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Sports Vision

Performance Vision – How sports training using stroboscipic technology can affect reaction time and processing to give athletes an edge

Abstract

The use of liquid crystal stroboscopic sports vision training dates back to our introduction in 1995. With vision being the predominant sensory modality driving a motor response—whether hitting a baseball, shooting a basketball, a goalie stopping an incoming puck hurtling towards him—coaches, sports psychologists, researchers and sports vision doctors have worked to develop strategies to improve performance.

The entire neuro-visual processing—what can be measured? Can you improve this processing? If so, what are the most effective regimens? How long does it last?

What is it that the athlete visually discriminates on for meaning and expertise? Saccadic eye movements are the most common visual skill used to acquire the target. When making these eye movements, the brain ‘masks’ the visual world for a few milliseconds until the eye come to a stop. This is known as saccadic omission and suppression. Are there effective strategies to minimize the effect and speed up the saccadic eye movements? Can we improve fixation accuracy? Decrease latencies? Improve target acquisition, sometimes referred to as dynamic visual acuity? There is quickly becoming a body of research that is uncovering what stroboscopic vision training (SVT) can and cannot impact. Both anecdotal and statistically significant research studies are shedding light on SVT enhancing central visual processing, visual concentration, and athletic performance tied to the subskills impacted by SVT.

Disclosure statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.

Introduction

In the book, Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance, by Atul Gawande, MD, each chapter documents substantive efforts to improve performance in varied fields (1). This unrelenting drive to improve—whether a surgeon, a cab driver, a manufacturer—is woven into the makeup of society. As an optometrist involved in vision performance, what does ‘better’ look like? Since forty percent of the brain solely deals with vision (2.), can we learn to see better, visually process more quickly and adequately, and perform visually guided tasks more efficiently? If so—how? The process of translation from light to visual understanding and subsequent motor response is a fascinating process. There are inaccuracies, discrepancies between the eyes, lag times between stimulus presentation and response while the process ensues.

Background

The visual system begins, obviously, with the eyes. Light is focused through the optics of the cornea and crystalline lens, passing the light to the retina. You have between 110 and 130 million photoreceptors (rods and cones) per eye, within the layers of the retina. They release a photochemical, rhodopsin. Layered like lilies on a pond is a network of approximately one and one half million nerve fibers that serve to soak up the photochemical, stimulating an electrical output that travels, within milliseconds, into the brain for processing. Latency and amplitude of this signal can be measured, but the amazing aspect is from this electrochemical transmission, we derive in real time motion, color, inference, clarity, and, oftentimes meaning and understanding. Of critical import is keeping the image perfectly centered on the fovea. If the object, or the eye, or movement of the observer displaces the target just the slightest amount, blurring can take place, depth and spatial awareness is compromised, and the motor response thwarted.

Internally, there is a focusing system, referred to as accommodation. Akin to a trampoline which comprises three elements (metal frame, springs, and canvas)- the focusing muscle is known as the ciliary muscle, which attaches to zonular fibers. The crystalline lens is analogous to the canvas of the trampoline, while the ciliary muscle would mimic the metal frame, and the zonular fibers, the springs. As a target is brought closer and closer, focusing increases, and eye movement occurs, known as accommodative vergence. The human focusing system is controlled by the autonomic nervous system. External to each eye are six extraocular muscles. These muscles fulfill the binocular alignment, convergence, divergence, depth perception and stereopsis, along with the human tracking skills of smooth pursuit and saccadic eye movements. The central nervous system controls these extraocular muscles, and hence tracking and binocular vision. One of the only places in the body where the central nervous system and autonomic nervous system is innervationally connected is here in the eyes. Known as the AC/A ratio, the effect is when accommodation is increased, it innervationally causes the binocular vision to converge. Similarly, if you converge your eyes, increased accommodation is elicited. This is one of the elements of neurologic processing that enables vision. Depth perception unites with eye alignment and peripheral visual awareness.

The tracking system and their neural substrates are of critical interest to this paper. Let me start with an example. Suppose you are playing tennis. You hit a forehand shot towards your opponent’s backhand. Watching the other players’ response, you note that they get a delayed jump towards the ball. Sensing that they will not be able to get much force to their return shot, you decide to move up into the court for a possible kill shot. Getting into the forecourt, you track your opponent as he strikes the ball. He has decided to try a lob shot over your head. You rapidly rotate your head and body (along with your tracking eye movements) to follow the ball. Cuiffreda and Tannen describe this well (3.). These retinal, ocular and combined head and body movements primarily stimulate (1) the saccadic system to attempt to acquire foveation, (2) the pursuit system to match eye velocity to the velocity of the smoothly moving target, (3) the vestibular system to stabilize gaze during the initial transient phase of head and body rotation, and (4) the optokinetic system to stabilize gaze during the later, sustained phase of head and body rotation. This visual processing through the tracking system is quite sophisticated. As mentioned previously, garnering information through the visual system is most effective when images are held steady on the retina. Images moving over the retina at even a low rate of speed degrade visual acuity. Add concurrent head and/or body movement and the potential for retinal image disruption escalates. Rapid judgement of distance, depth, size, and object orientation, referred to as motion parallax sensitivity, absolutely depends upon the stability of retinal images. (4.) The fovea (the central structure within the macula) is the point of clearest vision. This area takes up less than one percent of the retina and is the only place where one can see down to one minute of arc or smaller. Maintaining retinal image integrity, i.e., keeping the image focused upon the fovea (foveation) is the overarching sole purposes of the tracking system. The various components of vestibular, optokinetic and visual fixation systems act to hold images steady on the retina. Smooth pursuits, saccades, and vergence eye movements work to shift gaze onto the fovea.

Stroboscopic Vision Therapy (SVP) Premise

We know that, with training, accuracy can be improved, speeds can be improved upon, as can latencies. Right Eye, Inc., (www.RightEye.com) utilizes high speed eye tracking, and their data capture system is reproducible, allowing for change analyses. Further, since their database is so enormous, they have received FDA approval to provide metrics that show how your tracking metrics compare for others your age. A recent article ( 5.) using Right Eye technology showed how oculomotor skillsets were predictive for professional baseball batting performance. The data now suggests tracking skillsets can be readily improved upon.

