Friday, November 26, 2010

Sports Vision & Basketball (continued)

A couple of days ago I was fortunate to evaluate an excellent basketball player. 
She is a 9th grader and has been chosen to play on a high school varsity team.  Her reason for the evaluation was because of blurred vision - more at distance than near.  She has some potential thyroid problems that are also being evaluated.  Other than that, she has excellent health and does well in school.

The evaluation indicated she did not have near or far sightedness or astigmatism.  She did not need glasses.  Her eyes were very healthy - no signs of diseases such as cataracts or glaucoma. 

I checked her various visual skills and discovered her eyes did not work as a team regularly.  Sometimes one or the other eye would drift outward.  Other times both eyes would team together well.  When an eye would drift, her sight would decrease as her brain tried to compensate for the problem.  Her sight was good when both eyes teamed together.

She has a binocular dysfunction in which her brain has difficulty in coordinating her eyes (technically called strabismus).  I have started her on a vision therapy program.  Her success should be very good with this.

As her visual skills improve she will notice her basketball ability going to even greater heights. 

--Dr. James Mayer

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sports Vision & Basketball

     An area of expertise that I enjoy is called "Sports Vision". 
     This refers to the obvious need for crisp sight in athletic activity.  It also includes a number of other visual skills such a depth perception, peripheral awareness, speed of reaction, timing, eye hand coordination, attention and memory.

     "You can't swish it if you can't see it" refers to sight or acuity.  For an athlete, small amounts of astigmatism or myopia can result in reduced performance.  Today I have tools that can also measure aberrations or distortions in vision.  Contact lenses are usually used with basketball players.  Glasses tend to get in the way with fast moving ball sports.

     The basketball hoop is actually big enough to fit two basketballs!!  Being able to perceive where the ball is in relation to the hoop involves depth perception, eye hand coordination, attention and memory.  It would seem with the hoop being so big that these skills are not very important.  However being reduced by small amounts will result in a missed shot or an air ball.

     Spotting a teammate as you drive to the basket requires excellent peripheral vision, speed of processing, eye hand coordination and attention.  A "ball hog" may just have poor visual skills.  With vision therapy these deficits can disappear.

     Some players don't follow the coaches instructions.  They have difficulty remembering where they should be on the court.  Many times they will run into others.  These symptoms are associated with timing, attention and memory deficits.  It is interesting to note that improvements in timing will often improve auditory processing.  Suddenly a coaches verbal instructions are precisely followed after timing therapy.

     I am amazed by the number of basketball players with visual skill deficits.  These are often very athletically gifted players.  I have been fortunate to work with Olympic and NBA players.  There are always several with visual skill deficits that can be helped, usually with vision therapy.  Performance always improves as these skills are fortified.

--Dr. James Mayer

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dizziness & Vertigo

     I have been seeing more patients with dizziness and vertigo.

     A patient recently wrote In your opinion, is it still possible that something ELSE could be wrong with my eyes that is causing my dizziness or making my dizziness worse?” 
     I replied: "The quick answer: YES.  From your description it appears as if you might have a visual processing problem but not necessarily a sight problem.  By this I mean your brain may not be integrating what you are seeing – things that a standard eye exam would not pick up.  Most patients of this type have at least two things in common: 1)motion sickness (e.g., nausea, headache, dizziness, fatigue, malaise, drowsiness, depression, bodily warmth, pallor, and/or cold sweats) with repeated eye movement or when observing rapid motion, and 2)unusual sensitivity to light."

     Almost all patients have histories of carsickness, which occurs almost exclusively in the daytime.  The reason for this is that less peripheral motion is observed at night. Reduced awareness of objects in the periphery (functional tunnel vision) also occurs but is seldom recognized by patients.  However, they often report a history of "klutziness."  Unfortunately the standard computer-based peripheral vision tests will not pick this up.

     With a diagnosis, I would proceed with vision therapy.  Classically vestibular therapy is used for dizziness and vertigo.  However it is often not successful with type of problem because the deficit is essentially being "allergic to visual motion".  Vision therapy desensitizes and reprograms the brain to not react adversely when moving the eyes and/or seeing or feeling motion.  The therapy could be considered physical therapy for the eyes and brain.  With careful guidance, you learn to adjust your own level of training to get the best effect and minimize discomfort.

     Vision therapy is similar to riding a bike in that it involves mostly "the learning and knowing how", not brute strength.  Once reprogrammed, most patients remain symptom free for many years, if not forever.  A few do regress to a degree after time.  When this happens, they find it quite easy to retrain themselves on their own with much less effort and second time around.

     Several success stories can be found at: CLICK HERE

     --Dr. James B. Mayer