Sports Vision Training:
In sports today, every detail counts and as the level of competition increases the difference between winning and losing becomes marginal. Improved eye performance can be used as an extra edge and can result in better athletic performance. Just like any other muscle in the body, extraocular muscles in the eyes (six in each) get stronger with training. The USAFA Human Performance Lab, which has been implementing training programs since 1995, currently has many state-of- the-art vision enhancement exercises and capabilities. The exercises chosen concentrate on six areas: saccadic (rapid) eye movement; eye-hand speed and coordination with near-mid- and-far peripheral awareness; stereopsis and depth perception; dynamic visual acuity; accommodation; and visual processing and memory, focus, and concentration. Each training program is designed with the individual's sport, and position, in mind to increase strength and resistance to fatigue with movements and exercises specific to the respective sport. Keep in mind the body reacts only after the eyes send the proper information to the brain; athletes cannot hit, catch, or block something if the right information isn't processed.
Besides training USAFA athletes, the HPL staff meets and works with several other military organizations on improving visual skills including AFSOC Combat Controllers, Air Force Security Forces, and professional teams in the NFL, NBA, and NHL.
The altitude of the United States Air Force Academy is roughly 7200 ft. With increasing altitude, the number of oxygen particles in the air decreases, which causes athletic performance to decrease to 85-90% of its capability at sea level. This is due to more strain put on an athlete's cardiovascular and respiratory systems rather than his or her musculoskeletal system, and thus leads to lower intensity exercise. Here at USAFA in the Human Performance Lab, a hyperoxic chamber is used to simulate sea level to increase the workout intensity during interval or maximal effort training. This will further adapt the skeletal muscle and improve athletic performance for sea level events. By allowing athletes to exercise in a room with a simulated sea-level altitude, their heart and lung function will increase creating a more intense and productive workout for the upper and lower extremity muscles.