Pursuit movements originate in the parietal lobe and cerebellum. The faster tracking system, saccades, derive from the frontal lobe, cerebellum, and motor control nuclei (dorsal vermis) in the brainstem. While a subject utilizes pursuit movements to track an object moving slowly, the visual processing is ‘steady state on’. Saccadic eye movements, on the other hand, are substantially faster. The typical elicitation of a saccadic movement is, on average, a delay of 200 msec after presentation of the stimulus. [2,3re] Express saccades have a delay of just 100 msec. which is akin to a batter attempting to time a fast ball. Saccades can reach velocities of up to 500 deg/sec. There is also a frequently measured “slippage” between the two eyes as a saccadic eye movement occurs, known as pulse dysmetria. But, one of the most intriguing aspects of saccadic eye movements is known as saccadic suppression and omission. The brain effectively visually masks the neural noise. The key here is the brain is not ‘steady state on’ during saccadic eye movements, as it does not process the visual information concurrently with the saccadic movement. The subject uses their peripheral or peri-central vision to acquire the target. Then the brain estimates the location, and the eyes rapidly move to the desired location (hopefully). This can be as simple as a shortstop peripherally acquiring the first baseman after fielding a ball hit to him, making the requisite rapid saccadic eye movement followed by the motor response of throwing the ball. Or perhaps a basketball player quickly locking onto the basket rim peripherally, then snapping the saccadic eye movement onto the rim, landing there long enough to calibrate his/her shot. This could also be representative of a driver making rapid saccadic eye movements from oncoming traffic to cars in their lane, then to gauges, and back to a road sign. Saccadic eye movements are what is used when reading- -peripherally finding the next ‘sentence fragment’, then making the quick saccadic eye movement. Once fixation is established, the brain goes to its’ central processing, decodes the word(s), then performs the process all over again.

You can readily experience this.

image1

Fig. 1. Smooth Pursuit Tracking

Here is a simple fixation target. Select a target to follow with your eyes. Track the target as you move it slowly from side to side over a distance of 6-8”. While fixated on the target, notice the background beyond the target. You should see it appearing to move–moving opposite the direction of the target trajectory.

image2

Fig. 2 Saccadic Eye Tracking

For saccadic eye movements, select two targets to view. Here you separate the targets the same distance you had for the smooth pursuit movements (6-8”). Fixate on the left target. Now find the right target in your peripheral vision. Once you have found the right target in your peripheral vision, ‘snap’ your eyes quickly to the right target. Repeat the process, now making the saccadic eye movement to the left target. As you ‘oscillate’ back and forth, please be aware of background movement. You will note that the background does not appear to move as it did while making the smooth pursuit movement. This filtering is what was earlier described as saccadic suppression and omission. In effect, once the peripheral target Is acquired, the brain locks in the image of the first target. The eyes make the rapid eye movement shift to the second target. Once the target appears to be acquired, the brain resumes processing its’ central vision. If the eye movement is not adequately aligned, then a short adjustment saccadic eye movement takes place—before central vision is restored. This is referred to as either undershooting or overshooting. This short period of processing ‘disruption’, which the brains attempts to visually mask and filter out, keeps the distractions down, allowing the person to concentrate more effectively.

So why is this of interest? The reason is that when tracking a baseball, you are unable to maintain fixation on the ball from the moment it leaves the pitchers’ hand and crosses the plate. The better hitters in baseball begin to recognize the pitch- a curveball, slider, fast ball or change up, literally milliseconds from the release point. Then, the effort is to make a saccadic eye movement and re-acquire the ball, hopefully near the contact point of bat meeting ball. Just like while reading, the brain uses the visual information before making the saccadic eye movement. Then the brain ‘fills in‘ the gap. The goal is to utilize stroboscopic vision training (SVT) to help refine the visual information needed before saccadic suppression is initiated, then to work for faster and more accurate saccades, with improved fixation stability so once visual processing resumes, it does so at a faster and more discerning rate.

Ask a baseball player or tennis or soft ball player if they watch the ball all the way to their bat or racquet, and the likely response is absolutely! Or the volleyball player working to dig out a kill shot. “I watched it all the way!” many will emphatically insist.

With competitive sports, the higher the level, the game, in essence, speeds up. This places greater demands on the human visual system. Acting and responding accuracy depends on a measured focus upon reliable information from the playing environment. Thus, it follows that maximum performance critically relies on rapid, distributed, and precise visual perception and attention abilities. An essential aspect is the role of visual feedback –being able to rapidly assess and update the relative movements, distances, and masses of objects in the visual environment in order to gauge the appropriate force required for a successful motor response (6.)

Motor actions are guided by a combination of cognitive planning and feedback from the visual system updated in as close to real time as the surrounding environment dictates. Research investigating the role of feedback on visual–motor control has demonstrated that movements become progressively more visually guided as the athlete shows improved performance. (7.)

Another significant element in athletic events is that of balance. A substantial number of visual fibers synaptically connect to the inner ear for balance. Two major cortical neuron bundles that deal with vision are the parvocellular and magnocellular layers. The magnocellular layer is involved with balance, spatial awareness, and depth perception. When one gets out of balance, there is a strong intrinsic ‘pull’ to quickly look down at the surface beneath you in order to right oneself. In almost all team sports, the elite players are able to perform at a high-level despite being out of balance. Whether this is a wide receiver diving to make a catch, or an NBA player getting an accurate shot off while their body is horizontal and will shortly hit the deck, the reality is that when one gets out of balance, the neural ‘wiring’ lights off in an attempt to regain proper balance. The pull to move from peripheral vision to central vision is a strong one. (2,3)

In this author’s experience, I have been intrigued by professional baseball players commenting on how, during short stretches within the season, the ball appears larger and slower—allowing them to hit with increased visual-motor control. Then, in the next sentence, contrasting this with times when they had trouble picking up the ball, describing the ball as zooming by. Or a quarterback who compared moments when he could read the defense and throw accurately to a receiver seemingly in slow motion, as opposed to other times when everything seemed to be in frantic motion, disrupting his ability to concentrate and read the surroundings.

