This Sunday, I was selected as the Tar Heel of the Week by the News and Observer in recognition for my life's work in helping athletes reach their genetic athletic potential by seeing their best and also for our new concussion protocol that was published last month.
I am very honored! Click here to read the article.
I couldn't do this alone and I'd like to make sure that those who have helped me along the way know I have deeply appreciated their help.
It started with my parents.
I was devastated when I decided to hang up my football cleats. It's very hard to quit. I believe we've all been at that crossroad in our lives where one part of life ends, either by choice or not, and you have to move on. It was a very emotional time for me. I was very fortunate to have a great support system in my parents who guided me through the next months.
I guess this is my "never give up" speech (...and Jimmy Valvano's is the best!)
I've had so much help through my friends, teachers, professors, business partners, coworkers, athletes and patients. You all share this with me.
And for you athletes out there trying to reach you genetic athletic potential; the FIRST rule in my book, See To Play, is that you have to....
SEE THE BEST TO BE THE BEST
David Tanabe was the first NHL Carolina Hurricane to retire due to a concussion in 2008.
A couple months later, Matt Cullen suffered a concussion that affected the part of his brain responsible for moving the eyes, focusing the eyes and making vision (taking the input from the eyes and actually making sense of it all)
There was no vision protocol or no testing that could tell us, the team optometrists, how bad his injury was or how long it would take for him to heal.
That's when we started our work developing our concussion protocol. And this week, it was published in the Optometry and Visual Performance Journal. Click here to go to the article.
This protocol is a step by step guide for eye doctors to determine if an athlete has a concussion of the visual system and it also gives step by step instructions on how to help athletes get better through vision training.
A three year retrospective study showed that return to play was cut in half (from 12 weeks to 6 weeks) when this type of therapy was used.
The great thing about this protocol is that there are no gadgets for eye doctors to buy. Most of the equipment is already found in their office.
They can take this protocol and implement it today.
I see patients that travel to see me for concussion care from all over the country. Many of them wonder why more eye doctors don't do this type of care.
It is my hope that eye doctors will start treating patients with this type of injury today!
Concussions are a frustrating injury to have and sometimes slow to return to normal. Now there is a tool to help the recovery process.
You have to See To Play!!!
I ran across this news article which was written to teach parents how to use the King Devick test to determine if their child has sustained a concussion.
Click here to go to the article
If you're a NCAA basketball player wanting to improve your free throw percentage, don't play against Arizona State at their home arena. The crowd in the background is so distracting...you are going to miss! (read it here) Student shenanigan's in the background are making visiting team foul shooters miss 10% more of thier free throws.
I dedicated an entire chapter, Chapter 7 Visual Noise, to this fact. Actually, for those who haven't read my book yet, here is exactly what I wrote:
"Imagine you are a college basketball player. You are playing against your team’s biggest rival in their gym, which is filled with 15,000 screaming fans. It’s the championship game. The game is tied. There is a tenth of a second left to go in the game. You get fouled. You miss the first shot of a two-shot foul, so you only have one shot left. The other team calls a time out which has just now ended. You step up to the foul line where the referee hands you the ball. The crowd is screaming. You bounce the ball and look to find the rim 15 feet away. The backboard is made of a transparent material so you see the hundreds of fans around it and behind it rooting against you, jumping up and down and waving their big orange noodles. The backboard and rim appear to be floating and engulfed in this sea of bouncing humanity and orange noodles. You focus on the front of the rim and try to ignore the motion of all the waving stuff behind it.
Sounds pretty intense, huh?
Your brain is being bombarded by input from your eyes. The fans and their orange noodles are visual noise. You are accustomed to practicing in a gym, with no fans or movement in the background. The backboard and rim are easily visible. You have no problems concentrating on the rim in that atmosphere. Your brain is on cruise control there. Things change when your eyes start sending the brain input from things that you are not used to seeing. You have to learn to filter out those distractions.
