A pro soccer player’s legs may not be the only elite part of his or her body.
Competitive soccer players have better vision than healthy non-athletes, according to the first comprehensive assessment of visual function in English Premier League players, published Thursday in the journal Science and Medicine in Football.
Conducted by researchers at Liverpool John Moores University, the study examined the functions they considered to be critical to performance— including the ability to see detail at a given distance (visual clarity), the ability to detect an object against a background (contrast sensitivity ), and the ability to change eye gaze and attention between near and far distances (near-far quickness). The visual skills were assessed using the Nike SPARQ Sensory Station.
After comparing the results from 41 professional and 31 university-level players with the average results from 230 non-athletes, the scientists found the competitive players had superior visual clarity, contrast sensitivity, and near-far quickness. But, there was no distinction between the vision of the pros and university players.
The study also found that defensive players had better near-far quickness than their offensive counterparts. Researchers suspect this function is particularly helpful when defenders have to quickly switch between tracking opposing players at differing distances.