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The first rule of tennis is to "keep your eyes on the ball" but, says the American Optometric Association, much more than 20/20 vision is involved.

Tennis players have to see not only where the ball is but where it is going, how fast it is traveling and how much spin is on it.  And, they have tot take that all into account so they can set up properly for the return stroke.

Many different vision skills are involved.  They include:

Dynamic visual acuity - used to see the ball sharply and clearly when it and players are in motion.

Eye tracking - used to lock in on the flight of a tennis ball and follow it swiftly and smoothly.

Peripheral awareness - needed to maintain an awareness of boundaries, opponents and, in doubles, partners' court positions.

Depth perception - useful in judging distances, recognizing top-spin vs. back-spin, and judging how far the ball will land in or out of play.

Eye-hand-foot-body coordination - essential for overall performance on the tennis court.

Clues that a tennis player's vision is not up to par include playing worse rather than better even after much practice; frequently mission easy plays; squinting; and inconsistent performance from game to game.

Sometimes, however, a person may be playing well, when compared to others, but not be playing to his or her full potential.  For this reason, it is a good idea to get a thorough eye examination every year that includes tests of the vision skills needed for tennis.

If vision skills need sharpening, the optometrist usually will prescribe vision therapy, which consists of visual tasks repeated under controlled conditions.  Repetition of these tasks improves vision by coordinating alignment of the eyes and improving eye movement and focusing ability.  Sometimes glasses or contact lenses may be prescribed either alone or in conjunction with vision training.

Tennis is one of the most eye-hazardous sports and eye protection is a must.  Optometrists recommend glasses or goggles with one-piece plastic face-formed frames and prescription or non-prescription polycarbonate plastic lenses that have a scratch-resistant coating.

For outdoor daytime play, tennis players should wear sunglasses to reduce brightness and glare.  When a ball is "lost in the sun," the stroke will be missed and the player might be hit by the ball.  Also, squinting against the sun's brightness can cause tension and fatigue, which can affect performance.

Sunglasses should also block 99-100 percent of the sun's UV-A and UV-B (ultraviolet) radiation, the association says, because long-term exposure may cause cataracts, macular degeneration and other eye health problems.

- Information provided by the American Optometric Association -



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2001Valley Eye Professionals
12229 Ventura Boulevard
Studio City, California 91604
Office: (818) 623-8900
Fax:     (818) 623-0978