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eyes and sport

A good eye: The most important visual skills for a soccer player

For many it is not a mystery that soccer is the sport with the most followers around the world.

But few know that it is also one of the sports activities that most demands visual skills from its players.

We hear expressions such as “it seems that he has eyes on the back of his neck” or “he has excellent vision of the game”, which are the reflection of having great visual skills, complemented also with technical, tactical, physical excellence and teamwork skills.

Investigadores de la Univdiversidad de Sussex han afirmado que la capacitación visual representa la última frontera en el entrenamiento para  elevar el nivel de habilidad, creatividad y capacidad de jugadas de la élite deportiva. En un estudio realizado en 2017 a Cristiano Ronaldo en un centro de alto rendimiento en España, en el cual analizaron dónde centra su atención y cómo actúa su vista al jugar mediante anteojos de rastreo ocular, se pudo detectar que el ídolo realiza movimientos oculares extraordinariamente rápidos y precisos que van del esférico al cuerpo del adversario, pero también a los espacios de alrededor. Según los investigadores, esta puede ser la causa para su aparente facilidad para anticipar los movimientos de los contrarios y gambetear o esquivarlos.

A study on top-level Brazilian soccer players[1] demonstrated that improvements in athletes 'visual skills can lead to a faster decision-making process and a more expeditious motor response, so these skills have a positive effect on athletes' performance. Also, several investigations[2] have found that as the age and experience of the subjects increase, their visual abilities are increased, although no differences are found according to the positions they cover in the field.

Several experts imply that the starting point is to identify those skills that are most important to a specific sport.[3]. In the case of football, vision plays a fundamental role in actions such as analyzing the playing field, detecting open spaces and anticipating plays, among others.

According to Karen Muncey, President of Dynamic Edge Sports Vision Training Centers, the visual skills that a player must acquire are eye-limb coordination, peripheral awareness, development of the eye muscle to improve depth perception, convergence and accommodation, among others.[4]. The training method they use seeks to impact results such as faster reactions from detecting as a reflection free spaces in the rival formations to continue advancing with the ball or making effective passes, the exact eye-foot coordination to make solid shots in the correct direction, and even in the ability to recognize game patterns with better visual memory.

Vicente Montalvá, Master in Advanced Optometry and Vision Sciences, affirms that 85% of the information that a soccer player receives comes through the visual system[5]. According to the expert, eye training for good performance in soccer practice should include:

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Central vision or visual acuity.

Ability to see the fine detail, size and color of an object.

Peripheral or dynamic vision 

(Visual field). Essential to place teammates and opponents, as well as the ball, within the physical and regulatory limits (offside) of the field. Before coming into contact with the ball, the player must be aware of the position of the opponents to assess the best option and time to build the game. The greater awareness of peripheral vision, the more efficient the player's reaction will be and the broader the range of possibilities of the play to follow, based on calculating trajectories and speeds, both of the ball and of the players on the field. Also to react to a stimulus in the most optimal way possible.

Accommodative flexibility and ocular motility 

precise and coordinated (between both eyes), to be able to follow the trajectory of objects accurately and clearly. This ability is what allows you to keep an object that varies the distance from you focused and clear, focus the ball on your feet and look for a teammate to make a band change without experiencing blurred vision. By always keeping our vision clear, we guarantee that we can process much more information so that we can react earlier and be more precise.

  1. stereopsis, or ability to see in the three spatial dimensions: width, height and depth. Thanks to it we are able to calculate distances much better and the trajectories of objects and / or players can be predicted.
  2.  Visual memory. The visual system can only recognize what it has already known before. It is very important that the soccer player constantly accumulates technical-tactical experiences, the broader his experience / visual memory, the more he will be able to see and detect in order to decrease the reaction time to a stimulus.

According to the Licentiate in Optometry Nancy Espíndola, spokesperson for the Optometry Council Mexico, "The eye care of the player is important, since it requires having the best visual correction -indicating contact lenses, for example-, in addition to training and working on perceptual-visual skills through exercises and games in training ”. He added that prevention and eye care is also important in the event of ailments caused by injuries or blows to the face, such as a ball, head butt, kick or elbow.

"It is important for any footballer to go every six months to an assessment of visual function, or immediately if they detect blurred vision after accidents during training or game that may lead to suspicion of eye injury," added the expert. "It must be taken into account that visual skills can be trained and improving visual function will have as a consequence an improvement in sports performance," she concluded.

 

About Consejo Optometría México

The Consejo Optometría México AC is a non-governmental organization with the following objectives: to ensure the visual and general health of the population in Mexico and to promote optometry in professional practice, teaching and research. He is a member of the World Council of Optometry (WCO), recognized by the UN World Health Organization, whose mission is to facilitate the improvement and development of visual and eye care worldwide through education, use. humanitarian and policy development www.optometriamexico.org

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