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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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Melbourne to Host World’s Leading Eye Health Professionals

The event will be held in September 2021.

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(PRESS RELEASE) Melbourne has won an international bid to host 2,000 international eye health professionals at the World Congress of Optometry 2021 (WCO 2021). The event will bring the world’s best professionals in optometry to Australia and provide local optometrists with valuable exposure to global knowledge, experience and approaches to practice.

To be held in September 2021, the three-day Congress will also see leading manufacturers and equipment suppliers from every corner of the globe converge at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) to share in the latest technological and patient care advances, that will enable optometrists to maximize their potential to make a significant impact on eye health in Australia and beyond.

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The bid secured by the Melbourne Convention Bureau (MCB) in partnership with Optometry Victoria South Australia and the Optical Distributors and Manufacturers Association with support from the Victorian State Government and Tourism Australia’s Business Events Bid Fund Program, is anticipated to generate almost $12 million in economic impact for the state of Victoria.

Melbourne recently hosted one of the most successful optometry congresses, the Southern Regional Congress (SRC), merging for the first time with the Optical Distributors and Manufacturers Association (ODMA) to create the new biennial event which aims to be the largest education, eye care and eyewear event ever seen in the Southern Hemisphere, O=MEGA19.

This created a readily engaged audience in the optometry industry providing a successful platform for WCO 2021 to be hosted in the city alongside O=MEGA21.

Melbourne is recognized as a site of international excellence, with the largest concentration of eye and vision researchers in Australia. This combined with the city’s renowned collaborative approach and excellent infrastructure positioned Melbourne as the ideal host for WCO 2021.

MCB Acting Chief Executive Officer, Julia Swanson said the most recent win is a result of Melbourne’s reputation as a knowledge capital and innovation centre combined with the ‘Team Melbourne’ approach.

“Melbourne is recognized as a premium destination in hosting global events in the medical field and the city provides the platform for further research and development while contributing to the economy,” said Ms Swanson.

Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said this was a major win for Melbourne and reinforced the city’s standing as a business events destination of choice.

“Business events are extremely valuable to our economy, with the average business events visitor spending at least twice as much as a leisure visitor. These two events alone are expected to inject around $10 million into the economy,” Minister Birmingham said.

“As a country, we have a distinguished track record of hosting large-scale international business events, and I am pleased that the Morrison Government’s Bid Fund Program is continuing to assist in the conversion of new business for Australia which provides a boost to our economy.”

After more than a year seeing off a host of rivals as part of the international competitive tender process with the World Council of Optometry, Pete Haydon, CEO of Optometry Victoria South Australia said he is excited to be hosting the Congress in 2021 in Melbourne.

“We believe that we have the best destination in Australia for this Congress, and we’re looking forward to working with the MCB and other partners in bringing it here. The support we’re getting from the sector to date has been fantastic.

“Optometry in Australia is a strong and thriving profession. Partnering O=MEGA21 with the WCO 2021 will be a tremendous opportunity for our members to come together, share ideas, and make international connections,” Mr. Haydon said.

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WHO to Address its First World Vision Report During the AAO Conference

It identifies global “significant challenges” in vision health.

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(PRESS RELEASE) ORLANDO, FL – The World Health Organization (WHO) just released its first ever world report on vision, identifying global “significant challenges” in vision health. The American Academy of Optometry (AAO) announced a commitment to rise to those challenges.

The first step will occur during the joint meeting of American Academy of Optometry and World Council of Optometry taking place October 23-27, 2019 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL. The meeting, known as Academy 2019 Orlando and the 3rd World Congress of Optometry, will feature a plenary discussion on Wednesday, October 23 at 10:00 am featuring leaders from WHO and AAO. That session and the entire meeting are open to credentialed media.

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AAO is a North American based association with a global reach, serving nearly 12,000 optometric professionals and students. The organization’s goal is to improve optometric practice through lifelong learning with education and research, and is best known for its coveted Fellowship program (FAAO) signifying adherence to the highest standards of professional competence in vision care.

