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ROLE OF SPORTS VISION AND EYE HAND COORDINATION TRAINING IN PERFORMANCE OF TABLE TENNIS PLAYERS

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PAUL, M.; BISWAS, S. K.; SANDHU, J. S. Role of sports vision and eye hand coordination training in performance of table tennis players. Brazilian Journal of Biomotricity, v. 5, n. 2, p. 106-116, 2011. Successful performance in interceptive tasks depends upon the acquisition of visual information about the approaching object. The present study therefore evaluated the effects of sports vision and eye hand coordination training on sensory and motor performance of table tennis players. 45 University level table tennis players were randomly divided into 3 equal groups of n=15. The experimental group underwent 8 weeks of sports vision and eye hand co-ordination training. The placebo group read articles pertaining to sports performance and watched televised table tennis matches, while the control group followed only routine practice sessions for 8 weeks. Measures of visual function and motor performance were obtained from all participants before and immediately after 8 weeks of training. Statistically significant pre to post training differences were evident by better improvement in visual variables and motor performance for the experimental group as compared to placebo and control. The present study therefore concluded that visual training program improves the basic visual skills, which in turn are transferable into sports specific performance.
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Paul et al.: Eye hand coordination of table tennis players www.brjb.com.br
Brazilian Journal of Biomotricity, v. 5, n. 2, p.106-116, 2011 (ISSN 1981-6324)
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ORIGINAL PAPER (ARTIGO ORIGINAL)
ROLE OF SPORTS VISION AND EYE
HAND COORDINATION TRAINING IN
PERFORMANCE OF TABLE TENNIS
PLAYERS
Maman Paul, Sandeep Kumar Biswas, Jaspal Singh Sandhu
Faculty of Sports Medicine & Physiotherapy, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar,
Punjab, India.
Corresponding author:
Maman Paul
Faculty of Sports Medicine & Physiotherapy,
Guru Nanak Dev University,
Amritsar, Punjab, India- 143001.
Email: mamanpaul10@gmail.com
Tel no.: +919815459353
Submitted for publication: Mar 2011
Accepted for publication: May 2011
ABSTRACT
PAUL, M.; BISWAS, S. K.; SANDHU, J. S. Role of sports vision and eye hand coordination training in
performance of table tennis players. Brazilian Journal of Biomotricity, v. 5, n. 2, p. 106-116, 2011. Successful
performance in interceptive tasks depends upon the acquisition of visual information about the approaching
object. The present study therefore evaluated the effects of sports vision and eye hand coordination training
on sensory and motor performance of table tennis players. 45 University level table tennis players were
randomly divided into 3 equal groups of n=15. The experimental group underwent 8 weeks of sports vision
and eye hand co-ordination training. The placebo group read articles pertaining to sports performance and
watched televised table tennis matches, while the control group followed only routine practice sessions for 8
weeks. Measures of visual function and motor performance were obtained from all participants before and
immediately after 8 weeks of training. Statistically significant pre to post training differences were evident by
better improvement in visual variables and motor performance for the experimental group as compared to
placebo and control. The present study therefore concluded that visual training program improves the basic
visual skills, which in turn are transferable into sports specific performance.
Key Words: Table Tennis, Sports Vision, Reaction Time, Movement Time, Saccade, Depth Perception, Eye
Hand Coordination.
INTRODUCTION
Vision is one of the several sensory organs which receive information from the external
environment and for years it has been recognized that many sports place demands on
vision and particular visual skills. The earliest proponent of this concept was Galen, a
Roman Physician who in the second century believed that there is a relationship between
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ball sports, body and visual status (HITZEMAN & BECKERMAN, 1993). Inspite of this
early recognition of visual importance in sports it stood neglected for many years and it
was not before the middle of 20th century that new scientific opinions were developed and
the thought, “sports being a multidisciplinary approach” came into picture
(JAFARZADEHPUR & YARIGHOLI, 2004).
