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Nick Pappas / January 20, 2022

Dr. Dan Laby: Evolving Sports Technologies in Neuro-Training | Importance of Simple Reaction Time

The Value of Improving Your Sports Vision – With Dr. Dan Laby

Dan Laby, M.D. is a professor and ophthalmologist who has dedicated a significant portion of his career to studying how sports vision training can benefit athletes. Dr. Laby was introduced to sports vision due to his background in pediatric ophthalmology because even though kids may have good vision out of their eyes individually, they must learn to use both eyes together to have good depth perception and visual development. Athletes utilize specific visual functions that allow them to perform a coordinated motor action, which has inspired the development of the sports vision specialty – of which Laby is a pioneer.

Dr. Laby explores this innovative field with the classic evidence-based approach to research. He recently worked alongside Greg Applebaum PhD., another expert in the sports vision field, to perform a meta-analysis on the current research in the sports vision specialty and develop a framework for these studies that are evidence-based and peer-reviewed with the goal of establishing reliable results.

The main problems they saw were:

  1. The studies were anecdotal, focusing on one or two cases that cannot be extrapolated to represent a larger population of athletes.
  2. The studies were riddled with bias due to the design lacking controlled variables, such as real vs. placebo treatment.

Athletes are always on the lookout for an advantage, whether that is the best pair of shoes, clothing, or sports equipment. Although there is a potential for credible research to support the claim that training your sports vision can improve athletic performance, the studies must be well-established before claiming this could be beneficial. 

For example, a few years ago Nike released tinted contact lenses that advertised performance improvement, but the company released the commercials before studies were completed. On this occasion, the lack of scientific backing before the product launch caused the whole project to be dissolved, even though there may be a scientific benefit to tinted contacts.

Scientific claims must be supported by evidence-based data that can ideally be extrapolated to a real-world setting, such as the way vision intervention has a connection to on-field performance. When evaluating baseball as an example, an individual’s batting performance can be measured by asking questions like:

  • How frequently does a batter walk?
  • What is their strikeout rate?
  • How frequently does a batter swing at pitches within the strike zone vs out of the strike zone?

These are referred to as plate discipline metrics, and Dr. Laby published a study with several hundred professional baseball players testing their hand-eye coordination, observing a strong relationship between some of those plate discipline metrics and the visual reaction time metrics.

Reflexion’s products are great tools to train athletes by offering portable gamified drills and activities where you can increase the difficulty of a visual or cognitive task which in turn makes the related in-game activity seem easy. There is even a feature of Reflexion Plus that allows athletes to hold themselves at a specific threshold of their peak performance in order to achieve what is known in athletic training as overloading.

All sports have different visual and motor needs required for peak performance, and Reflexion’s products allow for a practical application to superset drills with workouts to gain holistic skill training. Overall, there is the potential for applications in many fields, not just athletics.

Pyramid of Visual Function

At the bottom of the pyramid of basic visual function stands the ability of each eye to see different small size targets, low contrast targets, and targets you only have a quick look at. 

The next level is how well the brain uses both eyes together, which allows us to measure 3D depth perception, which can be of varying importance for different sports. 

The next level is the decision to act or not act based on visual information.

The highest level is coordinating a motor action based on available visual information. 

Throughout our talk with Dr. Laby, he emphasized the importance of synthesizing as much well-rounded information as possible to a situation before making a decision, such as combining the psychology of decision-making with the physiology of visual pathways. 

Neuro-training is what we have established as the roundup of visual and cognitive skills that train different levels of athletic abilities, so it makes sense that utilizing Reflexion at home can provide an at-home fitness and training benefit. 

Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, Dr. Laby reflected on the need to tailor the approach to the needs of the specific sport and athlete. Technology like Reflexion allows sports vision specialists to tailor activities to the individual athlete that allows them to improve their individual performance. 

To follow along with Dr. Laby as he continues to leave a mark on the specialty of sports vision, check out his website.

To learn more about how Reflexion can improve your sports vision, check out our website for the most up-to-date information.