CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A recent study conducted by a research team from the University’s Kinesiology Department demonstrated significant improvement in the hitting performance of Islander baseball players after enhancing their visual skills. The athletes trained their visual aptitudes with Vizual Edge, a commercial software program specifically designed to assess and train visual skills of athletes.
The research team is headed by Dr. Frank Spaniol and includes Drs. Bonnette, Melrose and Ocker, and graduate assistant Jeff Paluseo. The purpose of this study, which was a follow-up investigation conducted by Spaniol and Bonnette with the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers, was to determine the validity of the Vizual Edge software in relation to improving hitting performance in baseball. Designed by Dr. Barry Seiller M.D., an ophthalmologist from Chicago, Vizual Edge was created to improve visual skills. The critical question was, “would improving visual skills using Seiller’s software actually translate into improved performance?”
According to Seiller, “Visual skills can be evaluated and trained…….Elite high school, university, Olympic and professional athletes now incorporate visual performance into their training programs.” Dr. Spaniol, who played and coached Division I baseball, concurs and states, “It makes little sense to waste valuable training time working on something if it doesn’t translate into improved on-field performance.”
After the fall 2007 Islander baseball season the research team tested the software’s viability. Utilizing a ‘pre-test, post-test’ design players were randomly selected for treatment and control groups. The treatment group trained their visual skill with Vizual Edge, while the control group did not have the benefit of using the software. Because the study was conducted in the off-season, players did not take part in any structured batting practice. At the onset of the study subjects from both groups were tested for visual skills to determine eye alignment, eye flexibility, visual recognition, visual memory, and visual tracking. After achieving a baseline score, the treatment group received training on the software three times a week for five weeks.
A composite VEPT score was also calculated for each subject, which was used to establish personalized training protocols for the treatment group. Batting performance was determined by measuring the batted-ball velocity of pitches delivered at 76-to-80 mph by a pitching machine to assure consistency. Each subject received two rounds of six swings for a total of 12 attempts. Data analysis included a t-test to assess whether the two groups were statistically different from each other, by comparing post-test batted-ball velocity data. Results determined a significant difference between the batted-ball velocities of the treatment group as compared to the control group.
“We’ve known from previous survey studies that professional baseball players and college softball players believe that training with Vizual Edge enhances their performance. The results of this study confirmed that college baseball players who trained with Vizual Edge outperformed those who did not,” points out Spaniol.
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