Sports Vision as such includes specific visual determinants which precisely coordinates a
player’s activity during the game. It has been seen that successful athletes generally have
better skill, accuracy and spatio-temporal constraints on visual information acquisition. As
such if two similar athletes meet in competition and one has a better trained visual system,
the athlete with enhanced visual system will perform better (LORAN & GRIFFITHS, 2001).
Sport activities often have a close relationship between perception and action therefore
temporally constrained sport tasks require that players extract the most valuable source of
visual information and use this information to quickly anticipate the opponent's movement
outcome (SHIM et al., 2006).
There are evidences which support the claims of vision playing an important role in the
perceptual ability of an athlete relating proportionately to his/her motor response. Revien &
Gabor (1981) stated that visual abilities affect sports performance and the acquisition of
motor skills, which can be improved with training. Supporting the same Quevedo et al.
(1999); stated that sports vision training is conceived as a group of techniques directed to
preserve and improve the visual function, with the goal of incrementing sports performance
through a process that involves teaching the visual behavior required in the practice of
different sporting activities. West & Bresson (1996) indeed indicated a positive effect on
the performance of cricketers to judge the length of ball after specific visual training
program. Salmela & Fiorito (1980), showed improved performance in hockey players,
when accurate pre shot visual clues were obtained. The results of several other studies
also assert the claim that visual skills training can improve sports performance (KLUKA et
al., 1996; WORRELL, 1996). Therefore it should hold true that if a subject’s visual system
is at higher level, then the overall performance will be at higher level as well (GRIFFITHS,
2002). Vision and reaction to visual stimuli in sport is therefore important in contributing to
performance enhancement and can be seen as a limiting factor in the differentiation
between elite and recreational sports participation (BAHILL & LA RITZ, 1984).
In regard to racquet sports where players are exposed to multisensory visual constraints,
the participant is required to perform inspite of visual uncertainty thereby tasking his/her
ability to predict the event. This prophecy of events can be seen as an interaction between
two systems namely, ‘software’ system of acquired skill prediction and ‘hardware’ system
of intrinsic visual ability (STARKES & DEAKIN, 1984; ABERNETHY & RUSSELL, 1987;
WILLIAMS et al., 1999). Although “hardware” skills are not the appropriate determinants of
an athlete’s superior ability (ABERNETHY, 1991; WILLIAMS et al., 1999) yet they can set
potential limit to the functioning of software skills (FERREIRA, 2003). The present study
therefore trained and measured both hardware and software visual skills specific to the
sport.
Table tennis as such is characterized by perceptual uncertainty and time pressure. Being a
dynamic sport it involves an incessantly varying visual environment. In order to respond to
such a variable stimulus the player requires a superior acquisition of visual information
about the impending object. As such the ability to hit the ball requires continuous
convergence of eyes, assessing the speed of the ball and predicting its path which moves
rapidly in space without any spatial clue. Further when trying to intercept an approaching
object, the players have to deal with the time latency essential to alter the motor
commands based on sensory visual information. Thus, if the visual system is not receiving
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information accurately or quickly enough, performance may suffer. For example, in table
tennis serve, ball flight time is approximately 800ms, during which the opponent must
select an appropriate trajectory for the racquet based on the information available early in
ball flight (RODRIGUES et al., 2002). It is therefore important for visual systems to be
functioning at advanced levels because player’s performance can be one of the most
rigorous activities for the visual system.
Table tennis has long been practiced to train for visual and coordination activities specific
to other sports but the sport itself was ignored for its training specificity; which is a major
factor determining sports training. Willmore & Costill (2004) in their Principle of Speficity
stated that, “The training program must stress the physiological systems that are critical for
optimum performance in the given sport”. The statement indicates that speficity is anything
that works a body system in conditions similar to the actual sport. Complying to the same
Zupan et al. (2006) stated that training specificity indicates that athletes should train like
they compete, meaning a cyclist will compete better in cycling if he/she trains riding the
bike as compared to practicing running. Therefore it is essential to determine the skills
specific to the sport in order to train them specifically and attain improvement and
excellence in performance. Relating to this concept table tennis being a dynamic sport,
training of sensory and motor system may influence the expert performance (SEVE et al.,
2003).
