In ball sports, it is usually acknowledged that expert athletes track the ball more accurately than novices. However, there is also evidence that keeping the eyes on the ball is not always necessary for interception. Here we aimed at gaining new insights on the extent to which ocular pursuit performance is related to catching performance. To this end, we analyzed eye and head movements of nine subjects catching a ball projected by an actuated launching apparatus. Four different ball flight durations and two different ball arrival heights were tested and the quality of ocular pursuit was characterized by means of several timing and accuracy parameters. Catching performance differed across subjects and depended on ball flight characteristics. All subjects showed a similar sequence of eye movement events and a similar modulation of the timing of these events in relation to the characteristics of the ball trajectory. On a trial-by-trial basis there was a significant relationship only between pursuit duration and catching performance, confirming that keeping the eyes on the ball longer increases catching success probability. Ocular pursuit parameters values and their dependence on flight conditions as well as the eye and head contributions to gaze shift differed across subjects. However, the observed average individual ocular behavior and the eye-head coordination patterns were not directly related to the individual catching performance. These results suggest that several oculomotor strategies may be used to gather information on ball motion, and that factors unrelated to eye movements may underlie the observed differences in interceptive performance.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)