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Scientists Study Whether ‘Vision Training’ Improves Baseball Players’ Performance

IU optometry researchers are partnering with the IU baseball team on the project.

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IU baseball player Patrick Loeffler wears “strobe glasses” during batting practice. Photo by Kevin Fryling, Indiana University

(PRESS RELEASE) A great baseball team requires a coach with the vision to win. It also requires players with the vision to literally see the ball as it flies over the plate at speeds that regularly reach up to 90 mph.

This simple fact has spawned a small industry over the past several decades that purports to improve batting performance by teaching players to see more clearly, track the ball more accurately and improve their hand-eye coordination. Yet the effectiveness of these methods has remained largely untested by rigorous scientific methods.

In response, Indiana University researchers at the IU School of Optometry, in collaboration with the Duke Institute of Brain Sciences, launched a collaboration last year to study vision training in baseball.

The players in the study are members of the IU baseball team under head coach Jeff Mercer. The lead researcher on the project at IU is Nicholas Port, an associate professor at the IU School of Optometry.

“You’re trying hit a round ball with a round stick — when that ball is traveling at 70 to 90 miles per hour at a distance of 60 feet — so, presumably, vision is important in baseball,” Port said. “What we decided to do was design a study to see whether, in a systematic and scientific way, we could measure the effects of vision training on baseball performance.”

To conduct the study, Port recruited players from the IU baseball team to participate in 30-minute exercises at least three times per week for nine weeks. Lyndsey Ferris, a Ph.D. student at the IU School of Optometry, also joined the project to lead data collection.

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“We really tried to tailor our tests to the players’ strengths and weaknesses, so they were constantly challenged to get to that next level of improvement,” said Ferris, who is also a member of the Air Force. “The general feedback from the players has been very positive; they oftentimes ask to get another round of a particular activity.”

Nicholas Port, left, and Lyndsey Ferris review information on a player’s swing. Photo by Kevin Fryling, Indiana University

These tests include three main exercises:

  • The use of a “light rail,” in which players are asked to press a button at a specific moment as a small LED light travels down a long track. This test is designed to simulate the eye movement required to trace a baseball in flight.
  • A tablet-based test to gauge players’ ability to quickly discriminate between different targets and act in a specific way upon certain targets.
  • “Strobe glasses,” in which players’ vision is completely blocked 10 to 90 percent of time as they swing a bat at a ball in flight.

The players also participated in a week of baseline tests before the main study. They took up to 500 swings to gauge their starting batting consistency and performance. For the parts of the study involving swinging a bat, the players’ form was recorded by cameras that captured the physics of each motion.

These tests were conducted at the Dr. Lawrence D. Rink Center for Sports Medicine and Technology, which is the recently constructed facility at the south end zone of IU’s Memorial Stadium, and the batting cages in the baseball complex at Bart Kaufman Field.

As a first baseman at Wright State University, where he also served as head coach before joining IU in 2018, Mercer is familiar with the challenge of striking a moving object in flight. He said the ability to make out the smallest details, such as the placement of the hand on the ball as it leaves the pitcher’s grip or the spin of the ball as it proceeds over the plate, can provide players with critical information in the heat of the moment.

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“Being an offensive player myself in my career, I understand the importance of vision,” he added. “So, when someone came up to me to talk about potentially helping improve (our players’) vision and their ability to recognize moving objects more quickly, and hopefully increase their hand-eye-coordination … it was a no-brainer. Being at a university with the capabilities and the research opportunities (of IU), it’s a tremendous advantage.”

Port and Ferris plan to conduct a second round of data collection in the fall, after the whirlwind of the college baseball season is over. They also plan to enroll women from the IU softball team in the study’s second phase.

Port’s collaborator and the lead researcher on this study is Greg Appelbaum, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Duke University School of Medicine. The research is supported by a grant from the U.S. Army Research Office.

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Press Releases

Modo Americas Names CEO

The appointment takes effect Sept. 1.

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Rebecca Giefer

(PRESS RELEASE) Following a 15-year tenure at Modo, Rebecca Giefer has been appointed as CEO of Modo Americas, effective Sept. 1.

Giefer started at Modo in 2004 as a customer service representative and quickly rose through the ranks, achieving the position of chief operating officer five years ago.

According to a press release from the company: “Over the past 5 years, Rebecca has overseen significant growth for the company across various sales channels. Last year, Rebecca was awarded equity in MODO as a reward for her incredible work ethic and contributions to MODO’s outstanding results and achievements.”

Within the industry, Giefer has also spread her influence, speaking on various panels and participating in different groups within the Vision Council, on which she is a current board member.

“I am very proud today with this announcement of Rebecca being made CEO of MODO Americas,” said Alessandro Lanaro, Modo’s founder and main shareholder.