Although theories state vision as an essential adjunct to motor ability, its training effect on
performance enhancement stands debated. Per se the studies contradicting the positive
effect of sports vision training (ABERNETHY & WOOD, 1997, 2001; COHN & CHAPLIK,
1991) have been sceptic as are the studies supporting (REVIEN & GABOR, 1981; MC
LEOD & HANSEN, 1989; KLUKA et al., 1996) such claims. A reason to this may be that,
the studies claiming to prove a positive relationship between visual training and athletic
performance are lacking in proper scientific design, as is the case with studies that try to
disapprove such a relationship (WOOD & ABERNETHY, 1997). As such to substantiate
the claims of sports vision training augmenting sports performance, and its role in specific
sport of table tennis the present study was designed.
MATERIAL AND METHODS
Participants
Forty Five university level table tennis players both male and female aged between 18-28
years from District Table Tennis Academy, Amritsar participated in the study. The
participants who volunteered for the study completed a screening questionnaire, which
consisted of questions regarding visual examination, ocular abnormalities, eye hand
dominance, years of playing, level of play and prevalence of injury. The subject with 6/6
vision were selected and those with refractive errors or any musculoskeletal injuries were
excluded from the study. After initial screening a written informed consent was obtained
from participants. The study was approved by Institutional Medical Ethics Committee of
Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar.
Study design
The study was experimental with different subject design. The subjects were randomly
assigned to three equal groups- experimental (n=15), placebo (n=15), and control (n=15).
Placebo group was taken to exclude possible Hawthorne Effect and to ensure that the
effects had actually occurred because of training.
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Parameters
The present study included visuo-motor parameters that are critical for table tennis play at
any level. Pre and post training data from following parameters were collected. Before
testing procedure the subjects were acquainted to the apparatus and tests, and underwent
one practice session.
Choice Reaction and Movement time: In the present study choice reaction and movement
time was measured using Reaction timer (Moyart, Lafayetee, U.S.A) for dominant side.
Depth Perception: This visual ability was assessed using Electronic Howard-Doloman
Device, (DP-129, Medicaid System, India). In this the subjects were asked to align a
central movable rod to two stationary rods from a distance of 4.5m. Alignment of central
rod which the participants deemed as correct and number of attempts taken to align it was
displayed on LCD panel and impulse counter respectively.
Saccadic eye movement: Ocular motility in the horizontal and vertical planes was
measured using two modified Hart charts (ZUPAN et al., 2006).
Accommodation: Accommodation was measured as the number of letters read in one
minute from a near and far chart kept at a distance of 0.15 m and 6 m respectively
(ZUPAN et al., 2006).
Eye Hand Coordination: Eye hand coordination was tested on Vienna testing system
(Schuhfried, Austria) using Double labyrinthine test. Participants in the test controlled an
onscreen animated ball from contacting a continuously varying path using two hand held
knobs. After the session the results were displayed as number of errors each time the ball
touched the boundary.
Sports Specific Performance Assessment: The evaluation of player’s performance pre and
post training was done using Alternate Push Test (PURASHWANI, DATTA &
PURASHWANI, 2010). For test administration the participants were asked to make
number of rallies of alternate counter (one forehand and one backhand) at the left corner
of the table with the controller for a period of 30 s after sufficient warming up and practice.
Scoring was done as maximum number of returns out of two chances of 30 s each. All
assessment sessions were supervised by district level coach (Certified by Table Tennis
Federation of India).