Visual noise can affect the way that athletes perform, but not many athletes realize that the best way combat it is to prepare for its presence. We know it exists. We know there are forces out there trying to break our concentration, that creep into our heads and make us fall short in our athletic endeavors. The crowd screams loud. Whistles blow. Opposing players talk smack as well as their fans, and things are going on all around us that, if allowed to enter the thought process in a negative way, can distract the athlete."
See To Play; The Eyes of Elite Athletes has enjoyed much success since it was published almost 3 years ago. Ahead of it's time? For the readers of See To Play, the success of the Arizona State students' distractions to opponent's free throw success is old news....but it's great to get more outside data concurring with us!
You have to See To Play.....and.....learn to filter out visual noise!
Danny was always better than the average player in baseball as he grew up.
He also went to the eye doctor in middle school and found out that a mild eye glasses prescription could help him see 20/15 instead of the 20/25 vision that he saw without glasses. The only problem was he had astigmatism and contacts wouldn’t work with his type of prescription. He also didn’t like glasses for hitting.
Danny made it to the collegiate level, but his stats at hitting began to falter. He didn’t get a offer from a pro team, so he tried out for several for a couple of years.
Growing up, his parents spent a lot of money on equipment, camps, lessons and travel ball. He spent a lot of his energy and time on practicing and playing.
He retired from baseball at 23.
He cheated himself of reaching his genetic potential because he didn’t like to wear his eyeglasses.
Mike was great at basketball, mainly because he was 6’ 4” by middle school. He found out he was 20/60 but couldn’t put contacts in his eyes. He didn’t like glasses so he elected to play with blurry vision. He played AAU and made the high school team. During his junior year his numbers started faltering and he was moved off the better AAU teams. He didn’t want to try contacts again but still had dreams of becoming a pro basketball player. He earned a scholarship to a Div. III school but retired from basketball after he graduated.
Mike’s parents spent a lot of money on shoes, camps, lessons and travel ball. He spent a lot of his energy and time on practicing and playing. He cheated himself of reaching his genetic potential because he didn’t force himself to wear contacts or glasses.
3 out of 5 Americans wear contacts or glasses from the ages of 18-35. Only 1 out 5 athletes in the NBA and NFL wear glasses or contacts.
That means, 2 out of 5 athletes cheated themselves out of becoming a professional athlete because they thought they could see well enough to play, but they couldn’t.
The stories about Danny and Mike are true. I watched it happen. They were patients of mine (although I changed the names in this story). I worked really hard trying to educate them about not seeing their best and how it could affect them playing their sport.
Why did they skimp on their vision?
Why didn't they want to be the best that they could be?
Why not do all that you can do to be the best?
Why cheat yourself?
You really do have to see to play!
For those of you who have followed the Manny Malhotra eye injury and then his return to the NHL, it has seemed nothing short of miraculous.
I'm glad to have played a part in his return to the NHL as he became a Carolina Hurricane last season. He is now playing with the Montreal Canadiens, and I had a chance to catch up with him last night.
This news article was run on sportsnet.ca last month. It's definitely worth the watch!
A recent study from Brown University revealed that as people age, their brain takes in more information from their vision.
The problem is that our brain's storage system has a limited capacity, so this new information causes other stored information to be lost.
In my book, See To Play, I discuss this topic called visual noise. Visual noise can lead athletes astray and decrease their performance. Athletes need to learn how to look with their eyes and understand what they are seeing. This way they can filter out information that is not needed.
Learn how to filter through visual noise so that you can reach your genetic potential in athletic performance by reading See To Play
Every parent and coaches nightmare in football these days is for their athlete to suffer a concussion. As an eye doctor who helps patients rehabilitate from concussions affecting the visual system, I've been treating an increasing number of football players from the ages range of 8 and up. Click here to watch a TV News article on a 10 year old football player I treated with a concussion.
In 2012, the NFL started the Heads Up Program which is a initiative for their youth league, USA football, to help train young athletes to keep their head up and out of the tackle. The feeling is by keeping the head up, in control and out of the way of the tackle, there will be fewer concussions. Here is a link to watch Seattle Seahawks' Coach Pete Carroll train this technique: click here
There are several steps in the Heads Up Program. "Head up and Eyes up" are one of those steps in this training process.
