Colour blindness in cricket can be managed, study shows

Cricketers batting without a sight screen or fielding in the out-field are likely to be most disadvantaged by their colour blindness, a new study has found.

Previous studies had already shown that cricketers with a red/green colour deficiency can have trouble seeing the red ball against the green grass of the playing field and surrounds.

The most recent study into colour blindness in Australian cricket tested 293 Premier cricketers from nine clubs throughout Melbourne.

Nearly one out of ten (26 players) were found to have abnormal colour vision with nine players suffering from severe colour blindness.

While the rate of colour blindness was on par with the general population, the study found significantly lower than average rates of colour blindness at higher grades – suggesting that self-selection based on colour deficiency may be happening at elite levels of the game.

Players in the study who suffered from colour blindness reported losing sight of the ball when it was running on the grass or seeing the ball against trees and bushes. Ninety-six per cent opted to field in the mid or in-field to help compensate for the condition.

“If you suffer from a red/green colour deficiency you will have trouble seeing the ball against the grass, so place yourself in a position where you are able to field the ball before it hits the ground,” said Shirley Loh, professional services manager for the Optometrists Association Australia.

Ms Loh suggests that players who suffer from colour blindness ask their club to use sightscreens behind the bowler to change the contrast – a tool that is said to have helped batting legend Bill Ponsford deal with his severe form of the condition.

“Records into Ponsford’s career show a stark contrast between his batting average while playing with St Kilda, where sight screens were not used, to his batting average while playing for Melbourne and Victoria where sight screens were in use.

“His batting average while playing with Victoria was 86.3 as compared to 46.4 while at St Kilda.”

The study also suggested that colour blindness does not impede bowlers providing a real alternative for cricketers suffering from severe colour blindness.

Ms Loh said that many players who suffer from colour blindness don’t even know they suffer from the condition.

“Nearly half (42%) of the 26 players did not know that they suffered from abnormal colour vision, and may not have been aware of adjustments they could make to their game to suit the condition,” she said.

“The first step for cricketers is to get their eyes tested by an optometrist. Have your eyes examined regularly and ask your optometrist to test your colour vision.”

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