Training Protocol
Group-I: Experimental Group
Participants in this group underwent visual and eye hand coordination training for 8weeks,
3 days per week along with regular table tennis practice. Each session lasted for
45minutes. The training protocol involved the following procedures:
1) Eye exercises included swinging ball or marsden ball and swinging ball with pointed
finger exercise for eye hand coordination, brock string exercise for training spatial location
and marbles in a carton exercise for peripheral awareness (REVIEN & GABOR, 1981).
2) Hart Chart and Near and Far Chart therapy (ZUPAN et al., 2006).
3) Depth perception training: The participants were trained for depth perception on
Electronic Howard-Doloman Device, (DP-129, Medicaid System, India). The training
procedure involved aligning a central movable along with two stationary rods within an
illuminated box using a hand held electronic control. The participants were encouraged to
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align the rods with minimum number of attempts and increasing distance from 3, 3.5, 4
and finally 4.5 m as the training progressed.
4) Reaction and movement time training: Reaction and movement time for the players was
trained on Reaction timer (Lafayeete, Moyart, U.S.A). To train for afore mentioned
parameters the participants were instructed to respond to visual stimulus following a ‘cue’.
The response by the participant involved pressing the button corresponding to the visual
stimulus represented by green light emitting diodes. The initial ‘cue’ delay was set at 1.2 s
which was progressively reduced to 0.2 s.
5) Eye hand coordination training: Eye hand coordination training was performed on
Vienna Testing System (Schuhfried, Austria). During the training process the participants
held two joysticks in either hand and traced a ball displayed on the screen along a path
without touching the boundaries in minimum possible time and error.
Group II: Placebo group.
Members of this group were given simple reading material and watched televised table
tennis matches for 8 weeks. All participants in this group were given statement about the
positive effect of reading and knowledge on sports performance during the study period
apart from regular table tennis practice.
Group III: Control group.
The participants in this group undertook only regular table tennis practice.
Data Analysis
The data was obtained from the described tests and was analyzed using the Statistical
Package for Social Sciences (SPSS)/17.0 (Copyright © SPSS Inc.). Each of the variables
of visual and motor performance were analyzed to determine if there was significant
difference between pre to post training values and whether these changes were influenced
by the particular training conditions. Statistical tests used to analyze the present study
were paired t-test, one-way ANOVA and multiple range Scheffe’s test.
RESULTS
The pre to post training results of paired t-test for reaction time showed a statistically
significant improvement in experimental group (t=13.068, p<0.001) as compared to
placebo (t=2.049, p>0.05) and control (t=0.014, p>0.05) which presented non-significant
variation. Similarly for movement time the experimental group (t=18.767, p<0.001) showed
significantly better improvement post training as compared to placebo (t=2.016, p>0.05)
and control (t=1.244, p>0.05). One way ANOVA with post hoc (Table 2) also indicated that
the experimental group developed faster reaction and movement time as compared to
placebo and control group post training.
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Table 1 - Descriptive statistics (Mean+ Standard Deviation) of all visual skills & eye hand
coordination.
RT- Reaction time (ms), MT- Movement time (ms), HS- Horizontal saccade, VS- Vertical saccade, AC- Accommodation,
DLT- Double labyrinthine test. (***) Significant p<0.001; (**) Significant p<0.01; (*) Significant p<0.05; NS- Non
Significant.
Comparison of pre to post test findings for variables determining depth perception
predicted statistically significant training variation. Experimental group for both chance
(t=2.739, p<0.05) and impulse (t=7.040, p<0.05) showed a significant change in contrast to
placebo (t=2.092, p>0.05; t=2.210, p>0.05) and control group (t=0.459, p>0.05; t=0.533,
p>0.05) for both chance and impulse respectively. One way ANOVA with post hoc test
(Table 2) revealed similar outcome.
Table 2 - Results of One Way ANOVA and Scheffe’s Post Hoc Comparison for Visual Variables,
Eye Hand Coordination & Performance Evaluation Score.
