Soccer's Visual Demands

Visual demands of soccer evaluated at Advanced Vision Therapy Center Boise Idaho


Competitive soccer players know that it takes practice and conditioning to move to the next level. Highly skilled players dedicate themselves to game preparation, but they also have something that average players lack - superior vision skills combined with excellent motor timing and ability. Today we are going to talk about how soccer players use their vision when playing the world's most popular game.


Dr. Ryan Johnson is Idaho's sports vision eye doctor


According to researchers at the University of Liverpool and the University of Manchester (we can only assume the Liverpool and Manchester were competing on this one rather than working together), elite players use their eyes and visual system quite differently than players with average performance. The difference is the manner in which they use visual search patterns and how quickly they can process visual input. Superior soccer players have the ability to continually survey the field of play, spot teammates and opportunities and make game changing decisions in mere split seconds. The good news is that you can train your eyes just like you can train other parts of your body. With a sports vision training program for soccer, an average player can acquire the visual skills necessary to move up to the next level of play.


Soccer is a visually demanding sport. Let's take a look at some of the visual skills required to excel at the game of soccer:

  • Visual acuity: Eye charts measure only static visual acuity. However, dynamic visual acuity (the ability to see objects clearly when they are moving quickly) is more significant than static visual acuity for the game of soccer. Soccer is a sport of nearly constant movement. The player and teammates are in motion, members of the opposing team are in motion, and the ball is in motion.

  • Peripheral vision: Peripheral visual information is processed quickly to facilitate the detection of motion so that visual focus can be directed to other events. This is a visual skill necessary to identifying the location of the ball while maintaining awareness of other offensive and defensive players, and identifying player relationship to the field boundary.

  • Depth perception: A visual skill necessary for accurate shooting and passing – having the ability to accurately judge distance, speed and spin on the ball.

  • Eye tracking: Quick, accurate saccades are needed to quickly survey the field of play and the ever changing locations and movements of all players on the field plus movement of the ball. Studies have shown that if the athlete's head has to move in order for the athlete to track, this is not only less efficient but also throws off balance.

  • Eye-hand/body/foot coordination: This is especially important for a soccer goalkeeper, who can use both feet and hands during play. The visual system guides the motor system and impacts the athlete's performance.

  • Visual processing speed and motor timing: Soccer players use on-going sensory information as feedback, adjusting their movement throughout the game accordingly. Players who possess faster visual processing speeds and motor timing play at higher levels. Opportunities to make a proper pass, steal the ball without fouling, or score a goal happen within fractions of seconds. Speed of reaction time can be the difference between an average player and a star player.

  • Shift of focus: A soccer must be able to shift focus from near to far to intermediate within split seconds as the ball rapidly moves throughout the game – even as the athlete tires physically.


Before beginning a sports vision training program for soccer, it is important to first have an Athlete Vision Assessment with an optometrist who is residency trained in binocular vision and is familiar with the visual demands associated with the game of soccer.


Soccer players can improve their game with sports vision training


At Advanced Vision Therapy Center, Dr. Ryan C. Johnson, who completed his residency training at University of California Berkeley, performs in-depth sports vision assessments for soccer.


A sports vision assessment for soccer includes:


  • Visual Acuity Testing (both static and dynamic): Tests visual acuity down to the physiological threshold of 20/8. Eye charts used by most eye doctors can only test to 20/15, with no way to test beyond a visual acuity of 20/15. Sports vision testing protocols use randomized charts to eliminate any chance of memorization, and are calibrated to settings that comply with the ANSI and ISO standards for vision testing.

  • Depth Perception / Contour Stereo Testing: Tests the dimensional capabilities of the athlete's vision, a critical component of baseball. Normal ocular health and good visual acuity scores are not indicative of optimal distance stereopsis for athletes, therefore this is a key test for soccer players.

  • Letter Contrast Sensitivity Testing: Contrast sensitivity has been found to be a significant differentiator in a player's performance. Whereas visual acuity measures the quantitative aspect of vision, contrast testing measures the qualitative aspect of vision – from locating a soccer ball in the air among a group of moving players to identifying a soccer ball as it is passed mid-air against the background of a spectators.

  • Developmental Eye Movement: This test helps identify a differential diagnosis between cognitive function and any eye movement abnormalities.

  • Eye Alignment: The eye alignment test measures the tendency of the athlete's vision to turn in or out, up or down.

  • Fusional Ability: This test measures how well the eyes are working together and affects depth perception.

  • Comparison: The athlete's results of these tests are then analyzed and compared to professional and elite soccer players. This allows vision skills needing improvement to be identified, and an individualized sports vision training to be developed to support the athlete's performance goals.


Just like training to improve strength, power, endurance and speed – soccer players can improve eye-hand coordination, depth perception, peripheral vision, working memory and visual processing speed to improve game performance. It has been shown that an integrated approach to sports vision training, incorporating perceptual based training combined with training to improve working memory and increase processing speed is most effective.


Advanced Vision Therapy Center provides in-depth, athlete specific vision testing; and sport specific, individualized vision training programs. Call 208.377.1310 to schedule your Athlete Vision Assessment.

Check out our other blogs in this series: Baseball's Visual DemandsTennis' Visual DemandsGolf's Visual DemandsHockey's Visual Demands


Dr. Ryan Johnson provides athlete vision care in Boise Idaho


Posted by avtadmin at 5/5/2016 10:22:00 PM
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Advanced Vision Therapy Center is Idaho’s premier clinic for Vision Therapy, Neuro-Optometric Vision Rehabilitation and Sports Vision Training. We offer vision assessments and customized treatment for both children and adults that are tailored to the specific vision condition of each individual.

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