Given this, I began to explore what the implications might be if visual feedback was interrupted, providing the athlete substantially less time for visual feedback and decision making? Akin to running a car up to 120 miles per hour, at first the surroundings are ‘flying by’. But quickly the brain makes the corresponding adjustments in concentrated dynamic visual acuity and tightens down the visual feedback loop to acclimate to the heightened speed. Slowing down to 55 miles an hour, the driver routinely reports at how slow the environment seems to be going by.

Senaptec vision training

Senaptec Vision Training

Testing this, I had the opportunity to work with a community college football team. College footballs have the two white stripes on the ball. We would take the receivers and defensive backs into the wrestling room (no windows), turn out the lights, and light the room with four theatrical strobe lights. As the athletes acclimated to the visual demand, the strobe light was slowed to where the oscillating light was ‘on’ less and less. The sports euphemism, watch the ball all the way into your hands, was forced to be adhered to. Anecdotally, the coaches found this helpful, and continued to add this to their weekly practice schedule. Next, I had the opportunity to work with two defensive backs and a running back for an NFL team. This use of strobe lights was one of the more impacting therapies I was able to deploy. At this same time, I was working with an NBA first round draft pick who was quickly being slapped with the moniker of having ‘bad hands’. I was able to spend hours with him, the strobe light flashing and working on catching tennis balls and basketballs. I was able to use the team’s practice facility –for on court work—but this was onerous and hard to schedule time availability. I began to think of how much simpler it would be if I had glasses that would work for this. Baseball players could use them for their regimen of hitting off a tee, soft toss, and batting practice. Tennis players could play on their practice courts, and football players could run on their fields rather than a dark room that took them away from their teammates in practice. Rather than using flashing lights, would high speed liquid crystal suffice? What would the duration of the opaque phase be? The clear phase? I was able to coordinate with a businessman. We received a patent (5,478,239) and developed several prototypes prior to the commercial StrobeSpex version. I was able to use these with a number of NBA players, professional women’s tennis players, and my contacts at the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. With this serving as proof of concept, we committed to spending to obtain the frame molds, liquid crystal ‘lenses’, battery units, electronic circuitry, packaging and marketing materials. We filmed our marketing video with testimonials from several players and coaches from the San Francisco 49ers. Unfortunately, shortly after the commercial version of StrobeSpex were delivered, I had to leave the company we had formed.

Senaptec performance vision

Senaptec Performance Vision Glasses

A few years later, Nike came out with their Vapor Strobes. Nike negotiated with my former partner to buy the patent. Shortly thereafter, Nike decided to drop out of the diagnostic and therapy space. Senaptec, Inc. bought out the Nike group of products involved in sports vision. Fortunately, Senaptec strobe glasses and their sensory station continue to be improved upon and readily available.

So, what is the applicable research in this space teaching?

Initially, in 1995, we worked with Sacramento City College baseball and their coach, Jerry Weinstein. Jerry was also a manager for the Dodger’s single A affiliate, and assistant coach to USA Baseball. He was intrigued and allowed us to take four of his players who were starters—but had lower batting averages–to see if there would be an effect. The average increase was 56 points after 6 weeks. Since this clearly was not a placebo controlled, randomized double blind study, the results would not pass scientific de rigueur.

In 1996, Sierra College’s Denise Stone, MA, worked with Kelly Hankins on her CSU, Sacramento Master’s Thesis, The Effects of Using StrobeSpex as a Training Tool to Improve Hitting Efficacy in Collegiate Baseball Players. Although unpublished, and having her subject pool collapse from 41 baseball team players to 14 who completed the 6 week course, Hankins was able to make several inferences. While the statistical data set leaves validity open to question, the players in the two groups using StrobeSpex improved their batting averages, one at 60% improvement, and the other at 72% gain. The control groups improved 22.7% and 25%, respectively.

Fortunately, academic researchers began to set up better designed studies. Early studies started looking at visual occlusion—how little of the visual information does the athlete need before performance begins to erode? Moreno et al (8.) found that the more experienced athletes garnered more information visually. As increased occlusion took place, the authors report that nonexperienced athletes made significantly more errors.

One of the foremost authorities in stroboscopic training is L. Gregory Appelbaum, PhD from Duke University. In their 2011 article, Appelbaum found that SVT can increase the ability to quickly process visual information in the central visual field. (9.).

In a follow up article in 2012, Appelbaum, et al found that stroboscopic visual training improved information encoding in short term memory. (10.)

Also in 2012, Clark, et al published in PloS ONE that sports vision demonstrated that a sports vision training regimen that included stroboscopic vision training improved the University of Cincinnati’s baseball team batting average from 0.251 in 2010 to 0.285 in 2011. Both hitting and slugging percentages improved. This was juxtaposed against the rest of the Big East conference’s 12 baseball teams, who saw their team batting average fall slightly. While this cannot be attributed just to stroboscopic therapy, the data in quite robust.(11).

Appelbaum followed with a similar article detailing sports vision testing with the Nike Sensory Station, and training improvement with an organized sports vision training treatment program including stroboscopic training, again showing statistically significant improvement. (12.)

In Appelbaum’s 2020 article (13.), An Early Review of stroboscopic visual training: insights, challenges and accomplishments to guide future studies, he notes that foveation (central visual processing) has been shown to improve with SVT.

Again, the visual deprivation brought on by diminished visual information draws the subject’s visual attention to their central vision, similar to what out-of-balance disruption does to vision. Working through this in SVT is now beginning to show measurable improvements in improved test results, and, more importantly, in on field/court/pitch performance.

Lastly, in a 2020 study entitled, The effect of stroboscopic visual training on eye–hand coordination, Ellison et al noted using SVT works to improve perceptual cue usage and visual search behaviors on performance. They write, One way to train vision and attention for sport is ot practice and train in suboptimal environments to overload perceptual processes, making return to the performance setting seem easier.(14)

Conclusion

Since I introduced strobe glasses into the sports vision space, there has been a number of well designed research papers from around the world. We are seeing that SVT is showing promise in visual attention, foveation, eye hand coordination, and athletic performance. Researching saccadic omission, the relationship of the vestibular, visual fixation, optokinetic, balance, smooth pursuit movements, and vergence movements provides significant opportunity for ongoing research. Looking to answer questions as to can we improve the saccadic latency prior to initiation of movement? Can a person quicken their saccadic speed, whereby the eyes reach their target more quickly? What about the accuracy of target acquisition? Saccadic eye movement studies have been going on since the 1970’s, if not before. We know that as your reading improves, the number and magnitude of undershooting and overshooting diminishes. For reading, a little residual accuracy error can still allow for word recognition (through the perceptual skill known as visual closure). It stands to reason that with a moving target, especially a baseball, tennis ball, hockey puck, or shooting clay, one might not have as much room for error. SVT is a promising tool in the quest for understanding what limits can (and cannot) be reached in human visual performance.

