The findings offer information about how batters keep their eyes on the ball and could lead to new ways to help improve their ability to track pitches, wrote the researchers at the Ohio State University College of Optometry.
The researchers monitored the eye and head movements of 15 Division 1 collegiate baseball players as they tracked balls hurled by a pitching machine. The players' eye and head movements were synchronized with the trajectory of the pitches.
"On average, eye-gaze position matched the target position well throughout the trajectory," the researchers wrote.
For most of the time the ball was in the air, however, the players tracked it with their head. They moved their eyes very little until late in the pitch trajectory. The pitches took about 400 milliseconds (two-fifths of a second) to travel from the pitching machine to the batter, and the players did not move their eyes until between 340 and 380 milliseconds, the researchers found.
Head movements varied between players, but all of them seemed to use a strategy of "neural coupling" between eye and head movements in order to track the ball, according to the study, which was published online Jan. 3 in the journal Optometry and Vision Science.
"It will be interesting in the future to compare tracking strategies to hitting success, and tracking strategies of elite players to those of novice players," the researchers said in a journal news release.
They also said this type of research could lead to improved vision-training strategies to help baseball players of all levels.
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