My guest today is Dr. Daniel Laby, of Sports Vision. Dr Laby began his work in sports vision more than two decades ago with the MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers. He has also been responsible for the visual performance of the New York Mets and St Louis Cardinals, and currently works with the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs. Dr. Laby spent three seasons working with the NBA’s Boston Celtics as well as the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings. He also worked with the US Olympic team prior to the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 and attended the games with the team.
Dr Laby has been fortunate to have contributed to an MLB American League Championship team as well as 4 World Series Championship teams.
The interview transcript appears below the media player. This episode was recorded on Nov, 9th, 2017.
David and I discuss the “sports vision pyramid”, the pathway from photons to sports decision making and how to improve it. We also discuss how these techniques may be applicable to driving and even to music.
Yuval Boger (VRGuy): Hello Daniel, and thanks for joining me today.
Daniel Laby: Thanks, Yuval. My pleasure.
VRGuy: So, who are you? And what do you do?
Daniel: I’m an ophthalmologist who, for the past 25 years has worked a fair amount in professional sports and athletics, elite level athletics, both the pro level and Olympic level. Trying to understand what the vision, what the visual performance, cognitive visual abilities, the hand eye coordination and reaction time. All sorts of metrics, all based on, at the root, on how visual function impacts performance.
VRGuy: Any particular teams that I might know?
Daniel: Probably. If you’ve watched the World Series over the last several years, three of the past five World Series winners are teams that we’ve worked with. Including the most recent, Houston Astros, a couple weeks ago.
VRGuy: Is that for pitchers? For hitters? For managers? Who do you work with most?
Daniel: Some might ask for the umpires, but they’ve been a hard nut to crack. No, it’s mostly with the batters because, as some people have talked about, hitting a baseball is one of the most difficult things to do in all of sports. And certainly in order to hit the baseball, you have to see it properly. Quite a bit of work has been done by our group and several other groups across the country, and even around the globe, in trying to understand what the vision requirements are for a batter to hit a thrown baseball. And you’d be surprised, it’s certainly not very easy.
VRGuy: As I think about hitting a baseball, you got to see it well, right? You have to have the correct refraction. But there must also be some brain function, right? Or brain training. Where do you focus your effort?
Daniel: When I lecture to my students, I show some slides. I’m interested in the entire pathway of the point of the photon of light leaves the baseball, in the pitchers hand, just before he releases it, 60 feet away from the batter, until it goes all through the ocular system, the brains part of the visual system, into the parts of the brain that have to then integrate visual information into the vision making, and ultimately into a go/no go muscular action. Until that point, where we can’t distinguish an action related to that photon.