Integrating sports and performance vision training into a practice is a great way to develop a niche, attract new patients, and provide another service to existing patients. There are numerous ways to add training at different levels to a practice, including traditional vision therapy tools, computer-based learning, and advanced technology incorporating balance and motor skills.
Optometrists have interests in many aspects of the profession, such as contact lenses, low vision, dry eye, and sports vision. ODs can turn these areas of interest into stand-alone practices or special clinics within existing practices.
About two years ago, I realized a long-time dream and launched Performance 20/20, a sports and performance vision training center which is independent from my primary optometry practice. We train athletes full time and employ one full-time trainer as well as three part-time trainers.
Optometrists often ask me how they can get involved in sports vision, especially if they are unable to start a separate practice. While it may seem daunting, there are many ways to ease into adding this specialty into your practice.
Follow these eight tips to get started.
1. Decide what equipment is right for you and your practice
Many optometrists can’t take the leap I did in starting a new practice in a new location, and that’s OK.
Is there an unused exam lane in your office? Many pieces of equipment are compact and can be added into an existing office. Traditional vision therapy tools, such as Hart charts, Marsden balls, and Brock strings, are inexpensive and take up very little space.
Adding tools such as balance boards, Both Sides Up (BOSU) balls, trampolines, metronomes, jump ropes, agility ladders, and music can increase the level of difficulty and complexity of even the simplest tools.
As you begin to increase the number of athletes training, consider adding additional sports and performance vision tools. Many of these are now available on a computer or tablet, which also can fit nicely into a smaller space.
Products such as NeuroTracker (CogniSens), EyeQ Trainer (RightEye), Sensory Tablet (Senaptec), and Binovi (Eyecarrot Innovations) have great technology platforms and are great for athletes looking to improve their concentration, focus, working memory, and processing speed.
If more space is available, adding other tools will help balance out the training by helping you improve an athlete’s reaction, eye/hand coordination, peripheral awareness, and speed.
Jennifer Stewart, OD, is chief vision officer and founder of Performance 20/20, a sports and performance training facility in Stamford, CT. Dr. Stewart is co-owner of Norwalk Eye Care in Norwalk, CT. She is a former Division 1 track and field athlete who still holds two college records. She is a competitive age group triathlete and competes in trail and road races. Dr. Stewart resides in Connecticut with her husband, who is an Ironman All World Triathlete; their two young boys; and their rescue dog.