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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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Vision Council Names Director of Industry Development for Think About Your Eyes

He brings more than 15 years of combined optical industry experience.

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Nathan Troxell

(PRESS RELEASE) The Vision Council has appointed Nathan Troxell as director, industry development for Think About Your Eyes. In this role, Troxell will help to grow the reputation of Think About Your Eyes among industry partners and expand participation and sponsorship of the campaign.

Troxell brings more than 15 years of combined optical industry experience to his role with extensive expertise in international multi-channel consumer and B2B marketing communications. A longtime active member of The Vision Council, Troxell served as a member on The Vision Council’s marketing communications committee for several years before being appointed to chairman of the committee in January 2019.

Troxell holds a bachelor of science in business and communications from Grove City College. He lives in Pittsburgh, PA, with his wife and two sons.

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Match Eyewear Signs Licensing Agreement with 1980s Brand Members Only

The launch eyewear collection will consist of fashion forward styles offered in a 12-color palette range.

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(PRESS RELEASE) WESTBURY, NY — Match Eyewear announces the signing of a licensing agreement with JR Apparel World for the development and distribution of the Member Only Eyewear brand.

“When you put it on…..something happens”, the tag line that launched a major fashion trend in menswear. Wildly popular in the 1980s with its Iconic Racer jacket, this lifestyle brand is having a resurgence more than 35 years later. Celebrating every detail that has made the jacket so iconic from the materials to the colors to the classic fit for men, women and kids and streetwear. With a mass cult following from famous celebrities to the working-class hero, fans of Members Only come from all occupations, age groups and socio-economic levels. Members Only is inclusive and welcomes everyone to be part of the Members Only family.

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Keeping with the same formula that continues to make Members Only the must have fashion item to have in one’s wardrobe, the launch eyewear collection will consist of fashion forward styles offered in a 12-color palette range. Trendy and colorful, the Members Only Eyewear collection will be a perfect complement to the Members Only apparel collection.

“Growing up, there was nothing cooler than having a Members Only jacket” said Ethan Goodman, Match Eyewear president, “the opportunity to create the very first Members Only eyewear collection allows us to take that nostalgic feeling and express it within the
latest eyewear trends.”

“Our efforts in growing the Members Only brand lead us to Match Eyewear. We were looking for a partner who is a leader in their field to help us launch an eyewear collection that is representative of the Members Only brand” said Ron Malhotra, managing partner at JR Apparel World.

Members Only Eyewear will make its debut at Vision Expo East in Spring 2020.

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Healthy Eyes Advantage Announces Leadership Appointments

Company welcomes Dr. Justin Manning and Laura Dorris.

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(PRESS RELEASE) BOCA RATON, FL – On Dec. 2, Healthy Eyes Advantage Inc., an optical purchasing and business solutions marketplace for 10,000 independent eyecare professionals nationwide, announced two leadership appointments.

Dr. Justin Manning

“I am pleased to welcome Dr. Justin Manning to the HEA leadership team and to announce the promotion of Laura Dorris and her increased scope of responsibility within our organization,” said HEA Chairman and CEO Jim McGrann. “Both are highly talented individuals who are committed to HEA’s mission of empowering independent eye care professionals to succeed in a rapidly-evolving optical industry. I look forward to working with them to deliver best-in-class programs and service to HEA’s members.”

Justin Manning, OD, MPH, FAAO, has joined the HEA team as executive vice president, professional strategies. He is responsible for leading HEA’s professional efforts and ensuring that the company delivers effective programs that address the unique needs of IECPs. In this pivotal role, Dr. Manning oversees HEA’s National Advisory Board and, together with other members of the HEA team, collaborates with state and national professional organizations, as well as HEA strategic vendor partners.

“I was an HEA member long before joining the HEA team, so I have experienced firsthand the strength of the Healthy Eyes Advantage partnership and the company’s active support of independent eye care professionals,” Manning said. “It’s a privilege to step into this role, and I look forward to communicating the value of HEA membership to my colleagues and shaping HEA’s programs to further support the growth of IECP practices.”

From growing up in an optometry family to driving double-digit growth in numerous private practices, Manning is committed to advancing independent eyecare. He has a passion for the medical optometry model, niche specialties, billing and coding, and culture and staff development. He earned his Doctor of Optometry degree from The Ohio State University, completed a residency in Geriatric Optometry at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System in Tacoma, Washington, and subsequently earned a Master of Public Health degree from Salus University. Dr. Manning is the former medical director of Better Vision, where he founded the Keratoconus and Scleral Lens Institute, and he is also the founder of eyeLeader, a leadership development and population health consulting company.

Dr. Manning is a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry and is a member of the American Optometric Association, the Colorado Optometric Association, and the American Public Health Association.

Manning succeeds Lorie Lippiatt, OD, president and founder of Salem Eyecare Center, Inc., in Salem, OH, who remains an important voice on HEA’s National Advisory Board. “I have greatly enjoyed my tenure with HEA and look forward to continuing to contribute to the company’s success through my National Advisory Board participation, while also devoting more time and energy to my practice and my position on the Optical Women’s Association Executive Board of Directors,” Lippiatt stated.

Laura Dorris

Laura Dorris, a long-term HEA team member, has been promoted to the newly created position of vice president, member solutions. In this capacity, she will support HEA’s business development and growth goals by ensuring exceptional levels of service and value optimization for HEA’s members and professional organization partners.

“Laura brings more than 25 years of invaluable experience to this critical member-facing role, including a wide-ranging background in patient care excellence, implementing staff education programs, directing human resources teams, and leading the effective management of multiple successful eye care practices,” said Stephanie Lucas, HEA’s executive vice president and general manager of member solutions. Dorris also serves on the Board of Directors for the Optical Women’s Association and is a past recipient of Vision Monday’s Most Influential Women in the Optical Industry award.

“I am passionate about helping independent eye care professionals realize the greatest value from their HEA membership and enthusiastically embrace this opportunity to work with our internal teams and external partners to ensure maximum impact for each of HEA’s valued members,” Dorris said.

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