New Focus on Vision at UIW Paying off for Student-Athletes On and Off the Field

December 12, 2019

San AntonioDec. 12.2019 – From on-the-field performance to concussion rehabilitation, a new focus on vision at the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) is already paying dividends. The Sports and Vision Enhancement Service, operated by the UIW Rosenberg School of Optometry (UIWRSO), opened in August 2017 with an aim to maximize the visual abilities of athletes. The UIWRSO and UIW Athletics have partnered together to help Cardinal student-athletes take advantage of the program and the benefits it provides. The effects of using this service are encouraging, with student-athletes and coaches reporting improvements to their awareness, focus and reaction times.

“A lot of the stuff we do in the vision center has to do with reaction time and hand-eye coordination,” says sophomore softball pitcher/infielder Renee Huffman. “I’ve definitely seen an improvement in my fielding and reaction time because of it, and I feel like I can get to the ball faster.”

“Once the vision training became available to us, it was something that I felt was going to benefit the team,” added softball head coach Joe DiPietro. “Anything you can do to enhance their play and make it easier for them, you want to take advantage of it. Especially with softball, reactions are really important. With them being able to increase their reaction time and see the ball easier, offensively and defensively it has helped us a ton.”

Several UIW Athletics teams work with the program on a weekly basis, based on which teams are in season and which teams are in town. Women’s soccer, softball, volleyball, baseball, track and field, men’s and women’s tennis, and fencing have all taken advantage of the program, which works with both individuals and teams.

“The student-athletes are always welcome to come train in the clinic on their own time,” said Dr. Allison Cronin, chief of the Sports and Vision Enhancement Service. “We also schedule team practice sessions where we will take various visual exercises out to their practice court, field, or track so that we can incorporate vision training into their existing practice schedule.”

Vision training not only helps the student-athletes perform on the field, but it also acts as a tool to help prevent concussion related injuries.

“Research has also shown that athletes who participate in sports vision training can reduce the frequency and severity of concussions,” said Cronin. “By actively training the visual system, the athlete can become more visually alert and aware of their surroundings so that they can either completely avoid an injury or reduce a traumatic impact.”

In the event a concussion occurs, UIW student-athletes undergo vision therapy to help them rehabilitate. All student-athletes who participate in the program start with a baseline evaluation at the beginning of the year. In the event of an injury, they are referred to the RSO’s Neuro-Optometric Clinic for a comprehensive evaluation. The Neuro-Optometric Clinic determines the extent of their injuries and designs a rehab program.

In addition to UIW student-athletes, the women’s soccer, men’s basketball, softball and men’s and women’s track and field teams included the program as part of their summer camp regimen. The campers performed the same types of exercises as the Cardinals, adjusted based on the campers’ ages.

During summer camps, the program focuses heavily on exercises that enhance reaction times, depth perception, eye-hand or eye-foot coordination, visual perception and other visual abilities.

“Very few basketball programs get to incorporate vision enhancement into their camp like we did, and the feedback from players and parents was awesome,” said UIW men’s basketball assistant coach Taylor Land.

“I think the campers have really enjoyed getting to train just like the UIW student-athletes train,” said Cronin. “The Sports and Vision Enhancement Service is really unique to UIW, so being able to share it with the campers is a really special opportunity for them."

“The athletes told us how much fun they had using new techniques and new equipment to improve their skills, and they got even more pumped up about it when we told them that professional athletes are doing vision training now too. We are so thankful to be able to work with UIW’s teams, and being able to also work with UIW’s campers of all ages is just an extraordinary opportunity.”