A study published in the International Journal of Sports Science in 2017 used infrared eye tracking to look at the eye movements of professional baseball players during their at bat, prior to the pitch. One aspect of visual performance related to athletics that has gained quite a bit of attention over the last few years is the concept of the ‘quiet eye’. “The quiet eye is the final visual fixation of long, steady duration prior to the execution of a motor skill”.
This study found that these professional baseball players exhibited multiple shifts in vision right before the pitcher’s release and the onset of quiet eye. This means the athlete looked near (home plate) and far (pitcher) several times before receiving the pitch. Players with better offensive batting statistics (batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage) looked near-far more frequently prior to swinging.
The study suggests the results could mean three things:
- The eye movements provide the batter with an oculomotor warm up, similar to the way you would warm up skeletal muscles (biceps, quadriceps, etc) before a workout. This warm up could account for increased dynamic and static visual acuity as well as improve visual concentration.
- Another conclusion could be that the changes in visual fixation generate spatial attention, where the athlete has a better idea of where they are in space relative to the baseball diamond. This also gives the brain information from the periphery which could allow him to locate runners on base as well as defensive players in order to decide where to hit the ball.
- The last conclusion is that the changes in visual fixation allow the batter to engage in a visual pre-performance routine. The batter would be using cortical regions of the brain to imagine the at bat before it happens, similar to a basketball player visualizing successful free-throws as part of his practice.
The infrared eye tracking technology used in this study is also part of the diagnostic equipment used at Oculus Brain Centers. If you are an athlete, from peewee to professional levels, who’s sport requires visual tracking (what sport doesn’t?!), call us today to schedule an evaluation of your oculomotor system. Some deficits are corrected with quick and easy eye exercises that can be done in the comfort of your own home.