretend you’re playing in next year’s Super Bowl.
Why is all of this information important for you?
We’re not all high paid athletes, but we can all work towards improving our vision naturally instead of through the use of corrective lenses or surgery. Think about it! Would athletes waste time and money on eye exercises that didn’t work? Of course not! They have better things to do with their time and money. What may surprise you is that it doesn’t really take a lot of time to do the eye exercises that can improve your vision.
Could you set aside a half hour a day to do the exercises if you knew that they would improve your vision? Most of us waste more time than that watching television or surfing the web. Both occupations that can actually add to vision problems. There are exercises designed specifically to counter the eye strain caused by working on a computer. You may be thinking that you can’t afford to see a high priced behavioral optometrist. After all you’re not a high paid athlete.
Learning the eye exercises that can help you to improve your vision does not have to be expensive. Can you put a price on your ability to see better? Your vision directly impacts your quality of life. Vision problems make everyday actions like walking up or down stairs more difficult. Lack of depth perception can mean stumbling or falling because you cannot clearly see where you are stepping.
Eye exercises can help to improve many aspects of your vision. They work because they retrain your eyes to see correctly. The exercises work to strengthen areas of the eye that are weak or under developed. For even better results consider combining the eye exercises with a diet high in the vitamins and nutrients that your eyes need the most.