Visuo-oculomotor skills related to the visual demands of sporting environments.
- Sports Medicine Research Laboratory
The aim of this study was to assess the visuo-oculomotor skills of gaze orientation in selected sport activities relative to visual demands of the sporting environment. Both temporal and spatial demands of the sporting environment were investigated: The latency and accuracy of horizontal saccades and the gain of the horizontal smooth pursuit of the sporting environment were investigated in 16 fencers, 19 tennis players, 12 gymnasts, 9 swimmers and 18 sedentary participants. For the saccade test, two sequences were tested: In the fixed sequence, participants knew in advance the time interval between each target, as well as the direction and the amplitude of its reappearance; in the Freyss sequence however, the spatial changes of the target (direction and amplitude) were known in advance by participants but the time interval between each target was unknown. For the smooth-pursuit test, participants were instructed to smoothly track a target moving in a predictable sinusoidal, horizontal way without corrective ocular saccades, nor via anticipation or head movements. The results showed no significant differences between specificities of selected sporting activities via the saccade latency (although shorter than in non-athletes), contrary to saccade accuracy and the gain of smooth pursuit. Higher saccade accuracy was observed overall in fencers compared to non-athletes and all other sportsmen with the exception of tennis players. In the smooth-pursuit task, only tennis players presented a significantly higher gain compared to non-athletes and gymnasts. These sport-specific characteristics of the visuo-oculomotor skills are discussed with regard to the different cognitive skills such as attentional allocation and cue utilization ability as well as with regard to the difference in motor preparation.