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What is Sports Vision Training & Why is it Important for Elite Athletes?

What is Sports Vision Training?

Athletes train their physical strength in order to improve sports performance; however, exercising the muscles of the body is not the only type of training that an athlete can benefit from. By conditioning the visual processes and cognitive functions of the brain, athletes can enhance performance outcomes and gain a competitive edge against their opponents. In this article you will learn why everyone, especially athletes, should treat the brain like a muscle and exercise it! 

Sports vision training is all about developing a relationship between the eyes, the brain, and the body. In sports, the visual system is heavily relied on as most of the information we process comes from our eyes; which acts as an entryway to the brain. Our eyes see, the brain interprets, and the body follows with a response. Sports vision training focuses on improving how quickly our eyes can see and how much information we can detect with just our vision. The faster we take in information, the faster our brain can process it, and ultimately a faster and more effective response will be produced by the body. 

What Happens With a Weak Visual System?

There are so many situations in our day-to-day lives that rely heavily on our visual system and our ability to react to the environment around us. Sometimes an insufficient response time is what separates the good from the great.

A few seconds difference in reaction time can ultimately be the difference between:

  • An athlete winning a gold medal compared to tenth place in an event
  • Avoiding a collision by stepping on the brakes in time when traffic suddenly stops 
  • Saving a game-winning goal 
  • Catching your child before they fall and hurt themselves 

A weak visual system may result in:

  • Not clearly seeing the environment around you
  • Decreased performance under pressure
  • Difficulty hitting the target
  • Inability to anticipate 
  • Giving in to mental fatigue

Types of Sports Vision Training

Below are a few examples of the visual functions that can be trained to enhance performance:

  • Peripheral Awareness 
  • Hand-Eye Coordination 
  • Eye Tracking Ability
  • Reaction Time
  • Decision Making

Why is Improving This Skill Important for Athletes?

During sports activity, vision is the most important sense for athletes to take in information. Sight accounts for 85-90% of the sensory processing demands during sports. If athletes can improve their ability to take in information through sight, athletic performance should therefore be enhanced as well. 

The ability to track dynamic movement quickly, anticipate plays, react rapidly, and make the correct decision, can be the deciding factor between winning and losing. This cognitive advantage can be obtained through sports vision training. 

3 Main Reasons Athletes Should Invest in Sports Vision Training:

  1. The ultimate performance enhancer
  2. “One second advantage”
  3. Injury prevention 

1. It’s the ultimate performance enhancement.

The many benefits of sports vision training include:

  • Improved overall visual & peripheral awareness
  • Improved focus and concentration
  • More accurate anticipation timing
  • Quicker reaction timing
  • Better decision making under stress and pressure
  • Augmented efficiency in multi-tasking
  • Improved eye-hand coordination
  • Greater ability to track multiple moving objects
  • Heightened memory recall
  • Better target accuracy
  • Reduce incidence of injury

Sports vision training is used by professional athletes such as Connor McDavid to enhance his game. The NeuroTracker Team (the creators of the cognitive training tool, NeuroTracker) stated that McDavid’s agent, Jeff Jackson, sees a clear improvement in his game due to his visual training: 

“Offensively, he sees things developing before anybody else.”

2. You’ll have a “one second advantage” over competitors.

In every sport, whether its hockey, track, swimming or ski racing, absolutely every second counts.

If you’re able to react half a second faster than your opponent, that could be the difference between gold and silver. 

Every athlete will be training on the field, ice, or pool and will develop certain physical attributes in order to perform their sport. In order to gain that competitive edge over your opponents, you must train more than just your body but also your mind. 

 A study conducted by Paul et al., (2011), tested the effects of sports vision training in table tennis players. One group of players underwent 8 weeks of visual and cognitive training as well as routine table tennis practice, while another group only practiced their routine tennis table. Significant improvements were found post training in the group that completed both visual and motor practice.

This shows that if two similar athletes were to meet in competition the one with the better trained cognitive and visual system will perform better. 

3. Potentially decrease injury & aid with rehabilitation.

Over time, sports vision training will increase cognitive stamina and in return decrease mental fatigue. Many athletic injuries occur when athletes become tired or lose focus. These injuries can be prevented by improving the athlete’s awareness and concentration. 

Sports vision is not only preventative, but can be used for therapy as well. It can be used as a modality for concussion management and rehabilitation. In fact, research has concluded that when vision training is introduced as a team-wide exercise, the incidence of concussion decreases in players who participate in training compared to players who do not (Clark et al., 2015). 

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, there are 17,000+ sport-related brain injuries in Ontario and 94% are concussion-related. Contact sports especially are the most common sports related to concussion for all ages and genders. 

With sports vision training, these stats can be reduced and can help athletes everywhere protect their brain and improve cognitive function. 

Leave a comment below if you have a question on sport vision training!



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. doi: 10.1080/1750984X.2016.1266376 
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Clark, J.F., et al. (2015). Vision Training Methods for Sports Concussion Mitigation and Management. J. Vis. Exp, (99). doi:10.3791/52648 
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