The aim of the study was to delineate differences in saccadic adaptation characteristics between a population of racquet sports athletes and nonathletes.
Eye movements were recorded at 120 Hz using a video-based eye tracker (ELMAR 2020) in a sample of 27 athletes (varsity badminton and squash players) and 14 nonathletes (<3 hours/week participation in recreational sports). Responses to negative positional error and positive positional error were studied in two sessions on separate days. Negative positional errors were induced by displacing the stimuli backwards by 3° from the initial target step (12°). Likewise, positive positional errors were induced by displacing the stimuli forward by 3°. Amplitude gains were calculated for trials before, during, and after the adaptation phase. The magnitude and the rate of change of saccadic adaptation were determined from the amplitude gains. Differences between the groups were compared using regression analysis.
No significant differences were found between the two groups in the magnitude of saccadic adaptation, both for negative (athletes −60%, nonathletes −57%) and positive (athletes +26%, and nonathletes +27%) positional error. Racquet sports athletes showed a significantly faster rate of adaptation for the positive positional error. A significant difference was not observed in the rate of adaptation for the negative positional error.
Racquet sports athletes and nonathletes adapt to positional error signals by similar amounts. However, racquet sports athletes respond to positive positional errors at a faster rate, suggesting that a strategic component or environmental influences (such as practice) may play a role in saccadic adaptation.