Many of us have had this experience: we are sitting in a parked car in a parking lot, the car next to us slowly pulls out, and, all of the sudden, we get the feeling that it is our car that is moving forward. Our eyes have tricked the brain into thinking we are moving forward and, for a split second, we actually feel like our body is moving forward.
This month, I gave a lecture to the University of North Carolina Sports Medicine team regarding the symptoms of concussions that have affected the visual system, testing athletes using the See To Play Vision Concussion Protocol, treating athletes for recovery and recent findings from a 3 year retrospective study of our concussion protocol. UNC has become nationally renowned as a leader in the nation in regarding concussion research (click here to read more )
I am honored that they have referred patients to me and our concussion protocol has allowed people to return to a normal life quicker (I am pictured above with Dr. Jason Mihalik in the sports medicine training facility)
Athletes with visual systems affected by concussions complain of light sensitivity, blurred vision, double vision, trouble staying on task, apprehension walking into a crowd of people, trouble focusing on the computer or reading, feeling funny while riding in a car, and that the world seems to move funny.
The See To Play concussion protocol is a 10 Stage testing of the visual system designed to diagnose a vision concussion, determine which part or parts of the vision system needed treatment or exercising to return to play, and also gives a therapy regimen to help this occur. We are in the process of getting the protocol published so that it will be available to doctors nationwide.
A 3 year retrospective finding on the protocol reveals:
- 78% of patients had a change in refractive status
- 31% of patients returned to normal just by changing glasses prescription
- 61% of patients required vision therapy
- Patients using vision therapy returned to play in 6 weeks
- Patients not using vision therapy returned to play in 12 weeks
As an eye doctor who helps athletes reach their genetic potential, my favorite part of the Duke-UNC game last night occurred when ESPN's announcer Dick Vitale crooned that Duke forward Jabari Parkers’ nearsightedness wasn’t affecting him as he sank a three pointer. Dick’s broadcasting partner chimed in “that’s because Parker’s wearing his contact lenses!”
When I polled the NBA teams, the stats of players who needed to wear contact lenses, eye glasses or had LASIK to see better(regardless if they chose to play with them) was:
· 18.9% in 2012-1013
· 16% in 2009 - 2010
That’s a far cry from the 54% of 18-29 year olds in the United states who need corrective eye wear (this is the same age group as the NBA players ....click here for stats).
Comparing those statistics, 30% of those blurry high school basketball players (3 out of 10) got weeded out of getting into college or beyond because of their vision.
Change the age range to include 18-35 year olds, and it turns out 61% of us in the US need something to help us see our best. This suggests that nearly 2 out 5 basketball athletes get weeded out of making it to the professional level due to their vision.
They're pretty smart there at Duke. Coach K jumped in and insisted that Jabari start wearing contacts when he arrived at school. Dr. Terry Kim got him wearing contacts that didn’t feel funny so he wouldn’t have to blink as much.
Athletes need every edge to be the best. Ignoring the small problems in high school can blow into bigger problems when the completion level gets better. Big fish in a small pond are just average fish when they jump to a pond full of big fish. A split second here; a missed judge distance there and you’ve missed the shot.
Also, elite athletes have bigger areas of this clear vision. As you just read in my last blog, elite athletes standing at the arc of the three point line only have to move their eyes in two gaze positions to see from the left side line to right side line where the average athlete has to move their eyes almost 5 gaze positions to see everything. Again, another season elite perform at a higher level. Elite see more quicker allowing them to react faster.
In a recent WSJ article (click here), it was suggested that less than perfect vision may be acceptable in some sports (especially basketball) but I think the stats I state here suggest otherwise. Sure, there are some of the 18.9% in last year’s NBA teams who chose not to wear correction while playing, but there is still 30%-40% of potential athletes who never made it there because of their eyes.
Another stat showing players like to see to play was last years’ Miami Heat. There were 4 players on there team who had LASIK…..Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosch and Mario Chalmers representing a whopping 27% of the team.
Jabari hit the eye wall. He’s busted through it with contacts! (I bet will be reading about his LASIK at Duke in about 4 or 5 years! Keep the lasers warmed up Dr. Kim!)