“Many years ago, I jokingly told Rebecca that I should watch my chair, and sure enough she did it! Naming Rebecca CEO of MODO Americas was for me a very natural decision. I personally have never met a person that is so committed and has such an incredible work ethic. Together with Giovanni Lo Faro, CEO of MODO International and Tara Montanari, Director of M Factory, we form a formidable team that is so well-aligned to create the opportunities of our constant growth. I will assume the newly created position of Global CEO of our Group that consists of several companies.”

Giefer said: “I’m thankful for Alessandro’s vision and leadership and I’m thankful to have such an amazing team in New York and throughout the Americas. This step in my career at MODO is a very special one and I hope that my story will be an inspiration to members of the team. Last but not least, I’m thankful for the customers that have been on this journey with us. Being an independent eyewear company in the U.S. requires us to constantly reorient ourselves to the ever-changing landscape of the industry.”

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Texas State Optical Elects New Board Leadership

Dr. Reid Robertson is serving as chairman.

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(PRESS RELEASE) HOUSTON,TX — The doctors of Texas State Optical announce the election of the organization’s board of directors and board officers, effective July 1, 2019. The following TSO board members will serve as reappointed officers: Dr. Phong Pham of Houston, TX; Dr. Leigha Nielsen of New Braunfels, TX; Dr. Stephen Stanfield of San Marcos, TX; and non-shareholder C. Edward Buffington of Rancho Cordova, CA. Elected to the board of directors chairman position is Dr. Reid Robertson, past committee chairman of the nomination committee, of Allen, TX.

“I am honored and excited to serve as the Chair of the Board for Texas State Optical,” said Robertson. “Our network is like no other in the ophthalmic world. Our former Vision Quest has aptly been renamed the TSO Family Reunion to celebrate our unique organization. We truly are like a family which works together to support one another. Our strength comes from our doctors and our ability to leverage our power as a group to do more than any single optometrist can do. I am continually grateful for the strength that TSO provides for each of us. I hope to fortify our group for the future.”

John Marvin, president of TSO, said, “TSO Network is pleased to formally announce the inauguration of its new Board of Directors and Officers. We thank these dedicated and talented professionals for contributing their valuable time and expertise on behalf of the Doctors of TSO. Our Board members have been in the TSO Network for under a decade. We are geared to embrace the future changes of the profession with their leadership. We are especially honored to have Mr. Jack Gunion, Dr. Mark Wright, and Mr. C. Edward Buffington continue as non-shareholders on our board.”

In 2014, the TSO board decided to dedicate three board positions to professionals in the industry from outside the group of TSO shareholders. These board positions provide the organization with an outside and more national perspective of the optometry and optical industries.

Each year at the TSO Annual Shareholder Family Reunion Conference, the board elections results are announced. Formerly known as the Vision Quest Conference, Texas State Optical’s annual meeting was renamed to recognize the cultural dynamic that makes Texas State Optical different from other eyecare organizations.

For the first time in a decade, the conference reconvened in Texas at the Lost Pines Resort in Lost Pines, TX. The Family Reunion Conference welcomed 81% of the TSO Network’s shareholders to the conference, alongside over 400 staff and vendors.

“This year’s conference reflected what truly makes Texas State Optical a different and special organization,” said Marvin. “TSO is a family, and that family is not only a family of optometrists and their families. It includes staff members and their families. It also includes our vendor partners and their families. It just made sense to rebrand our annual meeting the Texas State Optical Family Reunion.”

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Press Releases

eyeOs Announces New Website Launch

New website goes beyond showcasing product.

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(PRESS RELEASE) SOUTHBOROUGH, MA — eyeOs Eyewear, the producer of eyeOs Premium Readers, announced the launch of its new website eyeosreaders.com.

“The importance of a website cannot be overstated in our web-connected culture. At eyeOs we recognize that we have a responsibility to be in sync with the needs of the connected consumer by providing a well-organized, efficient, informative, and aesthetically appealing browsing experience. And, we ensured that the new site strategically drives consumers to the doors of our valued retail partners,” said Sam Kotob, the founder and designer of eyeOs.

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“As a vital connection between eyeOs, our consumers and our valued retailers alike, the new website clearly expresses our culture, brand, and value. Our customers expect convenient and secure and easy-breezy browsing when searching the site for product information, dealer locator, or to shop. Our goal is to provide exceptional customer service and a personalized experience at every touchpoint, and we’re confident that the new site interface will have an immediate and positive impact on consumers and our valued retail partners alike,” Kotob said.

eyeOs credits their success to transparency relative to product quality and claims. The new site gives product details supported by informative content pages for those that want to learn more. Take blue light for example: it is a huge driver in the readers market to help even emmetropic eyes reduce digital eyestrain. When visiting the site, the consumer or ECP can learn why a blue filter helps DES.

eyeOs new website goes beyond showcasing product and the lens and frame technology highlights that make eyeOs the premier in reading eyewear.

eyeOs produces an extensive range of OTC reading eyewear, including BlueBuster blue light filtering lenses, OfficePal, and PcPal progressive readers as well as photochromic and polarized bifocal readers.

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