The World report on vision says 2.2 billion people have some form of vision impairment, of whom 1 billion have an impairment that could have been prevented or is yet to be addressed. The report anticipates a growth in those numbers over the next few years and calls for stakeholders including eye care practitioners and policymakers to help shape a global agenda on vision to help stem the crisis.

AAO Board President, Dr. Barbara Caffery believes the report will be crucial in uniting the entire vision health community to address the problem. “Optometrists and all of the disciplines within vision care have the skills and opportunity to bring about profound change around the world,” she said. “We believe this report will galvanize the issue and trigger a coordinated effort. At AAO, we are ready to step up and fight this battle.”

The WHO report identifies universal vision coverage, standardization of practice methods and a global disparity in quality of care among a series of barriers to world-wide vision care improvement. As one of the world’s leading vision care membership and advocacy associations, AAO accredits optometrists and inspires the highest standards of evidence-based care, a critical component of WHO’s path forward.

“The American Academy of Optometry is in a unique position to help educate and train the workforce that can solve this problem. We will also help push for the standardization of care while we advance the inclusion of optometry into standard practice where it is not currently recognized,” said Dr. Caffery. “AAO is ready to put the full weight of our organization behind this global effort.”

The World report on vision will be a defining topic throughout Academy 2019 Orlando and the 3rd World Congress of Optometry next week. The meeting will draw more than 8,000 optometrists, ophthalmologists, vision care professionals, students, support personnel and media to Florida, to discuss the latest optometric developments, trends and strategies. The Wednesday, October 23 Plenary session at 10:00 am will focus on the report and begin to define how optometrists can play their crucial part in addressing its findings.

Over the coming months, AAO will hold discussions and develop strategies to raise awareness and address the findings of the WHO report while defining a path for members to share their talents. “Our members are well trained and highly skilled,” said Dr. Caffery. “We have the ability to affect significant change for vision-impaired people around the world and we are committed to doing it.”

For more information, visit www.aaopt.org/2019 or www.worldcongressofoptometry.org.

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Lighthouse Guild and AOTA Launch eLearning Course on Pediatric Vision Loss

The program is designed to help occupational therapists better understand the needs of children experiencing visual difficulties.

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(PRESS RELEASE) NEW YORK — Lighthouse Guild, in partnership with the American Occupational Therapy Association, is offering a 90-minute program for OTs, entitled “The Impact of Visual Issues on Child Development.” The program provides an overview of the visual system and describes the varied impact of visual impairment on children’s achievement of developmental milestones and their function in daily activities. It also provides tools and strategies for occupational therapists to develop therapeutic interventions for children of all ages with varying types of vision loss and comorbidities.

The Impact of Visual Issues on Child Development can be accessed through lighthouseguild.org/ce or directly through store.aota.org. Credit: .15 CEUs (1.5 NBCOT PDUs/1.5 credit hours).

The four-part course includes:

  • Introduction to Visual Impairment in Children
  • The Impact of Visual Impairment on Development, Learning, and Areas of Occupation
  • Conducting a Basic Pediatric Vision Assessment
  • Strategies to Address Visual Impairment in Occupational Therapy

“Through rehabilitation and other services, children with visual impairment often achieve developmental milestones similar to children who are not visually impaired, but it is typically at a later age and depends on the severity of their condition and any other comorbidities,” says Yu-Pin Hsu, EdD, OTR/L, SCLV, vision rehabilitation projects manager, Lighthouse Guild. “That’s why it is important to assess children’s needs and develop interventions based on their developmental level, not their chronological age.”

“Because occupational therapy is dedicated to serving individuals across their lifespan, our new pediatric course, “The Impact of Visual Issues on Child Development,” is a welcome addition to our low vision series. The course is designed to help occupational therapists better understand the unique needs of children experiencing visual difficulties,” says Debbie Amini, EdD, OTR/L, FAOTA, director of Professional Development, AOTA.

The program is an expansion of an ongoing partnership between Lighthouse Guild and AOTA to develop continuing education opportunities for occupational therapists.

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