March madness showcases how much some athletes have to move and shift their eyes while coming down the court and others don't.
This is called gaze control and elite athletes have better gaze control. They don't shift their eyes as much.
One reason average athletes move their eyes more is because their area of vision is smaller than that of the elite.
Our central vision gives us our best vision and we can measure this on athletes. In my book, See To Play, we describe this area as the detailed vision zone and how to measure for it. Average athletes see detail in less than 30 degrees of one gaze while the best athletes see over 50 degrees. (I met with professional basketball trainer, Joe Sharpe, this summer and this fact really impressed him...so much so that he thanked me by sending a Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and OKC Thunder signed ball.)
Let’s compare two basketball point guards standing at the top of the three point line. The average athlete will have to shift their eyes 5 times to see from one side of the court to the other. The better athletes can see that same area with just 2 shifts of eye gaze. The better athlete moves his eyes half as much, takes in the same information and performs that task in a shorter amount of time.
Eye gaze has been studied on athletes by measuring how much athletes move their eyes. These studies found that better athletes move their eyes less and their eyes don’t jump as much before decision making. This is often referred to as a quiet eye. Brain activity was also measured to be less before decision making with these athletes.
This raises the question: does this occur because athletes are more mentally prepared or are there other factors?
I believe that the biggest factor is how much an athlete sees (i.e., athletes who exhibit large detailed vision zone take in more information in one gaze, can get the whole picture of the playing field in a shorter amount of time allowing for less processing and quicker decision making.) I hope this will be studied more by the quiet eye folks.
So, which came first? The chicken or the egg…………….or in this instance….is gazed controlled by the size of the detailed vision zone or the amount of thinking?
I’ll take the athlete with the larger detailed vision zone!
Enjoy watching the March Madness Eye Movements!
Ask anybody why a pirate wears an eye patch and they'll tell you "because his eye got poked out by a sword fight".
But, the real reason lies with nighttime vision versus daylight vision.
Have you ever gone to the movie theater on a very bright sunny day. As you walk into the theater, you realize you can't see. Everything is so dark. Your eyes were adjusted to the daylight and now have to go through a period of adjusting to the dark.
This adjustment is because the receptors in the eyes, the rods and cones, are switching on and off. Daylight vision uses cones. Nighttime vision uses rods. So, there is a period of time where one type of receptor has to get warmed up while the other shuts down. (This is a main reason why vision at dusk is difficult.)
It's believed Pirates wore eye patches so that they could adjust their vision from the bright sun on the top deck, to the vision needed in the dark lower levels of the ship...in particular...where ammunition and cannon's were housed.
The patch would be used to protect the vision in the eye that the pirate would want to use in the darkness of lower levels of the boat. He would merely need to flip up the patch that was over the eye and that eye would be ready to see in the darkness of the underneath.
People who have their eyes examined at the eye doctors notice this phonemenon to some extend. The eye doctor usually shuts off the left eye while testing the right eye. After testing the right eye, the doctor will open up the block over the left eye and block the right. Many times, patients notice that there is an orangish glow or hue when the left eye is opened up. This occurs because the left eye has begun to dark adapt and the cones have to readjust.
So, the next time you see a pirate wearing a patch...just realize they want to be ready to see in the dark!!
First, the statistics:
Problems with vision is the common denominator in the lack of success with athletes playing a sport and learning.
Former President, Mr. Bill Clinton and LA Lakers' Kobe Bryant lead a panel this week which opened the Clinton Health Matters Initiative Conference. Their focus was barriers to access, coaching quality and safety to help improve children becoming more active and fit. Nike jumped in to help with a new initiative to help promote this message as well.
This "build it and they will come" approach can work, but I hope we don't miss the opportunity for a bigger message: build with a solid foundation. As the statistics point out, that foundation is a properly working visual system.
In an effort to make sure kids could see in North Carolina, we passed a bill in 2005 mandating eye exams for all children entering kindergarten. Farsightedness (which is the most prevalent vision issue at a young age) interferes with the eyes ability to get a clear focused image to the brain (we can't focus) as well as throwing off the body's coordination by causing reaction time to be too fast. Nearsighted kids can't see to get clear images from the board and slow down reaction time in sports.
