Sports vision gained attention in the late 90’s and has since been the focus of many research studies. Thus far sports vision research has effectively succeeded in determining the importance of visual skills and also discovering the ability to improve visual skills through training. It is this ability to enhance visual skill performance that has led to the development of vision training programmes. However, the effectiveness of these training programmes is far from unanimous with many studies yielding inconclusive results. Possible reasons for this are the lack of scientific measures implored, testing and training of skills that are not specific to the subjects and training programmes that are unrealistic. Another major area that is missing from sports vision research is the accountability of external variables like; lifestyle, anthropometric and cardiac measurements. Aspects such as; stress, nutrition and hypo/hypertension are proposed to either have an enhancing or declining effect on visual skills. These relationships have not been scientifically tested and remain undefined. It is also important to note that research has thus far been limited to athletes.
This study therefore aimed to determine the effect of two different training programmes on the visual skill performance of university students. Furthermore, external variables are determined to certify that visual skill training alone would improve visual skills and to determine and define if any relationships exist between visual skills and external variables.
In order to meet the aims of this study, volunteer university students underwent pre testing of specific visual skills together with lifestyle evaluations, body composition and cardiac health testing. Thereafter the total participants (n=600) were divided into three groups. Group 1 (n=169) acted as a control group with no visual training taking place in a six week period, group 2 (n=225) underwent lab-based training with a simple repetition of testing methods used as training methods and group 3 (n=205) underwent training via an internet- based training method. Thereafter all variables were tested again and statistical analysis of the data was performed.
Results showed the lab-based training group having the most improvement in visual skills with all skills improving besides vergence. The Eyedrills training group also showed significant improvements in focusing, tracking and eye- hand coordination. The control group showed the least improvement in visual skills thereby ruling out the notion of improvements occurring only due to test familiarity.
Significant changes occurred in a variety of the external variables across the three groups. Due to the varied results with regards to external variables, correlations between these variables and visual skill performance is still unclear and remains undefined.
There is enough evidence from this study to conclude that visual skills are improved due to visual skill training. The change from the typical subject type (i.e. athletes) is important in the expansion of visual skill testing and training to other fields besides the sports one. The effect of external variables on visual skills still remains unanswered and therefore more precise research in this regard is warranted.