VISION THERAPY AND ACQUIRED BRAIN INJURY

The eye is amazing. Did you know more than 1.9 million fibers come from the eye into the brain? Each of those fibers creates its own pathway to the brain and has its own distinct function. So when someone has a stroke or other acquired brain injury (ABI), vision is often affected.  ABIs include concussions suffered in severe sports-related hits or a car accident, as well as cerebral or vascular strokes. An ABI can affect both neurological pathways in the eye, the focal or parvocellular pathway, which is....

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SYNTONICS: CREATING BALANCE FOR THE EYES

Syntonics, or optometric phototherapy, is a form of light therapy used to treat a variety of vision problems. It is available at Family Eyecare Associates to help patients with a variety of vision problems, such as strabismus (eye turns), amblyopia (lazy eye), focusing and convergence problems and learning disorders. It has also been shown to be very effective for people who suffer from migraines.

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WHAT IS BEHAVIORAL OPTOMETRY?

Behavioral optometry starts with the concept that vision is learned. When we’re born, we don’t know how to use our arms, legs and hands. We also don’t know how to use our eyes. We have to learn how to integrate them with the rest of our body. The brain must process what the eyes are seeing, and then it has to integrate that information with the other senses. From a behav- ioral standpoint, seeing requires a more holistic approach, getting all the senses to work together.

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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