Making the commitment
Committing the time and resources needed to build a good foundation in sports vision optometry is a fantastic career investment for any OD. As a sports vision optometrist, you will have a unique capacity to enhance the vision of amateur athletes, professional athletes and patients with high occupational visual demands such as members of law enforcement and the military. The skills you learn will elevate all aspects of your clinical practice and will a not only enable you to provide optimal vision enhancement for the previously mentioned groups, they will help you provide better vision care for all your patients.
What is there to learn?
As a sports vision optometrist, you will have three major roles. First, you will be responsible for educating your patients on the equipment and behaviors that help prevent sports related eye and head injury. Second, you will utilize your expertise to prescribe the proper equipment (glasses, contacts, tints, etc.) as well as vision training exercises to allow your patient to reach their highest visual performance potential. Third, you will aid in the recovery of athletes who sustain eye injuries and concussions.
Building your clinical knowledge
There is no shortage of resources when it comes to increasing your sports vision IQ. These include professional organizations, optometric conferences, books and consultants. The combination of resources you chose to utilize will primarily depend on your learning style and your financial resources.
You can find wonderful resources for beginners on the websites of several professional organizations (a full list can be found at the end of the article). These organizations can also be a great resource for networking within the field. You will meet colleagues and mentors at organization sponsored events and you can build strong relationships with colleagues through volunteering to serve in a leadership role within an organization.
The best all-around educational experience can be found at optometric conferences. Conferences are unique because they offer a variety of resources in one place. You can learn fundamental concepts in CE lectures followed by hands-on training in workshops. You also have access to exhibit halls where you can see the latest equipment available and try it first had.
The greatest value of conferences is perhaps the opportunity to meet mentors and colleagues at social events, in workshops or between CE sessions. A good mentor can be a great asset in your journey, because they can help you grow at all stages of journey. The colleagues you meet will serve as a support system as well as a source for collaborative learning throughout your career.
The advantage of books is that they let you learn at your own pace. They are also great for referencing periodically as your knowledge grows through attending conferences and working with patients. A list of the major sports vision books can be found at the end of the article.
If you find yourself searching for additional support or if you prefer on-demand one-on-one instruction you may want to consider working with a consultant. These are optometrists who have extensive knowledge in the field and have built successful sports vision practices. You can look to this option for a way to enhance your clinical skills or for advice on practice management.
Building your sports knowledge
While you don’t need to be an expert in the sports that your patients play, it’s very helpful to know the basics. For starters, you should be familiar with the rules of the sport and the positions played by athletes. It’s also helpful to know the basic terminology used in the sport so you can effectively communicate with your patient about their current performance and future goals.
Most importantly, you should know the visual demands placed on the athlete when playing the sport. You can learn about these demands through the various education modalities mentioned above or through observation of how the sport is played and how athletes train.
Familiarity with sport-specific training drills is especially important because it can reveal opportunities where you can integrate vision training within the drills that are currently a part of the athlete’s routine. This can increase compliance and promote visual-motor integration.
Have fun with it!
Sports vision is a wonderful specialty with a fantastic community of practitioners. The journey to becoming a sports vision optometrist will take you on many exciting adventures and will introduce you many passionate athletes, colleagues, and mentors. Enjoy the ride!
Start your journey with these resources
Professional organizations involved in sports vision:
The American Optometric Association Sports & Performance Vision Advocacy Network (AOA-SPVAN) – www.aoa.org/optometrists/tools-and-resources/sports-and-performance-vision?sso=y
The College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) – www.covd.org/?page=sports
The Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association (NORA): – nora.cc
International Sports Vision Academy (ISVA) – www.sportsvision.pro
The Optometric Extension Program Foundation (OEPF) – www.oepf.org
Conferences with sports vision offerings:
AOA Annual Meeting (aka. Optometry’s Meeting) (June 2018 in Denver, CO)
COVD Annual Meeting (April 2018 in Kansas City, MO)
The American Academy of Optometry’s Annual Meeting (October 2017 in Chicago, IL)
NORA Annual Meeting (September 2017 in Buffalo, NY)
ISVA Inaugural Meeting (February 2018 in Park City, UT)
OEPF Regional Workshops (Available throughout the year)
Classic sports vision books:
Sports Vision: Vision Care for the Enhancement of Sports Performance, Written by Dr. Graham Erickson, OD, FCOVD, FAAO
Perception, Cognition, and Decision Training: The Quiet Eye in Act, Written by Dr. Joan N. Vickers, PhD
50 Tips to Improve Your Sports Performance, Written by Dr. Lynn F. Hellerstein, OD, FCOVD, FAAO
Sports vision guidebooks from the AOA-SPVAN:
Baseball – www.aoa.org/optometrists/membership/aoa-sections/baseball
Hockey – www.aoa.org/optometrists/membership/aoa-sections/hockey
Motocross – www.aoa.org/optometrists/membership/aoa-sections/motocross
Rugby – www.aoa.org/optometrists/membership/aoa-sections/rugby