The law was repealed before it was implemented.
we are waking up to the fact that almost 50,000 third graders will have to attend a six week reading boot camp during the summer in order to acquire the proper reading skills to advance to the fourth grade. Kids are falling behind. Are we reaping what we sow?
I hope you'll join me in my mission in helping kids reach their genetic potential...both in sports and in the classroom!
Get them to the eye doctor.
2013 was a great year for See To Play! Here are just some of the highlights:
- We began our 15th season as the eye doctors for the NHL Carolina Hurricanes during a shortened season due to CBA stoppage.
- Held a seminar and hands on training session regarding See To Play with some of the coaching and training staff at West Virginia University Football. Afterwards, I was invited to a WVU basketball game as Athletic Director Oliver Lucks guest.
Started 3rd season as eye doctor for the Carolina Railhawks, a professional soccer team in the North American Soccer League.
- Fox Sports TV interview on NHL eye injuries.
- Concussion consultation with members of training staff/facility from Elon University
- Started 23rd season as Durham Bulls eye doctor and 22nd with the Carolina Mudcats
- Team photo of NHL Carolina Hurricanes
May: Inducted into the Petersburg High School Sports Hall of Fame, Petersburg, West Virginina
- Interview with Cincinnati Reds Fox Sports’ Chris Welsh. Introduction to Red’s strength and condition Coach Matt Krause and tour of Reds facility.
- 10th season as USA Baseball team eye doctor
- Consultation with US Army Special Ops regarding vision training.
SeeTo Play hands on clinic with Joe Sharpe, trainer for NBA OKC Thunder and USA Basketball.
See To Play written about in NY Times Best Seller, The Sports Gene, by SI senior writer, David Epstein.
- Tour of WVU's new weigh training facility.
Lecturer at the Pete Friesen Physiofitness Summit
- 16th season as eye doctor of NHL Carolina Hurricanes.
- Added the Fit Light training system to our Sports Vision Training facility and Vision Concussion Rehabilitation Clinic
- Special recognition program held during halftime of playoff game for our work with the athletes of Wakefield High School.
- Presented class on "Sports Eye Injuries" to the staff/Doctors at Orthopaedic Specialists of NC
- Guest of OKC Thunder trainer, Joe Sharpe, at the Thunder vs Bobcat game. (Team signed ball given to me earlier in the month)
Reached the 200 mark of patient concussion encounters for the year 2013.
Why did Florida State's quarterback and Heisman hopeful, Jamies Winston quit squinting? The simple answer: Peer pressure! He was "peer pressured" in to wearing his contacts. (At least that's my bet, all eyes are off him since he lost his squint!)
Peer pressured to wear contacts?! That statement sounds odd, doesn't it? Most people won't wear their glasses or contacts because they are called a nerd.
Tonight's ACC football championship game has been titled the colossal match of a David versus Goliath. The Cinderella team, Duke, against perennial power house and national championship hopeful, Florida State. Duke faces heavy odds to win this game.
Athletes who need to wear glasses or contact lenses to see their best face heavy odds against making into the professional sports ranks.
2 out of 5 athletes won't make it to the NFL because of their vision. Only the best eyes make it.
Sure, Winston has been phenomenal playing when he was playing without contacts, but why did he choose to be less than perfect? Why not choose to push the envelop on being the best athlete ever to play that possition.
It turns out his national squinting fit may have been the best thing to happen to him. Being chastised for his squint may have been all the motivation he needed to start wearing his contacts more.
Now, if he plays without them, he will consciously have to think about "not squinting" during tonight's game. If he has to think about "not squinting", his mind will be off his game. Rainy, nighttime games are the conditions that make it the hardest for athletes to see to play.
My eyes will be on seeing if Winston squints. I'm sure he won't.... and I'd hope a reporter asks him after the game if he wore his contacts..... even though I know this was yesterday's news.
All eyes are off the Winston squint.....except mine!
I thought I would give you an update into the question, "Does Jameis Winston's Squint Affect his Stats"
This is his stats night games versus day:
Night Games Day Games
Completion ptg 72 % 68 %
Yards passing/game 318 270
Intercept/game .75 .7
TD/Game 2.5 3.14
Pretty much a wash!