(***) Significant p<0.001; (**) Significant p<0.01; (*) Significant p<0.05; NS- Non Significant.
Ocular motility defined by horizontal saccade, vertical saccade and accommodation in the
present study delivered a positive post training response for the experimental group.
Experimental group for horizontal saccade showed a statistically significant improvement
(t=14.983, p<0.001) as compared to placebo (t=2.674, p<0.05) and control (t=2.514,
p<0.05). Similar response was consistent for vertical saccade with experimental group
(t=15.6, p<0.001) having a better pre to post training change than placebo (t=2.750,
p<0.05) and control (t=2.827, p<0.05). Supporting the changes in other visual variables
experimental group’s facility for accommodation post training (t=2.493, p<0.05) also
exhibited improvement as opposed to placebo (t=0.849, p>0.05) and control (t=2.103,
p>0.05). One way ANOVA with post hoc test showed greater increase in saccadic and
accommodative scores for the experimental group (Table 2).
Post training findings for double labyrinthine test featured as the experimental group
(t=9.413, p<0.001) showing better statistically significant improvement in relation to
placebo (t=2.263, p<0.05) and control (t=2.168, p<0.05). One way ANOVA with post hoc
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testing showed statistically significant difference between groups with higher gains in
experimental group (Table 2).
Following trail to improvement in visual variables and eye hand coordination, motor
performance of the players also showed significant change. Pre to post training data
analysis showed statistically significant improvement in performance evaluation scores for
experimental (t=6.313, p<0.001) group as compared to placebo (t=2.358, p<0.05) and
control (t=2.168, p<0.05).
DISCUSSION
Visual sensory input may account for up to 85-90% of the sensory input of an athlete
during an athletic contest (ZUPAN et al., 2006). Being the first step of information
processing vision forms an important component of successful sports performance. As
such an athlete’s ability to vary his visual determinants and coordinated movement in
interceptive task add to his skills. Pertaining to the distinctive role of vision in sports, there
has been claims that the use of visual training programs can be productive in player’s
performance.
Parallel to these claims the results of the present study indicated a significant improvement
in visual variables for the experimental group. These findings are consistent with the
literature reviewed by Cohen (1988), which revealed that a constructive visual training
program improves the visual skills in athletes.
The improvement in visual abilities is in conjunction to human motor learning behavior,
which involve learning of new skills and even refining of existing skills with repetition.
Relating to this principle, the continuous repetition of vision exercises and task lead to
improvement in visual skill variables.
The visual facility of saccadic motility & accommodation, which plays a significant role
during visual challenges in dynamic sport of table tennis showed improvement in the
experimental group post training sessions. These improvements can be in relation to the
hypothesis that frequent training of the visual system should lead to stronger muscle fibers
and more efficient neuronal response (ZUPAN et al., 2006). Also as saccadic eye
movements are used for fixation of vision on ball (RIPOLL & LATIRI, 1997), during play the
player with superior saccadic latencies can pick up the trajectory of the ball early and more
accurately. This advantage was seen in the performance of experimental group.
Adding to the visual ability of saccadic eye movement accommodation also has a role to
play. Accommodation is the perceptual interpretation of the information at a subliminal
level. This is where the processing is done without conscious processing to develop
strategies, react to variation and making good contact between racquet and the ball.
Accommodation acts like a reflex, but can also be consciously controlled and trained.
Jafarzadehpur and Yarigholi (2004) showed significant differences between facility of
accommodation and acuity in champions and normal non players, stating that the
development of these two parameters may improve the efficiency of visual system.
In quick interceptive task of table tennis where the ball moves rapidly in space with a flight
time of approximately 800 ms and without any spatial clue, an advance reaction and
movement time becomes a deciding parameter of performance. In the present study
experimental intervention showed productive results for both reaction and movement time.
The improvement in both the parameters may be in response to enhanced neural linkage
and pathway between sensory perception and motor response. Also vision training can
improve accuracy of the motor response by more precise visual location assessment.
