Many children are involved in sports at a much earlier age than their parent’s generation. And pediatric eye doctors (optometrists and ophthalmologists) are seeing children whose parents are concerned about their vision for sports. This article is an overview of sports vision training for children.
The early years…..
In infancy, children begin to learn how their eyes and hands are coordinated. For that matter, they learn about hand and feet coordination as well. They study their hands and feet and it’s fun to watch them learn how to grasp small items and roll a ball.
As they get older, say around 3 years of age, they begin to use eye-hand skills more efficiently, but they’re not ready for the ‘big leagues’ yet. So, children in sports at this age need more grace than therapy. Parents need to just enjoy watching their child learn a new skill.
By the age of 5 or 6, some children are becoming more skilled at catching and throwing a ball. Typically, they do a better job of throwing than catching, because it is normal to be afraid of a ball they need to catch.
As a child reaches the ages of 7 to 8, they should be more comfortable catching and throwing, but they may still struggle under the pressure of competition. This is the prime time to help them build confidence and skill.
What eye problems may affect children in sports?
Tracking skills, which is how effectively the eye moves from target to target, is the predominant issue with children with sports vision issues. This same problem is responsible for reading problems as well. This skills can improve with vision therapy.
In some cases, children are confused as to which eye is their dominant eye. Just like we have a hand that is our dominant hand, everyone has an eye that is their dominant eye. For approximately 85% of us, the eye and hand are dominant on the same side. However, for professional athletes, the numbers are reversed – nearly 85% have ‘cross-dominance’. Vision therapists can help children and adults develop their non-dominant preference to help with sport skills.
Other problems may not be known until the child has a thorough eye examination with a pediatric eye doctor. They can look for tracking and dominance issues, as well as determine if both eyes are developing well and working together. If there is an underlying issues, eyeglasses, contact lenses and/or vision therapy may be indicated.
For more information, visit the American Optometric Association Sports Vision Information website.