L&T: Technology

Apr
2002

Take-Home Training



Take-home Training

A sports vision expert adapts his program for the computer  

by BRIAN P. DUNLEAVY

The difference between good athletes and great athletes, some say, is in the way they see the field of play. If noted sports vision expert Barry Seiller, MD, has his way, however, every athlete will have a chance at Hall of Fame vision at the push of a button.





Over the years, the founder of the Visual Fitness Institute (VFI) in Vernon Hills, Ill. and his staff have worked with a number of Olympic, high school, college and professional athletes on enhancing and/or maximizing the visual skills required for their individual sports. Experts in the area of sports vision say studies have shown an athlete’s performance can be affected by problems with visual abilities such as depth perception, focusing, eye-hand coordination, visual attention, pattern recognition and/or peripheral vision.

At VFI, Dr. Seiller has created a facility where athletes of all experience levels can be evaluated and trained in these and other visual skills. But his most recent innovation is a low-cost alternative that he hopes will, quite literally, bring his message of good vision home for athletes.

The innovation—called the Vizual Edge Performance Trainer—is a CD-ROM adaptation of VFI’s testing and training technology. It is a system designed for athletes to use, on their own, at home. But Dr. Seiller has also already been in contact with several optometrists and ophthalmologists with sports vision practices who either want to use Vizual Edge as part of their program or to sell it to their patients, or both.

“Except for the obvious benefit of the individual attention we give our clients, the Vizual Edge really is just a scaled down version of our program at the institute,” explains Dr. Seiller. “I developed it because I wanted an accessible and affordable option for patients. A lot of our clients, for instance, are young athletes who need their parents to bring them in. That’s not always convenient for parents, who may work or have other kids’ needs to address. There are also a lot of people who can’t get to our offices here, or to the other training centers we’ve developed. This is an option for them. It allows them the flexibility to do their vision therapy in their spare time.”

According to Dr. Seiller, Vizual Edge is not a medical device, but a program he describes as “weight training for the eyes.” Users work their way through two sections, each customized for their individual sports. The first, “Evaluation,” tests their current capabilities in visual alignment (the ability to isolate a target), depth perception, flexibility (the ability to move the eyes simultaneously and efficiently), recognition (the ability to remember and react to what is seen) and tracking (the ability to scan the playing field, see, think and react to what is seen). Once their current capabilities have been measured, users then undergo training exercises in each of these areas to improve their “sports vision.” They can constantly check their progress against their own previous results, as well as against “ideal” levels.

Dr. Seiller says Vizual Edge is targeted to athletes 12 to 22 years of age. It can be optimized for baseball, basketball, tennis, football and hockey, but is applicable to practically every sport imaginable, from archery to wrestling. The system is designed for users to train on it two to three times a week for four to eight weeks, devoting one to two minutes per exercise in the beginning and increasing their time as they improve.

“We’ve already had excellent results with serious professional athletes, minor leaguers and amateurs,” notes Dr. Seiller, adding that he’s even developed a version of the program for professional sports scouts to use in evaluating prospects. “The earlier we can get to the young athlete and help them develop good visual habits, the better. But vision therapy isn’t for everyone. We strongly emphasize the need for patients to check with their eyecare professional before using the device.”

Eyecare professionals interested in more information about Vizual Edge for their practice or their patients can check out the web site at
www.vizualedge.com.

“An NFL quarterback may be able to see an open receiver, but his eyes have to process that information and then he has to react,” says Dr. Seiller. “Our program is designed to help athletes at all levels do just that.”

 

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