One of the first things I do when working with an athlete is an eye dominance exercise. Your dominant eye is the one you tend to use when looking through a microscope, telescope or small hole. Just as you are right- or left-handed, you are also right- or left-eyed. You may be same side dominant [right-handed and right-eyed] or cross dominant [right-handed and left-eyed].
To determine your dominant eye, locate an object [like a light switch] on the opposite side of the room. Stretch your arms straight out in front of you with your palms facing away. Place your right hand over your left, leaving a one-inch-diameter hole above your thumbs [see photo]. Look through the hole at the selected object. Close one eye and then the other. The eye that sees the object through the hole is your dominant eye. [You can also do this exercise by looking into a mirror and seeing which eye peeks through the hole you make with your hands.]
The dominant eye processes information 14 to 21 milliseconds faster than the other eye. You use the dominant eye to determine where a ball, target or line of a putt is. Pro golf and baseball have a larger percentage of cross dominant players than the general population. This suggests it may be an advantage to have the dominant eye closer to the action.
For golfers, when putting, I usually recommend having the dominant eye over the back tip of the ball with the eyes directly over and square to the line of the putt. If you plumb bob—i.e., hold your putter as a vertical line to determine the green's slope—use the dominant eye and hold the putter shaft in the corresponding hand. For example, a right-handed, left-eyed golfer would hold the putter in the left hand and sight with the left eye.
For batters [especially same side dominant], I recommend a stance in which both eyes can see the pitcher when he releases the ball, so that the dominant eye is not blocked by the bridge of the nose. Remember, the dominant eye picks up information faster. You can check your position by getting in stance, closing the eye nearest the pitcher and seeing if your other eye is blocked or open to the pitcher’s release point.
In tennis, if you are cross dominant, be careful not to block the dominant eye from seeing the ball when you reach for a backhand shot. When your non-dominant eye takes over, it may not see the ball in the same position. This can explain some problems with backhand.
Cross dominant shooters can have problems sighting their weapons. They have the highest failure rates qualifying on the shooting ranges in the Armed Forces. I once had a patient who could not qualify for the police force, but after learning about eye dominance, he was able to qualify.
Knowing your dominant eye can improve your game regardless of the sport you play or your skill level. My next blog post will discuss ways to make your non-dominant eye stronger, so check back soon.
Photos: weiunderpar.com, topendsports.com