Laser Eye Surgery for Sports People
Laser eye surgery is becoming a popular choice to enhance performance at all levels of sport.
It is only natural that people who enjoy sport or are very good at it will want to improve their ‘game’ through laser eye surgery.
Anyone who plays sport regularly or who endeavours to become a leading player will know how much dedication and commitment is required over years to improve and progress. Most sports require excellent eye and hand or eye and foot co-ordination. Football, Tennis, Badminton, Athletics, Basketball, Cricket, Rugby, Golf, and Archery, Shooting and Swimming are just a few of the sports where eye co-ordination is a real benefit to the player.
Laser eye surgery is now playing an important part in the development of these sports. This is because the top players in each sport are seeking the optimum performance from every part of their body in order to perform at their very best. There has been much investment by contact lens manufacturers and glasses manufacturers in trying to minimise the impact of placing plastic in the eyes or placing glasses around the face, but the fact is that both the methods of enhancing visual acuity cannot beat natural good vision.
Today, laser eye surgery techniques are so good they can deliver great vision; beyond 20/20 for many sports people and it is this improvement in such an essential sense that is helping to raise the game of those sports people who would have traditionally been compromised by impaired vision and the need to wear corrective lenses or glasses.
Probably the most famous sports person to undergo laser eye surgery (twice) is golfer Tiger Woods. The improved depth perception “I no longer have to plan things around wearing glasses or contacts, and I have no worry with my vision during my sporting exploits”, states Jodie
Russell Simmonds became F class British marksman champion and European champion in November 2008. He has the ability to place all his rounds in a bull, the size of a saucer, from up to 1,000 yards!
Russell had Wavefront laser eye surgery that left him with better than 20:20 vision. The investment Russell made in laser eye surgery seven years ago has meant that he has been able to develop his shooting skills in order to become one of the best in the world at target shooting.
However, those sports people who play contact sports like; rugby, football, boxing, wrestling, judo and other martial arts need to be very careful about choosing laser eye surgery as a way of improving vision. The most common way for laser eye surgery to be performed is for a very thin ‘flap’ to be created on the front of the cornea. This acts achieved after surgery makes the game that much easier to play at a high level. Vijay Singh is the latest masters golfer to undergo laser eye surgery and he follows fellow golfers;
Jesper Parnevik, Tom Kite, Hale Irwin, Fred Funk, Laura Davis and Se Ri Pak.
Jodie Shann competes in Triathlon for the GB age group team. He had particular difficulties with contact lenses.
Wearing my lenses while racing and training was becoming a really big hassle. A couple of the problems I encountered were difficulty in getting the lenses into my eyes for a 6am training session, and I developed very dry eyes late in the afternoon. I also had worries over losing my lenses in the swim stage of a race and getting sweat/sun cream in them which left me with blurred vision for a few hours! Not to mention the inconvenience of wearing glasses in general day-to-day life.”
The procedure can leave the cornea weakened in the area where the flap has been created and this is of little concern to people who live normally or who play other sports. For those people playing contact sports like Rugby, Football and marshal arts like kick boxing or Judo it is important that the right vision correction treatment is offered.
A relatively new and very successful treatment has now been introduced called ‘Trans-epithelial lasik’ laser eye surgery. Instead of creating a flap using the cornea, the front of the cornea is first of all ‘smoothed’ using the laser to remove the epithelium (the transparent skin covering the eye) and any other minor aberrations that may be present in the treatment area.
The actual treatment plan to correct the specific eye prescription is then applied to the front of the eye. This means that there is no flap to dislodge and no weakening of the cornea structure following surgery. A bandage contact lens is applied to protect the treated area immediately after surgery and the eyes are monitored over the following weeks and months to ensure that they are recovering correctly.
Trans-epithelial lasik laser eye surgery has proved very popular with rugby players, the armed forces and other contact sports people, becoming the preferred treatment for many.
Whilst improved vision for sport through laser eye surgery must give the athlete a real benefit in terms of acuity of vision and more predictability of what is being seen, it cannot replace the hundreds of hours of training and coaching needed to become a top sports person. And that will never change.