Premier League soccer players have one key physical attribute which gives them an edge over us mere mortals: excellent eyesight
They have â€œsubstantially betterâ€ vision than the general public, according to the first-ever comprehensive scientific assessment of Premier League playersâ€™ eyesight.
The findings show that soccer stars are much faster at changing their focus between objects that are close or distant â€“ an ability known as â€œnear-far quickness.â€
They also have sharper vision and are more able to pick out things against a background, such as a crowd of roaring fans.
Defenders have the best near-far quickness, which also known as â€œaccommodative vergenceâ€ â€“ which could help them adapt to the offside trap.
In the first study of its kind, scientists recruited 49 first team and Under-21 soccer players from an unnamed Premier League club as well as 31 intermediate male college players.
They examined visual functions considered critical to sports performance in players of different skill levels and playing positions using the Nike SPARQ Sensory Station.
This is an interactive touch screen device that evaluates athletes on visual skills such as depth perception, eye-hand coordination, and reaction time.
The participants stood 16 feet from the sensory station while they responded to tasks using an iPod.
Researchers then compared the data to those from a study of 230 healthy non-athletic men and women using the same apparatus.
The soccer players, both professional and amateur, were â€œsignificantly betterâ€ on all measures except target capture and perception.
Professor Simon Bennett, of the Research Institute of Sport and Exercise Sciences at Liverpool John Moores University, said: â€œThere was no difference between elite and intermediate players for all measures.â€
But both the Premier League and college players had better visual sharpness compared to the control group.
Bennett said: â€œVisual function of competitive soccer players is superior to non-athletic adults, but does not differentiate the elite and intermediate player.â€
â€œHowever, defensive players do exhibit faster accommodative vergence than offensive players.â€
â€œWe suspect that this particular visual function is advantageous for defenders given the greater demand to continually shift gaze between players located at near and far locations.â€
He added: â€œThis contrasts with offensive players who benefit from looking at the best possible option to increase the chances of scoring â€¦ and thus do not need to make as many gaze changes between near and far locations.â€
His study is the first comprehensive assessment of visual function in Premier League soccer players.