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These visual location assessment can be in regard to perceptual skills, such as detecting
the presence of a ball in briefly presented sport scenes (ALLARD & STARKES, 1980);
making efficient search for relevant, informative parts of the opponent’s body and fields
(ABERNETHY & RUSSELL, 1987; GOULET et al., 1989; WILLIAMS et al., 1994); or
anticipating the ball direction and the opponent’s action from advance information
(ABERNETHY, 1990; JONES & MILES, 1978; WILLIAMS & DAVIDS, 1998). As such a
player with good sensory visual ability has the luxury of increased time to react to the
stimulus before it has occurred thereby reducing the overall reaction and movement time
during the game.
In order to hit the ball at right time a player must also gaze the distance of the ball
precisely. The three dimensional location of the distance is the property of the visual
system for depth perception which again improved with training. Appropriate perception of
depth in players is essential for the motor system to position the body before the hit.
Further to make the proper hit the sensory visual and motor system must be well
coordinated. This is what signifies the eye hand coordination i.e. the ability of the visual
system to guide the motor system (TANIGUCHI, 1999). Good eye hand coordination
increases the player’s ability to perform complex movement, respond effectively to external
stimuli and create fluent movement. In relation to table tennis eye hand coordination helps
the player in proper positioning of the racquet as well as control the arm velocity and
direction of hit (RODRIGUES et al., 2002). The players in the study showed improvement
in accordance to afore mentioned responses for experimental group. This improvement in
eye hand coordination apart from modified neural linkages can also be explained on the
hypothesis of spatial and temporal coupling of eye and hand as long as the motor reaction
relies on visual information (SAILER et al., 1999).
The improvement in various sensory and motor skills post training can be transferable in
performance during actual sports. In the present study a significant improvement in
performance post training for experimental group was seen. The improvement showed 9%
increase in performance evaluation score. According to the fundamental principles of
specificity, this improvement can be attributed to visual training as in the present study
those visual skills that are critical for table tennis performance were trained. It is important
to note that none of the players involved in this study, had any previous experience of
specific visual training thus, those software and hardware visual skills would have been
improved by constructive visual training program and do not just develop automatically.
Thus the findings of the present study is in contrast to Wood and Abernethy (1997), and
Abernethy and Wood (2001) who in their study attributed the improvement in performance
to acquaintance with the test procedure rather than vision training, however they included
a very small sample. Also familiarity with a piece of equipment can only account for
improvement during the first few tests/practice cycles. Long-term improvements should be
attributed to changes in the body whether mental or physical (RUSSO et al., 2003). It is
also note worthy that placebo and control group also showed some improvement in
performance, this increment can be attributed to the regular supervised table tennis
sessions.
The study therefore concluded a causal relationship between improvement in visual
abilities post training and performance of players. There may be several reasons why the
visual training program used in this study was effective, though several studies by
optometrist showed no such improvements after visual training. One such reason could be
that the frequency and duration of training given in previous studies was insufficient for
improvement to be observed. Secondly researchers also neglected use of suitable tests to
measure the transfer of development to performance in competitive situation.
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Though there being contrasting claims about visual adaptations post training, visual
abilities remain an inseparable part of an athlete’s performance and skill. As such an
individual who can process more visual information in a shorter period and make the
proper response will have an advantage in competition (ADAM & WILBERG, 1992).
PRACTICAL APPLICATION
Athletes and coaches are in continuous search of newer and better techniques to enhance
performance, and vision playing a particular role in athletic ability can form a platform for
this search. The results of the present study indicate that the visual skill and eye hand
coordination training program improves the basic visual and motor skills of the table tennis
players. Also the improved visual skills were transferable into the performance as seen by
improved performance evaluation scores for experimental group. As such a specific visual
training program targeted to a particular sport can be productive for the performance of an
athlete.
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