 

References

  1. Gawande, A.(2008) Better A Surgeon’s Note on Performance. Picador, New York
  2. Leigh, RJ; Zee, DS (eds): The Neurology of Eye Movements. FA Davis Co, Philadelphia, 1991, pp 3-138
  3. Ciuffreda, KJ, Tannen, B (eds) (1995): Eye Movement Basics for the Clinician. Mosby, New York, 1995, pp 1-18.
  4. Nakayama, K: Motion parallax sensitivity and space perception. In Hein, A and Jeannerod, M (eds): Spatial Oriented Behavior. SpringerVerlag, New York, 1983, pp 223-242.
  5. Sicong Liu , Frederick R. Edmunds , Kyle Burris & Lawrence Gregory Appelbaum (2020): Visual and oculomotor abilities predict professional baseball batting performance, International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport, DOI: 10.1080/24748668.2020.1777819–
  6. Desmurget, M., and Grafton, S. (2000). Forward modeling allows feedback control for fast reaching movements. Trends Cogn. Sci. (Regul. Ed.) 4, 423–431.
  7. Proteau, L., and Cournoyer, J. (1990). Vision of the stylus in a manual aiming task: the effects of practice. Q. J. Exp. Psychol. A. 42, 811–828.
  8. Moreno FJ, Luis V, Salgado F, Garcia JA, Reina R (2005) Visual behavior and perception of trajectories of moving objects with visual occlusion. Percept Mot Skills 101(1):13–20. https​://doi. org/10.2466/pms.101.5.13-20
  9. Appelbaum, L. G., Schroeder, J. E., Cain, M. S., & Mitroff, S. R. (2011). Improved visual cognition through stroboscopic training. Frontiers in Psychology, 2, 276. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00276
  10. Appelbaum, L. G., Schroeder, J. E., Cain, M. S., Darling, E.F. & Mitroff, S. R.(2012) Stroboscopic Visual Training improves information encoding in short-term memory. Atten Percept Psychophys 74(8): 1681-1691
  11. Clark JF, Ellis JK, Bench J, Khoury J, Graman P (2012) High-Performance Vision Training Improves Batting Statistics for University of Cincinnati Baseball Players. PLoS ONE 7(1): e29109. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0029109
  12. Appelbaum, LG, Lu Y, Khanna R, Detwiler KR, (2016) The effects of sports vision training on sensorimotor abilities in collegiate softball athletes. Athl Train Sports Health Care 8(4):154-163
  13. Luke Wilkins & Lawrence Gregory Appelbaum (2020) An early review of stroboscopic visual training: insights, challenges and accomplishments to guide future studies, International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 13:1, 65-80, DOI: 10.1080/1750984X.2019.1582081
  14. Ellison P, Jones C, Sparks SA, Murphy PN, Page RM, Carnegie E, Marchant DC (2020) The effect of stroboscopic visual training on eye hand coordination. Sports Sci for Health 16:401-410

Preventing Concussions With Sports Vision Exercises

Preventing Concussions With Sports Vision Exercises 640×350Between 1.7 million to 3 million sports and recreation-related concussions occur each year in the United States alone. 70-80% percent of those surveyed have vision issues.

So what can you do to avoid a concussion? Consider sports vision training. It can help you perform better and protect your head and brain from injury.

Sports Vision Training and Sport-Related Head Injuries

Concussions are among the most prevalent injuries sustained in sports.

When your visual abilities aren’t up to par, you may underestimate the distance between yourself and the ball or between yourself and other players. Due to limited peripheral vision, miscalculating the velocity of a ball or the location of competing players may result in significant head or other injuries.

This is why, like exercising your muscles, it’s important to train your eyes to communicate more efficiently with your brain and body.

Sports Vision Exercises to Prevent Concussions

If you’re looking to improve your game by improving your visual skills, visit today. Dr. Randy Fuerst & Dr. Hannah Lynch will prescribe a sports vision training program based on your sport and the visual abilities you need to develop.

Until then, here are some very basic exercises you can do at home. (Keep in mind that there is no alternative for a specialized sports vision assessment and training tailored to your individual visual strengths and deficiencies.)

Depth Perception

Depth perception is crucial for a variety of sports. Baseball players require it to hit the ball as it crosses the plate, while football players need it to judge where the ball will land. Even swimmers use depth perception when doing a flip-turn near the pool’s edge during a race.

You can practice this skill by holding a drinking straw at arm’s length and trying to drop a tiny pebble or balled-up piece of paper through the straw with your free hand.

Peripheral Awareness

Peripheral awareness is crucial for succeeding in sports, as athletes must be able to sense the world around them without turning their heads. By honing this visual skill, they can drastically improve their game.

One thing you can do to improve peripheral awareness is to stand at a junction and look straight ahead at the road in front of you. Practice seeing cars pass horizontally from left to right without moving your head—simply perceive them through the edges of your visual field.

Focus Flexibility

The ability to shift your concentration from far away to nearby objects is referred to as focus flexibility.

Focus on an object close to you, then adjust your focus to an object behind the first one in the same line of sight to improve your focus flexibility. A bowl on a table in front of you, for example, and then a painting on the wall in the distance.

Switch between focusing on the bowl and the painting. This is also a good exercise for those who spend a lot of time at their computers. It will not only improve your focus flexibility but will also ease eye strain caused by prolonged screen use.

If you’re looking to improve sports performance, contact today. Sports vision training will help you up your game whether you’re a competitive athlete or simply enjoy playing on the weekends.

Frequently Asked Questions with Palmer N. Lee, O.D.

Q: What is Sports Vision Training?

  • A: Sports vision training is a customized program that uses a series of techniques and exercises to teach your brain and body to respond more accurately and efficiently to a fastball or hockey puck rapidly coming toward you. The training focuses on improving visual skills, such as hand-eye coordination, eye tracking, depth perception, focusing and peripheral vision.

