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David Kirschen, Daniel M Laby, David Meadows; A Novel Way to Assess Visual Performance in Elite Athletes. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2014;55(13):5606.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Current methods of assessing vision are inadequate for the visual demands of elite athletes. Currently, a standard Snellen chart is used that measures the smallest letter size that can be read at near 100% contrast with unlimited viewing time. For elite athletes, their visual demands require processing visual information of low contrast targets that show for only a fraction of a second (<200 msec). By combining size, contrast and presentation time simultaneously within a single target presentation the visual performance of elite athletes can be assessed more precisely.
1,007 major league baseball players were assessed as part of their normal medical evaluations during Spring training over 3 years. Each player’s visual performance was tested as they play (with or without correction) using the Advance Vision Testing System (AVTS) for their right and left eyes. The players responded to the orientation of a Landolt C (in 1 of 4 positions) presented on a LCD screen at 4 meters. One hundred and twenty-two unique presentations were shown to each eye.These data were analyzed and a “Core Score” was determined using an item response theory (Rasch) model.
Analysis indicated a Core Score that averaged 1.50 for major league athletes as compared to 0.82 for major and minor league players combined and 0.00 for the general population. Data from the Dominican Republic development league indicated an average Core Score of 0.13 which was statistically lower than the combined leagues in the US (p<0.001). Sub-analyses indicate all three components of the Core Score (size, contrast and presentation time) contributed to the differences. Additionally, the AVTS was able to stratify players who otherwise tested the same Snellen acuity. Players found to have a Core Score below the 25th percentile of the major league database, were found to have correctable visual deficits on re-examination with standard clinical techniques.
The AVTS is a valuable tool in assessing the visual performance (as distinguished from visual acuity) in elite athletes. The analysis indicates that the AVTS was more robust than Snellen in assessing visual performance by more closely measuring the visual skills needed to perform at an elite level. These finding are in contradiction to the player self reporting that their vision was “fine” and they didn’t think they had any visual complaints.
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