Spring Training and Vision Training

If you happen to read my personal blog, you know I love baseball and in particular spring training.  Though I was born and raised in Philadelphia, and have a lifelong attachment to the Phillies, our daughter and son-in-law reside in Cincinnati with their three girls  so I’ve developed a secondary interest in following their team.  An article in PLoS One caught my eye not only because of the title

High-Performance Vision Training Improves Batting Statistics for University of Cincinnati Baseball Players

— but because one of its co-authors is the legendary Johnny Bench, one of the the best hitting catchers ever to play the game.  Dock Ellis was a colorful pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the era when Bench was a superstar.  In an effort to inspire his lethargic teammates during a game in 1974, Ellis drilled Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Dan Driessen in the top of the first inning.  Tony Perez dodged Ellis’ balls well enough to draw a walk,  but when Dock buzzed Johnny Bench’s head he was promptly lifted from the game by the Bucs’  manager Danny Murtaugh.

Though long retired from baseball, bench has remained quite active, and his interest in the medical field includes serving as a spokesman for Stryker Corporation.  Dock Ellis passed away in 2008 but another doc named Ellis, Dr. Jim Ellis, is now on the same playing field as Johnny Bench. The University of  Cincinnati’s team optometrist for athletics, Ellis is one Bench’s co-authors of the study on high performance vision training in baseball published in PLoS One.

The vision training was implemented in January 2011, six weeks before the start of the season.  Each team member participated in three times weekly “spring training” sessions, each session averaging 30 minutes. A consolidated  schedule was maintained during the season, training twice weekly, each session lasting 20 to 30 minutes.

The vision training techniques employed were Dynavision, Tachistocsope, Brock String, Eyeport, Rotator, Chart Saccades, Near/Far Rock, and Nike Strobe Glasses.  If you’re a sabermetrician, you’ll enjoy looking at all the batting statistics that significantly improved as reported in the PLoS One article online.

I particularly like this quote from the Newton Blog:

“The results of the study are compelling, and should make any baseball coach or player consider adding visual training to their regimen.”

Nice to see Optometry and Sports Vision linked in to such great outcomes. For more info on Sports Vision in general, Graham Erickson’s book is a wonderful resource, as is the Sports Vision Section of the American Optometric Association.

– Leonard J. Press, O.D., FCOVD, FAAO

3 thoughts on “Spring Training and Vision Training

  1. Hi Len,
    I read this impressive paper but would love to see the individual data regarding each player (what was the n). If we are talking about 15 players, the addition of 3 “studs” as freshman replacing a few poorer hitters can skew the results…..think Phillies pitching from year to year.

    The thing that concerns me most is the lack of an Optometrist in the study; Mention was made of a Air Force Academy study in 1994 ( personal communication) which had optometric input ,but it is becoming more and more evident that other professions are providing vision training without the didactic training.

    In a positive note, SUNY’s University Eye Center will begin testing and training athletes in the new Sports Vision Center within the next few weeks.

    Best Regards


  2. Hi Arnie – I think you overlooked the optometric input. The second author in the study, Jim Ellis, is an Optometrist. Can’t answer the question about the individual data, but if you open up the URL links to the data in the paper I believe you can get to that info. I don’t know Jim Ellis (O.D.) but looks like you can reach him at U. of C. on Tues AM or Wed afternoon at 513-556-2564. Keep me posted on SUNY’s UEC SVC. Sounds exciting! Best, Len.

  3. Good question. All the data are available on line at: http://www.gobearcats.com/sports/m-basebl/stats/2010-2011/teamcume.html, and http://www.gobearcats.com/sports/m-basebl/stats/2009-2010/teamcume.html. This includes the individual players. Two or three individuals did not account for the change. Plus we did comparisons between the UC team between the two years and statistical comparisons to the big east and UC adversaries. It is not a randomized study, but it does support a previous single team study. We want to do a controlled research study in the future.

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