RALEIGH — As a high-school football player, Mike Peters inability to see the football kept him from playing in college. As an eye doctor who works with the Carolina Hurricanes, Carolina RailHawks and Durham Bulls, he saw that those athletes abnormally good ability to see helped make them successful.
That difference is the gist of Peters new book, See to Play, which is as much a manual for athletes (and would-be athletes) on how to improve their eyesight as it is an examination of the role vision plays in athletic success. The book, scheduled to come out next month, is the culmination of five years of writing and a careers worth of consideration.
I guess Ive been chewing on it forever, said Peters, who works out of the Wakefield office of Eye Care Associates. Ive seen so many kids just not make it, to hit that ceiling because of their eyes, who dont make that jump. It got brewing in me that Ive got to write this down and get this out to people.
Once Peters started comparing athletes to each other, and to the general public, he found that athletes could be ranked by vision the same way theyre ranked by 40-yard dash times or vertical leap: vision was as important to elite athletes as any of their physical skills.
It turns out hand-eye coordination is as much about the eye as it is the hand, if not more.
This way of thinking has some wide-ranging implications. Peters notes that his measurements have found that the overwhelming majority of smaller and less physically gifted athletes have superior vision, making the argument that strong vision can equalize any physical weakness.
It went deeper than that. Peters found that subpar vision was holding athletes back at various stages in their careers, keeping high-school football players such as himself from succeeding in college, and minor-league ballplayers from making the majors.
While the first half of See to Play discusses how the various elements of vision affects performance, the second half is filled with exercises to improve those elements.
Not everyone is going to end up with 20/8 vision claimed by Hurricanes stars Eric Staal and Cam Ward, whose visual excellence features prominently in the book, but Peters offers a path to better sports vision for recreational and elite athletes alike.
Peters also discusses how concussions can have vision symptoms, including some that went undetected just a few years ago. (Full disclosure: Peters treated me for unresolved vision problems resulting from a concussion earlier this year.)
The book was very much a labor of love for Peters, who weaves stories of the athletes hes tested and treated Wade Boggs, Josh Hamilton and Torry Holt all make appearances, along with several Hurricanes into his technical discussions.
Now hes hoping vision testing will offer a new window into athletes potential, particularly for positions like quarterback and goalie, where Peters believes the width of the detailed vision zone, the area where the eyes can focus, is predictive of future success. The Hurricanes already test for vision before the NHL draft; Peters watched the NFL draft with a professional eye.
Not Andrew Luck, and not RG3 (Robert Griffin III), but lets say you have the other tiers of people, like (Kirk) Cousins, Peters said. What if you knew one guy had 20/10 vision and the other had 20/20, or one guy had 45 degrees of detailed vision versus a guy with 20 degrees? Once people get clued into this, they may pick the guy who doesnt have the physical attributes but has the better vision.
DeCock: firstname.lastname@example.org, 919-829-8947 or Twitter: @LukeDeCock