If you look at many of the pictures on line and in videos of young athletes learning the heads up program, their eyes are inevitably pointing down or move down. This is because the natural instinct of the visual system is to look down to the ground during a fall to determine the safest place to land. Or, we will just chose to close our eyes as part of a "fear" mechanism in the fight and flight vision response.
In my blog today, I'd like to give you an exercise found on page 239 of my book, See To Play, which takes the "eyes up" portion of this training to a more detailed level. It can be performed daily at home
. It helps athletes learn how to train the position of the eyes, known as gaze control, so that the eyes are always in the right position, which is up .Later this year, I will be introducing my new "See To Play Gaze Stabilizer Exercise" which takes the Calendar Jump to the next level by integrating decision making. This incorporates gaze control exercising during physical activity while training the right and left sides of the brain.My best wishes as you learn to keep your eyes up, know where to look and decrease the risk of concussions. Calendar Jump: Page 239 of See To Play
Objective: To improve eye movement and eye scanning
Equipment: Two calendars of the same size
There is a little setup required. Place the two calendars at the same height on a wall at eye level to the athlete and so that they are four feet from each other. Each calendar should show a different month.
Instructions: The athlete stands 10 feet away from the wall and fixes her gaze on the first day of the month on the calendar on the left. She then shifts her gaze to the first day of the month on the calendar on the right, then moves to the second day on the calendar on the left, followed by the second day on the calendar on the right. She continues this back-and-forth movement all the way through all of the dates on the calendars and then starts back at the beginning.
Variations: As the athlete becomes proficient in the above exercise, begin to incorporate these variations to increase the level of difficulty. Begin at the top of the list, master that variation, and move to the next level of difficulty.
· Move the charts further apart, to five feet and eventually to about eight feet from each other.
· Bounce on a mini trampoline or jump rope.
· Use different-sized calendars, with one considerably smaller than the other.
Sammy Walker played cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers for 3 seasons with one blind eye (read more)
Tulane has a long snapper who is legally blind in one eye and completely blind in the other (read more).
Sacramento Kings' Rudy Gay played legally blind without contacts or glasses for years until he had LASIK (read more).
Bryan Berard played in the NHL with a 20/400 eye (more).
After Berard's injury, the NHL added a mandate that a player must see better than 20/400 in their bad eye to be allowed to continue to play (more) The other sports' leagues seem a little more vague for a definition as to what the allowed worst vision is that a player should exhibit while still being allowed to pursue a career in professional sports.
Should there be a mandate on vision?
By allowing a blind or blurry athlete to compete, aren't we going to add to major injuries?
Courts have started weighing in on these questions and are siding more with the athletes who want to continue to play regardless of their bad vision. The reasoning: if vision is interfering with play, these athletes will be weeded out of play anyway.
I wrote See To Play to help athletes push themselves from a vision standpoint so that they can "see the best and be the best". Trying to determine the adequate amount of poor vision for play is looking at this topic upside down and a topic a never considered. Definitely an interesting debate!
ye (click here to read more)
I've really enjoyed watching the ALS Icebucket challenge take off throughout the country. I'm also happy I was challenged, got to move it forward by challenging others, and made a donation.
I've also taken the time to talk with people who have participated in the challenge. It seems college age folks and younger don't know exactly what ALS is and who Lou Gerhig was. I'm using this blog to spread the word.
Lou Gehrig was a baseball great who played for the New York Yankees. He was stricken down by a disease that caused him to stop playing and eventually die. Here is the speech he made at a game where he was honored:
Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.
I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans. Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day?
Sure I’m lucky.
Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy?
Sure I’m lucky.
When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift - that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies -- that’s something.
When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter -- that’s something.
When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body -- it’s a blessing.
When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed -- that’s the finest I know.
So, I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for.
On my icebucket challenge, I sent a challenge out to my cousin, Brian Williams, who is a physical therapist in Denver Colorado. Brian lost a good friend, Pat George, to this terrible disease. Here is a piece that ran featuring Pat's story. I hope this helps you learn more about ALS: