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When it comes to preparing for sports and physical activities, most of us think first about strength training, cardiovascular conditioning, and nutrition. However, healthy eyes are just as important for sports performance as the health of the rest of your body. Good vision is important in both competitive and recreational sports, and involves numerous aspects of your vision working together to form a cohesive ability to quickly move from one vision task to another. Even minor vision problems may have a significant impact on your athletic performance if left untreated. Be sure to make regular vision examinations an integral part of your athletic preparation.

SPORT-SPECIFIC VISION NEEDS

Think about your sports activities and take a moment to reflect on how you use your vision to help your performance. Do you need to track an object as it moves? Judge distances? Keep track of multiple pieces of visual information all at once? Chances are you use several key types of vision all at once to efficiently aid you in your athletic endeavors. There are six primary components of vision that help you in sports:

  • Dynamic vision: Allows you to see an object clearly at any point along its path.
  • Vision tracking: Allows you to not only see an object at a particular point in time, but to keep track of it along its path. This is increasingly important as the the object’s speed increases.
  • Focus: The ability to lock in your vision on an object quickly, clearly, and with accuracy.
  • Focus regulation: Allows your eyes to work in a coordinated manner during high-speed or dynamic activities with many things happening all at once, or when you are under intense pressure or stress.
  • Peripheral vision: Allows you to see from the corners of your eyes so you can see objects at both sides of you, even when you are looking straight ahead.
  • Depth perception: Allows you to accurately judge distances and the speed of objects, including people.

EYE EXAMS AND ATHLETES

Just as eye exams are important for monitoring your vision for everyday activities, they are also an important aspect of sports performance. Regular, thorough vision screenings may help to not only ensure your eye health, but your eye doctor may also be able to make recommendations for protective eyewear or a vision therapy program to help improve your sport-specific vision and keep your eyes safe during athletic activities.

Protective eyewear is essential, and even required, in many sports, and most types are available even for those requiring prescriptions for vision correction. Thousands of eye injuries occur annually during both competitive and recreational athletic activities, and nearly all of them are avoidable with proper eye protection.

ATHLETIC EYE INJURIES

Athletic eye injuries typically fall into one of three categories: radiation, penetrating, and blunt trauma injuries.

Blunt trauma is by far the most common type of eye injury and should be evaluated immediately as an orbital blowout fracture, ruptured eye, or retinal detachment are emergencies and could pose risk of permanent damage. A blowout fracture involves a broken bone around or under the eye and is serious as the bone could potentially be pushed against or into the eye itself causing further damage. If the eye becomes ruptured, the fluid inside the eye may leak out or infection may get inside the eye — either way, the results may be devastating. Finally, a detached retina prevents visual signals from being transmitted through the eye to the brain. Any direct injury to the eye should be treated as an emergency.

Penetrating injuries of the eye are far less common but also emergencies that require immediate treatment. They involve an object cutting the eye or becoming embedded in the eye. Do not attempt to remove the material or object yourself — as you could possibly cause further damage. Instead, seek medical attention right away. Take caution to prevent any penetrating object from moving, coming out, or pushing further in as you seek help.

Radiation injuries in sports are due to excess sun exposure when engaging in outdoor activities. These are particularly common in snow and water sports where radiation from the sun reflects back up at you from the snow or water. The best treatment for radiation injuries is prevention — always wear sunglasses with broad-spectrum UV-lenses and ideally with wrap-around features.

Every sport involves specific vision tasks and protective measures. To learn more about the vision requirements for your sport and how to ensure your eye health, please call Silverstein Eye Centers today at (816) 358-3600 for our Independence/Kansas City office.

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