Q: Can sports vision training lead to a decrease in sport-related injuries?

  • A: According to a study done by the University of Cincinnati Division of Sports Medicine, football players who had undergone sports vision training to improve their peripheral vision had fewer concussions than those who did not do it.
  • This is because sports vision training helps the eyes and brain react more quickly to changes in the environment, resulting in more successes and fewer accidents.
  • Sports Vision Center at EYEcenter Optometric serves patients from Sacramento, Folsom, Roseville, and Elk Grove, California and surrounding communities.

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Elevate Your Game on the Baseball Field With Sports Vision Training

Improve How You Play Baseball With Sports Vision Training 640×350Hitting a baseball out of the park is widely regarded as one of the most difficult sporting challenges. In Major League Baseball (MLB), batters have less than half a second to meet a 90-mph fastball with the sweet spot of their bat. There is almost no other specialized action in any sport that puts a player’s visual system under such strain.

So why don’t coaches and managers ask their players to utilize sports vision training to boost their performance on the field?

That’s because the value of sports vision training is underappreciated. Many athletes, parents, and coaches don’t realize the central role that visual skills play in athletic ability, and are ignorant of the numerous ways to develop them.

Recognizing A Pitch

There are many kinds of pitches: fastballs, curveballs, screwballs and more.

Batters have only a fraction of a second to identify the type of pitch and react accordingly. Keeping an eye on the ball and assessing speed, motion and direction are highly demanding for a player’s neuro-visual system.

5 Essential Visual Skills for Keeping Eyes on the Ball

  • Convergence – Perfect convergence of both eyes is needed to follow a ball as it flies towards you.
  • Depth perception – In order to assess the distance, speed, and direction of a fast-moving ball, accurate depth perception is needed.
  • Peripheral vision – Is required to stop a base-stealer and achieve that double-play.
  • Eye teaming – To keep track of a flying ball, the eyes must be perfectly synchronized.
  • Speed of focus – Your eyes must constantly refocus when a ball is racing toward you at 70 to over 90 miles per hour.
  • Visual processing speed – It’s critical for the brain to be able to quickly process all of the visual information sent to it.

Sports Vision Training for Baseball

Just as intense physical exercise helps baseball players boost their physical endurance, strength, speed and fine motor skills, sports vision training helps them improve their depth perception, focusing and visual processing speed.

A sports vision training program is customized for each player based on an evaluation of their visual skills with a specific focus on baseball requirements.

To start boosting your visual skills and performance, contact Dr. Randy Fuerst & Dr. Hannah Lynch at Sports Vision Center at EYEcenter Optometric today.

We train athletes from Sacramento, Folsom, Roseville, and Elk Grove, California and surrounding communities.

Frequently Asked Questions with Palmer N. Lee, O.D.

Q: What is sports vision training?

  • A: Sports vision training is a custom-made program that improves coordination between your eyes, body and brain while playing sports. It involves exercises and techniques that help athletes process the information their eyes are sending the brain more quickly and accurately.

Q: Who can benefit from sports vision training?

  • A: Whether you’re pitching or up at bat, sports vision training is perfect for anyone of any age and ability seeking to take their performance to the next level.

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Call Our Offices

3 Ways To Unlock Your True Athletic Potential

3 Ways To Unlock Your True Athletic Potential 640×350As an athlete, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and be able to gauge distances. This is where sports vision training comes into play. Sports vision is about training people to process what their eyes see, better and faster. It’s an effective way to boost the visual skills you need to excel at your chosen sport and stay safe while doing it.

3 Ways Sports Vision Training Can Improve Your Game

Having strong, well-developed visual skills enhances your ability to catch, throw, and hit a ball, allowing you to thrive in sports like baseball, basketball and tennis. By sharpening your peripheral awareness, depth perception, and eye-tracking and focusing abilities, you will be able to better gauge the distance between a tennis ball and the net, or the proximity of another player as you sprint across the field.

1. Enhanced Convergence and Accommodation

Convergence is the ability to keep both eyes working in tandem as they track objects or people, such as a player passing a ball. Accommodation, also known as focus flexibility, is the eyes’ ability to immediately change focus.

Improving your eye-focusing abilities will help you concentrate better, and swiftly and precisely refocus your vision. This makes it easier to quickly process moving objects.

2. Enhanced Depth Perception

Depth perception is the ability to judge the distance between you and people or objects, and allows you to see in three dimensions. Individuals with good depth perception have an easier time recognizing an object as it approaches because they can see where it is in space. When a baseball player makes a spectacular catch or steals a base, depth perception is one of the visual skills they most rely on.

3. Enhanced Peripheral Awareness

Peripheral awareness, also known as peripheral vision, enables us to detect and see things that aren’t directly in front of us while looking straight ahead. A well-developed peripheral field helps soccer players, tennis players and cyclists see people and objects at the edge of their visual field and sense the flow of the game or traffic as it constantly changes.

The sharper your visual skills are, the better you will be at whatever sport you participate in. Your eye doctor will assess your vision in specific areas to identify weak areas that need strengthening. After that, you’ll be prescribed a customized sports vision training program that will include a series of personalized eye exercises and assessments to measure your progress.

To learn more about how sports vision training can help you become a better athlete, contact Sports Vision Center at EYEcenter Optometric today!

 

Frequently Asked Questions with Palmer N. Lee, O.D.

Q: What is sports vision training?

  • A: Sports vision training is a personalized program that improves the communication between your eyes, body and brain while playing sports. Enhanced communication between your eyes and brain leads to improved visual skills, allowing an athlete to unlock their fullest potential. Sports vision training uses a customized series of techniques and exercises, resulting in the brain and body learning to respond more efficiently and accurately to what the eyes are seeing.

Q: Who can benefit from sports vision training?

  • A: Whether you’re a golfer, play hockey or ski, sports vision training is perfect for anyone of any age who wants to take their performance to the next level.
Sports Vision Center at EYEcenter Optometric serves patients from Sacramento, Folsom, Roseville, and Elk Grove, all throughout California .


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Looking To Improve Your Athletic Performance This Summer?

