An Ulster optometrist has been revealed as the secret weapon in the armoury of top professionals across the sporting world.
The revolutionary programme being pioneered by Bangor eye specialist Susan Park has already helped South African Ernie Els secure his fourth major victory at the age of 43.
As clinical director of SV:EYE, the north Down optician has been helping top golfers, and a wide range of other elite sports people, reach their full potential.
Using a cutting edge “sports profile eye examination” involving unique computer software, Susan has an impressive CV, counting the Ireland and Middlesex cricket teams, Newcastle United and Aston Villa football clubs, international rugby players and Davis Cup tennis pros among her clients.
Based on Susan’s expert assessments, golfers have been known to improve their game by two to three shots a round.
As more and more professionals seek help in their quest for top honours, her techniques and growing reputation have been featured in this month’s edition of the popular Golf World magazine.
Following a thorough eye examination, Susan already knows the likely shortcomings in someone’s game – such as a tendency to leave putts short of the hole or repeatedly misjudging the distance to a green – just by examining the results.
“Skills aside, there is far more involved in playing a good game of golf, football, or cricket than having 20/20 vision – you also need to consider if one eye is dominant, your depth perception, your judgment, and how your eyes respond to different weather conditions as well as how they work together,” she said. “As well as regular eye testing techniques, specialist sports vision testing includes a wide range of extra tests which highlight the minor failings in visual control.”
One satisfied customer is the Aston Villa goalkeeper Shay Given.
The former Republic of Ireland international said he has no doubts about the advantages of using the programme.
“They give you both online and physical [eye] exercises to help you sharpen up,” he said.
Speaking to the News Letter this week, he said: “What they say is that there is muscles in your eyes in the same way you have biceps and that they need to be trained and worked as much as the rest of your body. If you can sharpen them up then obviously it’s going to benefit your game.”
The 36-year-old has suffered injury setbacks but is currently battling to regain his first-team place at Villa from American Brad Guzan.
With several top-flight keepers playing beyond the age of 40, the Donegal man knows he can prolong his illustrious career using the help available – including eye improvement techniques.
“It helps with peripheral vision and different things, like picking a ball up sooner if say it comes off a post or something, and even coming for crosses you can see bodies moving in your peripheral vision better,” he said.
Just over a year after beginning his treatment, Given says its use was becoming increasingly widespread among top footballers.
Her said: “I discovered it a year or so ago when the doctor brought it in to Aston Villa and it’s been very beneficial. There are a few outfield players using it, but all the goalkeepers are using it.”
Although convinced of his improvement on the football pitch, the football international is not so sure if the programme has improved his infrequent golf outings.
“I would just need the help to find my ball in the rough or the trees,” he quipped.
After a 90-minute initial session with Susan – who has 20 years’ experience as an optometrist – patients are advised to undertake around 10 to 15 minutes of corrective training each day.
“The results of these tests allow me to recommend treatment – usually eye exercises and drills – to strengthen the eye muscles, and thus judgment and reaction times,” Susan explained.
“It’s not necessarily common knowledge that training your eyes can improve your sporting technique, so many of my clients are using it as their secret weapon.”
More information on Susan’s sports vision testing is available on the SV:EYE website at www.sveye.com or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org