Keeping your eyes continuously on the ball while running for catchable and uncatchable fly balls.

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Keeping your eyes continuously on the ball while running for catchable and uncatchable fly balls.

PLoS One. 2014;9(3):e92392

Authors: Postma DB, den Otter AR, Zaal FT

Abstract
When faced with a fly ball approaching along the sagittal plane, fielders need information for the control of their running to the interception location. This information could be available in the initial part of the ball trajectory, such that the interception location can be predicted from its initial conditions. Alternatively, such predictive information is not available, and running to the interception location involves continuous visual guidance. The latter type of control would predict that fielders keep looking at the approaching ball for most of its flight, whereas the former type of control would fit with looking at the ball during the early part of the ball’s flight; keeping the eyes on the ball during the remainder of its trajectory would not be necessary when the interception location can be inferred from the first part of the ball trajectory. The present contribution studied visual tracking of approaching fly balls. Participants were equipped with a mobile eye tracker. They were confronted with tennis balls approaching from about 20 m, and projected in such a way that some balls were catchable and others were not. In all situations, participants almost exclusively tracked the ball with their gaze until just before the catch or until they indicated that a ball was uncatchable. This continuous tracking of the ball, even when running close to their maximum speeds, suggests that participants employed continuous visual control rather than running to an interception location known from looking at the early part of the ball flight.

PMID: 24670972 [PubMed – in process]

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