Looking To Improve Your Sports Performance This Summer 640It’s finally summer—and there’s no better time to play outdoor sports! But if you’re like many of us, you may be a little rusty from the long winter months. While physical training is important to get back into gear, sports vision training can take you a step further by helping you hone the visual skills you need to excel at your chosen sport.

Sports vision training is a personalized program that helps professional and amateur athletes improve the way their eyes, brain and body interact. The quicker the brain processes the messages the eyes send, the better the performance.

Benefits of Sports Vision Training

Strong, well-developed visual skills can help you improve your ability to hit a tennis ball or perform the perfect dive in the swimming pool.

Sharpening your tracking, depth perception, focusing and peripheral awareness skills will help determine the proximity of the water from the diving board or the distance between a baseball and your bat. It should come as no surprise that vision training helps athletes improve their performance in just about any sport.

Sports vision training helps develop the following visual skills:

  • Balance – the ability to stay in control of body movement. A surfer, for example, must be able to stand on the board without falling off, all while riding a wave.
  • Eye Tracking – the ability to “keep your eye on the ball.”
  • Focusing – the ability to rapidly change focus from one object to another efficiently and quickly. For example, in baseball, a player needs to be able to focus on the ball while running.
  • Eye-Hand or Eye-Body Coordination – the ability to use your eyes to direct the movements of your hands and body. In tennis, for instance, a player must be able to move his or her body and hands while tracking the ball.
  • Peripheral Awareness – seeing things or people, such as opposing players, out of the corner of your eye.
  • Depth Perception – the capacity to evaluate an object’s speed and distance accurately and quickly. For example, a diver must accurately evaluate the distance from the edge of the pool in order to dive safely.
  • Contrast Sensitivity – the ability to distinguish between an object and its background, such as a baseball against the sky.
  • Dynamic Visual Acuity – the ability to clearly see objects in motion.
  • Reaction Time – the faster you see it, the faster you react and the faster you move.

During a comprehensive eye exam, your eye doctor will assess your visual skills in various areas to determine which ones need to be improved. Once assessed, you’ll receive a personalized program to boost and expand your visual skills in those areas.

To learn more about sports vision training, contact Sports Vision Center at EYEcenter Optometric today!

Sports Vision Center at EYEcenter Optometric serves patients from Sacramento, Folsom, Roseville and Elk Grove, all throughout California .

Frequently Asked Questions with Palmer N. Lee, O.D.

Q: What is sports vision training?

  • A: Sports vision training is a customized program that improves coordination between your eyes, brain, and body when playing sports. Sports vision training helps athletes process information and then react faster and more accurately to what they see on the field or in the water.

Q: Who can benefit from sports vision training?

  • A: Whether for surfing, playing baseball, or biking, sports vision training benefits people of any age or level seeking to take their performance to the next level.


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Sports Vision Training Can Help Prevent Scooter Accidents

E Scooter Riders 640When riding an electric scooter, you need to be able to focus on the road, while avoiding cars, pedestrians, and other potential obstacles. It may sound simple, but not everyone has the visual skills needed to focus, scan the surroundings and react in a split-second to an oncoming car or a child who’s run into the street.

At Sports Vision Center at EYEcenter Optometric, we offer sports vision training, which helps improve visual skills by training the brain to process and respond quickly and efficiently to visual input. This can, in turn, prevent you from getting into an accident.

E-Scooter Riders Need Top-Notch Visual Skills

To stay safe on the road, drivers, motorcyclists, and e-scooter drivers need to have remarkable visual skills, where the ability to focus, track fast-moving objects and react quickly can mean the difference between staying safe and incurring an injury.

Even the smallest increase in processing ability, reaction time and resilience can help prevent injury to yourself and others.

The Visual Skills Needed to Safely Ride an E-Scooter

Improve critical vision skills, such as peripheral awareness, depth perception and eye focusing, with sports vision training, a customized program that improves the communication between your eyes, brain, and body.

1. Peripheral Awareness

Peripheral vision, also known as peripheral awareness, enables us to detect and see things that aren’t right in front of us when looking straight ahead. A well-developed peripheral field helps riders spot people and objects and sense the flow of the road as it changes.

2. Depth Perception

Depth perception is the ability to see in three dimensions and judge the distance between objects or people and yourself.

Those with good depth perception have an easier time accurately tracking any object as it approaches because they can perfectly see where it is in space. This enables one to make split-second decisions about when to swerve or stop to avoid coming in contact with everything from a car to a trash can.

3. Accommodation and Convergence

Accommodation, also known as focus flexibility, is the eyes’ ability to change focus immediately. Convergence is the ability to keep both eyes working in unison as they track people or objects, such as a bus on the road.

Enhancing these eye-focusing skills can boost your ability to concentrate and refocus your vision quickly and more accurately so that you process moving objects quickly.

Want to strengthen your visual skills? Contact Dr. Randy Fuerst & Dr. Hannah Lynch today!

Sports Vision Center at EYEcenter Optometric serves patients from Sacramento, Folsom, Roseville, and Elk Grove, all throughout California .

Frequently Asked Questions with Palmer N. Lee, O.D.

Q: What is sports vision training?

  • A: Sports vision training is made of individually prescribed and monitored exercises aimed at developing specific visual skills and processing. These various customized activities and exercises retrain the brain to effectively interact with the eyes and improve vision functioning. This therapy consists of weekly in-office appointments and assigned daily exercises, ranging from several weeks to several months. The training involves close monitoring and follow-up appointments to ensure steady improvements in the patient’s visual functions.

Q: Who can benefit from sports vision training?

  • A: Whether you play hockey or baseball or ride an e-scooter, sports vision training is perfect for anyone of any age and ability seeking to take their performance to the next level.


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Sports Eye Safety Month – How to Prevent Sports Injuries

skateboard 640Sporting goods stores are full of gear that protects wrists, knees, heads and shins from the impact of a fast-moving ball or a spill from a skateboard.

Unfortunately, many athletes forget that their eyes are just as vulnerable to sports injuries.

Approximately 40,000 sports-related eye injuries occur every year, and many result in permanent vision loss.

The good news is that up to 90% of sports-related eye injuries are preventable if an athlete wears the correct protective eyewear.

At Sports Vision Center at EYEcenter Optometric we can help you minimize your risk of incurring an eye injury by helping you choose the proper protective eyewear and improving your visual skills.

What is Protective Eyewear?

