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Sports Vision Therapy: How to Improve Depth Perception

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A male athlete is using a visual stimulus system for improving reaction time. Hand-eye coordination training session at a sports science lab.

Depth perception is the ability to view what’s around you in three dimensions (3D). Your brain does this by processing first and later combining different pictures from each eye to form a 3D image, which includes length, width, and depth. 

Without depth perception, you wouldn’t be able to judge or determine the distance between objects or tell if it’s near or far away. An eye exam is usually the first step to assessing depth perception.  

If depth perception is affected, it can interfere with daily life for children, adults, and athletes. Luckily, there are ways to improve depth perception, like sports vision therapy and exercises to help the brain interpret visual information. 

What Is Depth Perception?

Depth perception mainly relies on visual information or binocular vision, which is having vision in both eyes. When both eyes view different images, the brain forms one single image. 

This is called convergence. However, depth perception in those with monocular vision or vision in only one eye is not as strong. 

Causes of Depth Perception

Several conditions or vision problems can cause poor depth perception. The most common ones are:  

  • Strabismus—Also called cross-eyed, occurs when both eyes aren’t aligned or point in different directions. One or both eyes can turn outwards, inwards, downwards, or upwards. 
  • Blurry vision—In one or both eyes make it more difficult to see clearly or in detail. 
  • Amblyopia—Also called lazy eye, is a condition where one eye is weaker than the other, which results in decreased vision in one or both eyes. This condition usually develops in childhood. 
  • Eye trauma—Or injury to the eye can alter or harm your vision. 

Why Depth Perception Is Important in Sports

To perform well in most types of sports, you need vital visual skills:

  • Visual reaction time is the speed at which your brain processes visual information provided by the eyes.
  • Visual tracking is the ability to track a fast-moving object or person. 
  • Binocular vision is the ability to focus and track with both eyes.
  • Coordination between your hands and eyes and your body and eyes. 
  • The eye’s ability to change focus to maintain visual clarity. 
  • Peripheral vision is what you see outside your direct line of sight or at the edge of your visual field.
  • Depth perception is the ability to identify an exact location or distance of an object or person.

From this, you can see that hand-eye coordination, tracking an object, or following a moving object requires good depth perception. It helps to judge the distance between yourself and the ball, another person, or a boundary line. 

Reduced depth perception can affect your game in the following ways:

  • Judging the position of a ball
  • Locating a ball and focusing on it
  • Tackle and navigate in tight spaces
  • Spatial awareness
  • Making split-second decisions
A male athlete with eye trauma is being examined by a doctor.

How to Test Your Depth Perception

There are 17 visual skills, and even if you have good or 20/20 vision, you can still have reduced depth perception. So, how can you tell? 

You can test your eye’s ability at home by following these steps, and if you have trouble, you can confirm this by visiting your eye doctor.

  1. Look at a picture of a circle or a ball.
  2. Next, hold up one finger 6 inches away from your eyes, with the picture of the circle or ball in the background.
  3. Then focus both your eyes on your finger. The image of the circle or ball may appear slightly hazy on both sides of your finger.
  4. Keep your finger in place and switch your focus from your finger to the circle or ball beyond. 
  5. As you shift your focus, you should see images of your finger on either side of the circle.

Vision Therapy to Improve Depth Perception

If your eye doctor has confirmed poor depth perception, it’s not too late to improve your visual skills and performance. Sports vision therapy can benefit:

  • Both adults and children
  • New or seasoned athletes
  • Amateur and professional athletes

Sports vision therapy can include simple strategies to boost athletic performance, such as exercises and routine treatment to help your brain interpret visual information. They can be in-office with at-home exercises and are monitored closely to ensure improvement. 

Increase Your Performance 

You can improve depth perception with individually prescribed exercises to retrain your brain and how it interacts with your eyes. Seal Beach Eyes would love to support you if you have concerns or want to be a better athlete. Go ahead, and book an appointment with us today.

Written by Total Vision

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