PUT AN EYE EXAM ON YOUR BACK-TO-SCHOOL TO-DO LIST

The American Optometric Association recommends preschool children receive a complete vision exam at the ages of 6 months, 3 years and 5 years. It is particularly important a child have a complete evaluation in the summer prior to entry into kindergarten. Kentucky was the first state to make a law that says you have to have an exam by a optometrist or ophthalmologist the first time you enter Kentucky public schools. The main thing is to make sure children are seeing the black/ whiteboard.

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MACULAR DEGENERATION LEADING CAUSE OF VISION LOSS

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects the macula, an area inside the back of the eye in the center of the retina. This is where the eye focuses for recognizing faces and reading. The retina records images we see and sends them via the optic nerve from the eye to the brain. AMD occurs when the central portion of the retina begins to deteriorate, affecting a person’s ability to read, drive, recognize faces or colors and see objects in fine detail. AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in older adults.

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VISION IS LEARNED - AND IT CAN BE RELEARNED

Vision involves over 70% of the neural pathways of the brain. Vision is more than eye sight. Vision is the only body system that continues to develop after birth. Vision involves the way the eyes and brain interact. It takes approximately three years for the eyes to learn how to work together. When they do not, it can result in the eyes turning in (esotropia) or out (exotropia), crossed eyes (strabismus) or lazy eye (amblyopia).

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SPORTS VISION THERAPY HELPS ATHLETES IMPROVE RECOGNITION AND RESPONSE

Whether they’re swinging at a fastball, shooting free throws, lining up a putt or setting up a dig, athletes depend a great deal on their vision. They have to keep their eye on the ball in order to connect properly and hit a homer, make the basket, sink the putt or send a spike between two opponents.


Many pro teams have a vision therapy program for their players. The program works on improving the athletes’ recognition and response. A sports vision therapist will show a baseball player photographers of a pitcher holding a ball to help them recognize when the hurler is about to throw a fastball or a curveball. (Different pitches require different finger positions.) In the major leagues, the time from pitcher release point to bat contact is four tenths of a second, and the average major league baseball player takes about two tenths of a second to get the bat from starting position to contact position. To speed up recognition so the ballplayer can respond more quickly, the vision therapist will show him the photos for a second, half a second, a quarter of a second, down to a hundredth of a second. Football players benefit from this kind of therapy, too, as it allows them to quickly assess what play is about to be run.


Sports vision therapists use light boards to help athletes improve their reaction time. As the lights flash on and off, the athlete must touch them, and as the exercise continues, the flashes speed up.

This spurs the athlete to be more accurate. As speed of recognition and speed of response progress, so does accuracy. Other exercises sharpen important skills such as depth perception, visual spatial awareness and peripheral awareness, which enables the athlete to see the whole court instead of collapsing into tunnel vision as he or she gets stressed or tired. Different athletes will have different types of visual strength. For instance, hockey players tend to have better scores in the lower field of gaze because they focus their eyes more downward, following the puck across the ice. Volleyball players score better in upper field of gaze, watching as the ball comes over the net.


Coaches can take information from the vision therapist to put players in positions that utilize their strengths. For instance, a vision therapy exam may show a second baseman can move faster to his left than to his right, so the coach can place him in a way that will close any holes in the infield and allow him to cover more ground. But there are also exercises that use lighted arrows and pressure points to measure and help improve an athlete’s foot speed.


A recent study at the University of Cincinnati – the first of its kind – discovered

athletes who had participated in a sports vision therapy program had a significantly reduced number of concussions. The researchers concluded the athletes’ quickened response and reaction times enabled them to see the potential hit coming and avoid it.

DR. RICK GRAEBE

Dr. Graebe received both his B.S degree in Visual Science and Doctorate of Optometry from Indiana University. He is a Behavioral Optometrist and learning expert. He has been in private practice here in the Bluegrass area for the past 32 years.

more articles by dr rick graebe