Protective eyewear is made of ultra-strong polycarbonate, which is very impact-resistant and also protects eyes from UV rays.

There are a variety of different types of protective eyewear for sports: face guards or masks, safety goggles and special eyewear designed for specific sports.

Your optometrist can provide protective eyewear with your prescription, or safety goggles that can be worn over your regular prescription glasses or contacts.

When Do I Need To Use Protective Eyewear?

Everyone, kids included, needs to use protective eyewear whenever practicing or playing a sport that comes with a risk of eye injury.

Some sports with a high risk of eye injury include:

  • Basketball
  • Boxing
  • Wrestling
  • Martial arts
  • Fencing
  • Hockey
  • Baseball and softball
  • Squash
  • Shooting
  • Archery

Other sports with a moderate risk of eye injury include:

  • Golf
  • Soccer
  • Tennis
  • Gymnastics
  • Skiing

All sports, whether they put your eyes at high or low risk of injury, require some type of protective eyewear.

Preventing Sports Injuries with Sports Vision Training

Another effective way to prevent sports-related injuries — and not just eye injuries — is sports vision training. A customized program of eye exercises, sports vision training hones the visual skills needed to play a specific sport. This program teaches the eyes and brain to work together more efficiently and process information faster during a game or race, preventing injuries as a result.

Take peripheral vision as an example. Subpar peripheral vision makes it difficult for athletes to see players or a ball coming toward them from the side. Good peripheral vision lowers the risk of collisions and reduces the likelihood of injury while improving athletic performance.

Whether you play basketball, baseball or tennis, peripheral vision provides athletes with a wide view of the people and objects around them, beyond their central vision.

Studies have shown that football players who participated in a sports vision program sustained fewer concussions. Vision therapy can also help athletes improve their reaction time, processing speed and hand-eye coordination.

At Sports Vision Center at EYEcenter Optometric, we offer safety eyewear and sports vision training to reduce your risk of injury and improve your vision. We treat any vision-related conditions you may have, so contact us to schedule an evaluation.

Sports Vision Center at EYEcenter Optometric serves patients from Sacramento, Folsom, Roseville, and Elk Grove, all throughout California .

Q&A

 

Q: What is sports vision training?

  • A: Sports vision training is an individualized program that consists of a variety of exercises designed to improve and treat visual function.

Q: Should I or my child wear protective eyewear even if we don’t wear prescription glasses?

  • A: Yes! The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends wearing protective eyewear for any sport where eye injuries can occur, even for athletes who don’t wear glasses or contacts. Studies show that protective eyewear does not affect a player’s sight and that some athletes play better because they are less afraid of suffering a serious eye injury.


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The Importance of Binocular Vision in Sports

The Importance of Binocular Vision in Sports 640Binocular vision is the ability to create a single image with both eyes while maintaining visual focus on an object. Sometimes our eyes fail to integrate visual information into one coherent image. This integration is important, as it allows athletes to perceive three-dimensional depth and relationships between people or objects, such as another player or a ball.

Since each eye is in a different position relative to any object, the eyes convey slightly different spatial information and send these varying images to the brain. The brain then uses the differences between the signals from the two eyes to accurately judge depth, speed, and distance.

When binocular vision isn’t operating at peak capacity, it impacts an athlete’s reaction time and the speed and accuracy of their movements.

Reduced binocular vision doesn’t mean that athletes are constantly falling over or fumbling. What it does mean, however, is that they may misjudge the velocity or direction of a ball, or collide more with other players.

How Does Reduced Binocular Vision Affect Athletes?

When our brain and eyes don’t work efficiently as a team, especially while playing sports, it can affect timing, depth perception, reactions, accuracy, and speed.

Visual deficits hinder how an athlete responds to what they see. If there is an issue with a player’s vision, there will most likely be an issue with their balance and body awareness.

Visual Skills Needed For Sports

There are many visual skills athletes need to perform their best during a game.

Accommodation – is the eyes’ ability to change their focus from distant to near objects and vice versa. For example, when a football player looks at other players coming toward them, then shifts focus to the ball on the field.

Binocular Vision – is the ability to maintain visual focus on an object, creating a single visual image with both eyes. Without binocular vision athletes cannot accurately measure distance and depth.

Depth Perception – is the ability to distinguish the distance to, or between, objects. This is important for athletes when they need to hit or interact with moving objects.

Dynamic Visual Acuity – the ability to see a moving object when a player is stationary, or when the object is still and the athlete is in motion. It’s the eyes’ ability to visually discern detail in a moving object, such as a player’s number on a jersey.

Peripheral Vision – is the ability to see objects and movement outside of your direct line of vision. This is important for athletes, especially when they need to run down a field and be able to see other players coming at them from all directions.

Saccades – quick, rapid, simultaneous eye movements between two or more stationary objects in the same direction. For athletes it’s important to be able to see stationary objects, such as a hoop at the end of the court.

Smooth Pursuits – reflexive eye movements that are required when tracking an object through an environment, such as a flying ball. Instead of the eye moving in jumps, it moves smoothly.

Sports Vision Training

Sports vision training can improve all the visual skills an athlete needs to succeed at their game. Even if an athlete has ‘20/20 eyesight’ they may still have reduced binocular vision, and sports vision can help improve any lagging visual skills. Sports vision is an individualized training program that focus on improving visual skills so that athletes can improve their performance.

The ability to enhance an athlete’s sports vision skills is a proven way to improve performance. To learn more about how sports vision training can help you reach your goals, contact us at Sports Vision Center at EYEcenter Optometric today.

Sports Vision Center at EYEcenter Optometric serves patients from Sacramento, Folsom, Roseville, and Elk Grove, all throughout California .

Frequently Asked Questions with Palmer N. Lee, O.D.

 

Q: What is sports vision training?

  • A: Sports vision training is a customized program that improves the communication between your brain, eyes, and body. It helps athletes process information more accurately and react faster to what they see on the field.

Q: Why is sports vision training important?

  • A: Athletes in visually demanding sports need to have exceptional visual skills. This is true for all sports, where the ability to focus, react quickly, and move fast can mean the difference not only between winning and losing, but between incurring an injury and staying safe.


