PIKEVILLE – As the sports vision optometrist for the University of Pikeville’s new Esports team, Eilene Eugenio Kinzer, O.D., has been brushing up on her video game skills. Kinzer knows that the key to mastering League of Legends, a multi-player online battle arena for collegiate gamers, is strategy, quick response time and vision control.
Kinzer has designed a vision-training program that will help the Esports team achieve optimal performance when they begin competing against other universities in the Collegiate Star League this fall.
A faculty member at the University of Pikeville-Kentucky College of Optometry, Kinzer was appointed by Donald Egan, O.D., associate dean of academic affairs for the Kentucky College of Optometry, under the direction of Roya Attar, O.D., to assist Esports Head Coach Eric VanHoose and program founder Bruce Parsons.
The University of Pikeville, or UPIKE, is the second school in the country to offer Esports scholarships, following Robert Morris University in Chicago, Ill. UPIKE’s team will be competing against schools such as Columbia, Johns Hopkins and Harvard. More than 400 hundred collegiate teams are expected to compete during the 2015-2016 school year. Many professional and collegiate sports teams, including football, baseball and volleyball, incorporate visual training to improve an athlete’s performance. Visual perception is the means in which a visual stimulus is observed by the eye’s visual sensors and communicated to the brain. Visual perception training can help enhance a person’s hand-eye coordination, peripheral awareness and eye tracking abilities, skills that benefit Esports athletes. UPIKE’s vision training program will also include eye exams, health checks and the use of specialized software and eye tracking technology during practice sessions.
The Kentucky College of Optometry is also pursuing research ventures in the Esports field. Topics include determining the best monitor settings to minimize eye fatigue for athletes and developing a vision training protocol specifically designed to optimize performance.
“The vision-training program for Esports student-athletes will focus on improving game play and create research opportunities from a broader perspective, including home and business use,” said Kinzer. “We hope to apply this research in the areas of eyestrain and potential visual problems associated with computer monitors and hand-held devices.” The Esport team’s relationship with the Kentucky College of Optometry is a good example of the possibilities within a structured varsity program, according Parsons.
“The research component and developing science study provides tactile and immediate feedback to help student-athletes,” said Parsons. “For Esport athletes interested in the professional gaming industry, this also provides untapped avenues beyond competitive play.”
The Kentucky College of Optometry is the fourth college under the University of Pikeville banner and reflects the institution’s mission of service and strategic initiatives. In the process of applying to the American Council for Optometric Education for pre-accreditation status, the University of Pikeville would be the 22nd school in the country to have a college of optometry. Construction has begun on a new educational facility to house the Kentucky College of Optometry. Sixty students will be admitted per class for a total of 240. The university expects to provide for the underserved in Central Appalachia and other rural areas of the country.