Good eyesight is useful for everyone, but athletes truly need high accuracy in their vision. Here is a look at vision in sports where it really counts.
Major League pitchers throw fastballs at over 100 mph. The fastest pitcher in baseball history, Nolan Ryan, once threw a 108.1-mph pitch! These pitches are extremely difficult to anticipate and to hit. The biggest challenge for hitters isn’t determining the speed, it’s determining the rotation. A hitter has to try and see how the ball leaves the pitchers hand, and how the laces on the ball are spinning to try and determine if it’s going to break away or come inside. The earlier a hitter can see a ball to judge its speed and rotation, the better chance he will have of getting a solid hit—or of jumping out of the way to avoid getting beaned.
Do you really need great eyes, you might ask, to hit a white ball that is directly at your feet, not moving? Good vision is critical not for hitting the ball but rather for following the ball after a hit; this allows you to find it easily or confirm that it went “in the drink,” as they say. Not everyone can hit a 515-yard drive, but even 100 yards is too much for some people’s eyes. Nearsighted golfers can frequently be seen hacking through the rough and cursing while looking for a lost ball.
In a World Cup downhill race, competitors frequently reach speeds around 95 mph. A new speed record of 100 mph was set in the 2013 World Cup. At those unthinkable speeds, skiers must look far down the course to set up for the next turn while taking into account minor variations in the surface of the snow. An icy patch is only a slightly different shade of white, and a deep rut may appear as little more than a shadow. And to make it even harder, moving that fast across hard-packed snow and ice creates intense vibrations throughout the skier’s body.
Single Speed Bicycle Racing
This obscure sport involves mountain bikes with only one gear. Contenders can receive deductions from their course time or avoid obstacles by drinking beer during the race. In the 2012 Single Speed World Championships, South African Burry Stander won by chugging a beer slightly more quickly than American Macky Franklin—or by dumping an unfinished cup on his head, depending on whom you ask. Sometimes peripheral vision in sports is more important than direct vision, especially when you can’t see through sweat and foam.
Just as baseball players, tennis players need to react quickly to balls moving at extreme speeds that may be curving. In tennis, however, the potential for spin to change the direction of a ball is much greater. This necessitates a high level of visual acuity to recognize rotation-induced direction changes early and move appropriately to the correct position on the court. Fortunately, cameras are used to decide whether a ball landed within the lines.
Whatever your choice of sport, good vision is critical. Check out testimonials from some of the world class athletes who have turned to LASIK MD to solve their vision problems. You never know when you will need to leap out of the way of a 100-mph fastball or stare down your opponent out the side of a cup of beer.