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How One Football Player Became a Pro Thanks To Sports Vision Training

football player 640Larry Fitzgerald Jr. is a well-known NFL wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals. He played college football at Pittsburgh, where he earned uncontested All-America honors. He was drafted by the Cardinals third overall in the 2004 NFL Draft. He has had a long and distinguished career.

What many don’t know is that as a young child, Fitzgerald struggled in school. Fortunately, his grandfather, Robert Johnson, the founder of an optometry clinic in Chicago, understood the central role visual skills play in reading, writing, and sports activities.

Dr. Johnson created a vision therapy program for his grandson to strengthen the skills he needed to succeed in school. By the time he turned 12 years old, Fitzgerald became interested in sports and wanted to strengthen the visual skills he needed to boost his sports performance. Dr. Johnson began to tailor his grandson’s vision therapy exercises to facilitate his success on the football field.

The aim of a vision therapy program is to improve visual skills— eye-tracking, focusing, eye-hand coordination, peripheral vision, visual processing speed, and more!

Visual Skills Necessary For Sports Performance

Sports activities require speed and accuracy for optimal performance. These skills allow you to track a ball as it flies through the air, assume the correct position to catch it, and accurately pass it to another player.

The following skills are essential for optimal sports performance:

  • Dynamic visual acuity
  • Eye-tracking
  • Eye focusing
  • Peripheral vision
  • Depth perception
  • Visual reaction time
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Visual memory
  • Visualization
  • Visual concentration

Thanks to vision therapy, Fitzgerald was able to improve his precision, control, spatial judgment, and rhythm. Fitzgerald is a firm believer that visual training helped him become a successful football player.

“There is definitely a connection between the vision therapy that I did as a child and my performance on the field,” Fitzgerald has said. “A number of the drills in football camp reminded me of things I did in vision therapy that helped develop reaction time, eye-hand coordination, and visualization skills.

Can Vision Therapy Improve Visual Skills For Sports?

Yes. Most binocular vision conditions are caused by problems within the brain-eye connections, or visual processing. If a vision problem is detected, a vision therapy program can help to retrain your visual system to improve your vision skills.

If you want to improve your game, vision therapy may be just what you need. Contact Dr. Randy Fuerst & Dr. Hannah Lynch to schedule a comprehensive vision evaluation to assess your visual skills and to determine whether vision therapy is right for you.

Sports Vision Center at EYEcenter Optometric serves patients from Sacramento, Folsom, Roseville, and Elk Grove, all throughout California .

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Frequently Asked Questions with Dr. Herring

Q: Can you request lenses made from glass? Is glass still used for lenses?

  • A: Yes. Opticians still sometimes use glass for lenses. However, glass is not used very often because they aren’t as safe. If these glass lenses breaks, they can shatters into many pieces and can injure the eye. Glass lenses are much heavier than plastic lenses, so they can make your eyeglasses less comfortable to wear.

Q: Can a coating be added to eyeglasses to protect them from further scratches?

  • A: A protective coating can’t be added to a lens after it’s scratched. The coating is applied when the lens is manufactured and can’t be put on later.

Quality Frames For Prescription Eyeglasses & Computer Glasses In Sacramento, California. Visit EYEcenter optometric for an eye exam and eyeglasses that match your style.

2 Ways Strong Peripheral Vision Can Help You Avoid Sports Injuries

football player 640Did you know that 80% of what the brain processes during a sports game comes via the eyes, and that much of that input is transmitted from our peripheral vision?

Peripheral vision, also known as peripheral awareness, enables us to detect and see things that aren’t right in front of us when we are looking straight ahead. Athletes with poor peripheral awareness may not realize that a player or ball is coming toward them from the side, putting them at higher risk of injury while playing sports.

One way to improve peripheral awareness is through sports vision training, a customized program that improves the communication between your eyes, brain, and body while playing sports. These learned visual skills can be useful in so many other areas of life as well. The sports vision program is offered by optometrists trained in sports vision training.

Why is Peripheral Vision Critical to Playing Sports?

Peripheral vision is an often overlooked aspect of sports performance. Well developed peripheral vision is essential in sports like football, where the players need to be aware of the sudden movement on either side of them. When football players dash across the field, their peripheral vision helps guide their path.

Improving peripheral vision can also help you avoid sports injuries. It can help athletes avoid or brace themselves for a collision or detect a fast-moving object approaching from the side. Additionally, sports vision training can help an athlete improve reaction time, hand-eye coordination, and processing speed.

Eye Exercises to Improve Peripheral Awareness

Here are 2 home-based eye exercises that may improve an athlete’s peripheral vision. Note: these are not a substitute for a comprehensive vision training program offered by a sports vision optometrist.

  • Awareness Drill

One way to improve peripheral vision is to stop what you’re doing and focus on being aware of what is in your peripheral fields.

  • Stop and “be present”
  • Pick a target to look at anywhere from 3 to 10 feet away
  • While looking straight ahead, take note of what you can see around you – to your left and right, and up and down
  • Test yourself: Pick out specific details, then confirm by looking directly at the object.

The goal of this exercise is to stretch your vision farther and enhance your ability to focus on things on either side of you. It’s an easy drill that can lead to a noticeable improvement in your peripheral awareness.

  • Wall Ball

This exercise requires just a wall and a ball, such as a tennis ball.

  • Find a spot on the wall to look at, just above eye level
  • Throw the ball against the wall, bouncing it from your left hand and catching it with your right hand and then back again
  • While you are throwing the ball, keep looking at the spot on the wall and not directly at the ball. Instead, use your peripheral vision to detect the ball’s flight and position in space

You will most likely drop the ball a few times while you get used to the exercise. It will take some practice to get your eyes to relax enough to be able to do this. Once you master one level, try to think of ways to challenge yourself by making this exercise more difficult. You should try doing this once a day, for 10-15 minutes.

Peripheral vision awareness is one of the visual skills most necessary for safety while playing sports. Having good peripheral vision awareness could keep you from getting hit by a frisbee at the park, or from taking a bad hit while on the court or field.


Taking the necessary steps to improve your peripheral awareness can not only improve your game but protect you from injury. Contact Dr. Randy Fuerst & Dr. Hannah Lynch to learn more about vision therapy.

Sports Vision Center at EYEcenter Optometric serves patients from , Folsom, Roseville, and Elk Grove, throughout California .

 

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