See To Play is officially 3 years old today! Happy Birthday!
I hope you all have enjoyed my blog. I have really enjoyed getting all your emails and questions. Keep them coming!
The most important thing is touching more lives so that athletes realize...if they aren't seeing their best, they won't be their best! You Gotta See To Play!!
This blog is a “Cliff Note” version on why athletes squint, performance problems, inclusion of the Jameis Winston squint topic, and ways to improve athletes’ vision.
Astigmatism: Without using glasses or contacts, causes night time vision to be worse. Players in these conditions will squint more during night games and perform worse. Jameis states his vision doesn’t affect his game. Looking at his stats and assuming he has not worn his contacts in any game, he is correct when he states his vision hasn’t affected his game. His completion percentage and yards passing is better at night while having less interceptions. His TD/game is higher in daytime. (*see below)
2 out of 5 athletes won’t make it to the professional level because of less than perfect vision. This year’s survey of the NFL shows that 18% of them wear glasses, contacts or had refractive surgery compared to 60% of their peers in other professions.
Avaira Toric contacts: They’re the thinnest, most comfortable on the market that I’ve found for athletes who are very sensitive to the feel of contacts. This is what I would use with Jameis and urge him to wear them.
LASIK: Jameis is too young. Eyes usually stop changing around 24 or 25 years of age and start again mid 30’s to 40’s. He’s gotta wait.
Ortho-k: Evidently, there is a facebook account stating that Jameis has done this in the past. Ortho-K patients wear hard contacts at night while sleeping. This pushes the front part of the eye back into a position so the patient doesn’t need glasses during waking hours. (Astigmatism is a condition where the front part of the eye is shaped like a football. Eyes need to be basketball shaped to see clearly. This procedure pushes the football shaped cornea into a basketball shaped cornea while sleeping.) The problem with this procedure for athletes is that during the day, when the lenses are off, the corneas want to go back to their natural position. So, at night, the eyes are at their worse again. (Here’s an analogy: The Boston Redsocks decide to make better looking beards without cutting them. To do this, special netting is worn over the beards during sleep to push them back. The beard will be less long and bushy because it has been matted back during sleep…guess what…that beard is going to go back to its natural length by game time!!)
Eye glasses: Ok option but get sweaty and hard to see through in a football helmet.
Prescription helmet shields: This is a misnomer. There is actually no prescription in the football helmet shields to correct vision. They are prescribed by doctors to protect eye health or help athletes who suffer from light sensitivity due to medical condition.
Shame on Florida State Medical Staff if this is true (and I don’t think it can be)! Follow this link to hear Jameis in an interview about his vision. One of his statements is that he just went to the eye doctor last week for his annual exam. Athletes, especially a Heisman trophy candidate, should be checked at the beginning of each season… to correct vision if needed and practice with new vision. Then, athletes should be checked again at the end of a season to re-evaluate how to improve vision off season with eye exercises, newer technology in contacts or surgery.
Dollars: No one in the sports world really cares if you fail except the people invested in you. Athletes are replaced over and over. There is a beginning and an end. Your opposition hopes you fail.
You matter to yourself though. Why go through all the hard workouts and the tremendous dedication to become the best…but then chose not to have the best vision? You cannot reach your genetic potential without seeing your best. Seeing less than perfect is being less than perfect. No matter how great you are now, you could be greater seeing better. You’ve pushed and motivated yourself to better performance; now do that with your eyes.
The phobia of “putting something in your eye” has derailed a lot of athletes. Being around eye doctors that can’t correct you or people that won’t push you to “see your best” has derailed athletes as well. 2 out of 5 of you won’t go pro due to your eyes.
*Jameis stats this year Fla. State:
Night Games Day Games
Completion ptg 72 % 67 %
Yards passing/game 318 278
Intercept/game .75 .8
TD/Game 2.5 3.2
What does it all mean? Either Jameis doesn't have vision problems and likes to squint, he is having vision problems, squints and is beating the odds right now (meaning night time stats will crash...case in point, Dan Uggla), or he could be doing even better if he would wear his contacts.