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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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ISVA Appoints New Members to Its Board of Directors

It welcomes Donald Teig, O.D., FAAO and Greg Appelbaum, Ph.D.

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Donald Teig and Greg Appelbaum

(PRESS RELEASE) NORTH ROYALTON, OH — The International Sports Vision Association (ISVA), an interdisciplinary group of professionals dedicated to advancing the field of vision training for athletes of all ages and levels to help them achieve peak athletic performance, announced the appointment of Donald Teig, O.D., FAAO and Greg Appelbaum, Ph.D. to its Board of Directors.

“Don and Greg bring a rich mix of backgrounds and experiences that will help ISVA increase public and professional awareness of the positive impact that vision training and enhancement of vision skills can have on athletic performance, and educate practitioners about how to build and enhance a sports vision specialty,” says ISVA President Alex Andrich, O.D., FCOVD.

A pioneer in the field of Visual-Neurocognitive Training, Dr. Teig began his sports testing & training career with 15 teams in Major League Baseball in 1980 and, throughout his career, has evaluated and trained athletes from virtually every sport. He has authored numerous articles and books on the relationship of vision to improved athletic performance, lectured throughout the world, and has originated much of the equipment and techniques being used in the field today.

He is the founder and medical director of The A Team – High Performance Vision Associates, a 65-member group of elite sports medicine professionals, and executive director of “The I Gym”, a cutting edge Visual Performance training center in Sunrise, Florida, that serves as the exclusive vision care providers for the NHL Florida Panthers Hockey Team.

Dr. Teig was a past president of the former International Academy of Sports Vision which was affiliated with the American College of Sports Medicine, and past chairman of the Sports Vision Section of the American Optometric Association, where he received Sports Vision Specialist of the Year honors.

Greg Appelbaum, Ph.D. is an associate professor in the Duke University School of Medicine where he heads the Human Performance Optimization Lab (Opti Lab) and directs the Brain Stimulation Research Center. Dr. Appelbaum holds appointments in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Psychology and Neuroscience and is an affiliate of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience.

His research addresses the brain mechanisms underlying visual-motor control, and how these systems can be improved thorough behavioral, neurofeedback, and neuromodulatory interventions. Since 2011, Dr. Appelbaum has been conducting DARPA and Army Research Office-funded research addressing the role of vision, and vision training in sports. This line of research has included randomized and controlled studies testing vision training interventions, has been conducted with thousands of athletes at all levels of accomplishment, and has led to over a dozen research articles and three review articles.

For further information, visit www.sportsvision.pro.

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Press Releases

ABB OPTICAL GROUP Announces New Director of Strategic Partnerships

He will work in identifying, developing and maximizing the relationships between ABB Optical and leading organizations.

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Mike Austin

(PRESS RELEASE) CORAL SPRINGS, FL – ABB OPTICAL GROUP, a leading provider of optical products and business services in the eye care industry, welcomes Mike Austin as the company’s new director of strategic partnerships.

In his new position, Austin will be instrumental in identifying, developing and maximizing the relationships between ABB Optical and leading organizations in the optical industry. These relationships will focus on developing programs that focus on the ECP, the patients they serve and the teams that they lead, while delivering strategic value for the participating organizations.

“Mike brings vast knowledge, proven experience and real passion for this industry to his role with us at ABB Optical Group,” said Senior Vice President of Manufacturer Partnerships Aaron See. “I know that he will be a strong asset not only to our partners and leading organizations in optical, but to our company and entire customer base, as well.”

An optical industry veteran of 20 years, Austin has held leadership roles with Luxottica, EyeMed and Total Eye Care Partners in the areas of operations, strategy, finance, managed care and product development. He earned his degree from Kent State University and currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, with his wife and his two sons.

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Planetva Launches Unique Eyewear Virtual Try-On Platform That Creates a 3D Face Model from Selfie

It leverages current augmented reality trends and the latest artificial intelligence algorithms.

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(PRESS RELEASE) PlanetVA, a private company registered in Australia and Europe with a 16-year footprint in the virtual eyewear try-on arena, announces the launch of its latest eyewear virtual try-on platform vmPRO. By just taking a selfie the app creates a 3D face model of the user in just a matter of seconds. This app leverages current augmented reality trends and the latest artificial intelligence algorithms to allow the user to view their eyewear in every possible direction simply by dragging the face. Its unique reflection simulation permits the user to experience premium lens features in real time.

The PlanetVA vmPRO app boosts the fastest and easiest user experience of any high-end virtual try-on available today. It also allows the user to easily change and try-on sunglasses and optical frames without re-calibration. As a result, the service offers a faster and simpler way of virtually trying on eyewear. This is of utmost importance for an online presence as most users click away when they need to wait for too long and it is equally important for the major search engine rankings.

Ludwig Heymbeeck, founder of PlanetVA, says: “Our commitment and focus on creating the ultimate mobile experience allows retailers both online and in-store to provide the most robust and efficient virtual try-on experience to date. We also plan to introduce additional features of vmPRO such as accurate optical measurements and integration with our style assistant app by the end of this year.”

“Unlike our competitors, we have not applied for patents yet as we want to keep our solution proprietary. It will allow us to be better positioned in order to adapt to the fast-changing world of technology and use the latest and best available algorithms for the end user”, Ludwig says.

PlanetVA’s North American solution slated to launch later this year will position independent optical retailers with a total retail solution aimed at creating new patient experiences. Our partnership with a network of eyecare professionals specializing in marketing, equipment and e-commerce will give PlanetVA the necessary tools to deliver this exciting new ecosystem.

For more information see https://planetva.com or contact press@planetva.com

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