Study: Vision Training Improves Batting Average

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Over the past two decades, many baseball players have turned to anabolic steroids to enhance their performance. This trend has tarnished the sport and negatively affected players' health. There simply must be a better way for players to improve their baseball prowess, but how? A new study from the University of Cincinnati published in the online journal PLoS One may have an answer.

A team of researchers led by neurologist Joseph Clark has found that high-performance vision training can improve a baseball team's batting statistics. After the implementation of a vision training regimen six weeks prior to the start of the 2011 season, the Division I Cincinnati Bearcats improved their team batting average from .251 in 2010 to .285 in 2011, while increasing their slugging percentage by .033. Meanwhile, the batting average in the Big East conference fell by .034.

10461578-large.jpgKeep your eye on the ball. (AP Photo)

To produce this marked improvement in batting average, players were required to attend three vision training sessions each week in the six weeks leading up to the start of the season. Once the season was underway, players continued to train their vision twice per week. All of the sessions lasted between 20 and 30 minutes.

The sessions were comprised of various techniques to improve visual acuity such as Dynavision, Tachistoscope, Brock String, Eyeport, Rotary, Strobe Glasses, Near Far Training, and Saccades. Here are descriptions of two of the techniques from the study's authors:

Saccades are rapid movement of both eyes in the same direction from one object to another voluntarily [5].

We set charts of random letters on a wall, both horizontally and

vertically and had the players stand at varying distances and focus from

one chart to another, calling out the letters they see in order on a

line, alternating from one chart to another for a period of 1 minute.

This simulates a

fielder chasing a hit ball.

Near Far Training consists of the subject focusing on two different cards approximately 18 inches and 10 feet away [5].

The athletes focus back and forth on the card and count how many

iterations they can do.

The authors noted some overt limitations of their study that any sports fan would realize instantly. Returning players may have simply matured and improved, or 2011 may have had a better recruiting class, or the competition may have notably fallen off. There are a host of factors that can affect a team's success.

However, the authors say, "there is no reason to believe that [batting average] would change more positively for

the University of Cincinnati than overall for the other teams within

the Big East conference."

In addition, the researchers cited a prior study that corroborates their findings:

The US Air Force Academy introduced a similar visual enhancement

training program for their baseball team in 1994. The team batting

average increased from 0.319 in 1993 to 0.360 in 1994 and they led the

nation in hitting. The team slugging percentage also increased from

0.487 to 0.623 as home runs increased from 32 to 76. These improvements

were accomplished with 18 of 21 players returning from the 1993 season

[Dr. Michael F. Zupan; personal communication and [11].

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

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