To be a great football player, you don’t just need superior athletic ability and focus; you also need to have good vision. As an NFL linebacker whose main job is to stop the offense, peripheral vision is particularly important to help secure success for your team, and it’s not unusual for pro players to take steps to improve this and their own overall visual ability.
A linebacker needs great vision in general, though, to, for example, recognize the formation the offense is taking and be able to assess distance accurately. This helps them to anticipate what will happen next in the game.
Why is Peripheral Vision so Important for an NFL Linebacker?
Peripheral vision is the ability to see things that aren’t in our direct line of sight. It allows us to see without turning our heads (from ‘the corner of our eyes’) and means we get a more complete picture of our surroundings.
For NFL linebackers, having good peripheral vision helps them to be aware of more of the action in the game, especially tackles coming from the side. This means they can prepare themselves for the impact or take steps to avoid it entirely.
How Linebacks Can Improve Their Peripheral Eyesight
NFL linebackers can undertake a number of exercises to help improve their peripheral vision. One of these is the Two Ball Juggle. The aim is to try to juggle two balls while looking straight ahead – not at the balls! As well as enhancing peripheral vision, this is also a great way to develop better hand-eye coordination.
Other simple exercises include tracing a figure eight pattern with your finger in the air in front of you and following it with your finger, holding up a pen, and moving it slowly around your head at different angles. Follow the pen with your eyes while keeping your head still.
Playing other sports can also help develop sharper peripheral vision – racquet games, basketball, and martial arts may be particularly effective, as each involves having an awareness of action happening in the peripheral, as well as central, vision.
Diet can also be used to improve peripheral vision and eyesight in general. Ensuring you’re getting enough Vitamins A, B, C, and E, and zinc could be particularly beneficial.
Wearing Visors to Protect Eyesight
Visors, or prescription sports eyeglasses, are an important way for linebackers to protect their eyesight and minimize their chance of eye injury. As well as the fact that tinted sports visors and shades offer an important means of protecting the eyes from the sun’s harmful rays (and improving visual clarity); they are a way to help prevent injuries, including cuts to the eyelid and corneal abrasions.
Given the relative regularity with which linebackers suffer eye injuries, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recently urged NFL players to wear protective visors and for their use to become mandatory during games.
Eyewear brand Oakley teamed up with the NFL in 2021, creating specially-designed visors that can attach to players’ helmets. These visors enhance visibility and offer maximum optical clarity, with Oakley’s light management technology serving to filter light in a way that boosts the eye’s natural visual acuity.
General Tips to Improve Eyesight
Whether or not you happen to be an NFL linebacker, there are plenty of things you can do to boost your eyesight in general and promote better vision. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is crucial – eating a good diet and enjoying regular exercise is an effective way to lower your risk of developing a range of age-related eye conditions.
It’s also vital to properly manage any existing health conditions you may have: diabetes, hypertension, cancer, asthma, and even depression can affect your eyesight, so speak to your doctor about this as soon as possible if you’re concerned.
Visual therapy, such as orthoptic vision therapy, may also be useful to sharpen visual skills, and your optometrist will be able to give you all the information you need about these and their suitability for you.
For an NFL linebacker, good vision is crucial – and peripheral vision especially so. Wearing visors or, if needed, prescription sports glasses or goggles is an effective way to prevent eye injuries that could affect vision, and they’re being increasingly seen on the field.
Maintaining a good diet, exercising regularly, and performing some simple eye exercises are a means for both NFL players and us normal folk alike to help keep our vision sharp and protect against a range of age-related eye conditions.