Traumatic Brain injury: A rising concern in youth sports

Photo courtesy of K8tilyn on Flickr

Photo courtesy of K8tilyn on Flickr

Spring is almost here, and soon spring sports such as soccer, baseball and softball are going to be in full swing for our kids.

And while we encourage participation in outdoor activities and sports, it is good to be aware of the possible injuries and what to look out for.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emergency department visits for sports related traumatic brain injury (TBI) and concussions have increased by 60% for children and teens in the last ten years. The most common activities that can cause injury are bicycling, football, playground, basketball and soccer.  With this increase, there is also an increased awareness of safety in sports and signs and symptoms related to a TBI that can occur during play. This allows for steps to be taken to improve safety and reduce risk for our kids.

A TBI can occur if a person receives a blow to the head or a jolt to the body the causes quick head movement.  Some signs and symptoms of TBI include:

  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • memory and concentration loss
  • clumsy movement
  • change in mood, behavior, or personality
  • double or blurry vision
  • light and noise sensitivity

Once and injury like this has occurred, symptoms can last up to months and it is important to not go back to sports too quickly as the brain needs time to heal.

Optometrist’s role in treatment

Photo Courtesy of Fitness Hospital on Flickr

Photo Courtesy of Fitness Hospital on Flickr

Optometrists can play a large roll in the healing process from a TBI.

Because the brain nerves related to vision go everywhere in the brain, almost all TBI patients have some effect to their vision system and visual function in some way.  Issues such as memory and concentration loss, dizziness, double and blurry vision and light sensitivity can affect more than just sports performance. These problems can also affect academic performance even in a child who was succeeding academically prior to the injury.  Neurorehabilitative Optometry can address these problems and help improve brain and visual function though the use of specialized vision therapy techniques, specialized glasses and prisms.

If you suspect that a lingering brain injury is affecting your child’s academic performance, an evaluation by a California Optometric Association optometrist can help determine what can be done to help and refer you the appropriate optometrist specialist that can assess and treat the visual problems associated with the head injury.

Play Hard and Be Safe!

~Lisa M. Weiss, OD, FCOVD
California Optometric Association
http://www.eyehelp.org
http://www.coavision.org

CDC resources for parents and coaches on TBI and concussions can be found here.

I have an astigmatism. What is that?

Courtesy of Greece Trip Admin on Flickr

Courtesy of Greece Trip Admin on Flickr

Astigmatism is a term used by optometrists to describe a prescription for one eye that needs two powers to bring it into focus. It is not a disease or something that will make you go blind, but it can make things blurry at distance and at near.
Most people are familiar with the terms “near-sighted” and “far-sighted.” In the eye care world we use the term “myopia” for near-sightedness and “hyperopia” or “hypermetropia” for far-sightedness. These terms are used to describe the power (+ or -) of the lens needed to make you see clearly.
If your prescription needs only one power to bring your eye into focus then you can think of it as being simple. So if your prescription has a number like -4.00, then you have simple myopia. Similarly, if you have a prescription of +2.25, then you have simple hyperopia.
If you have an astigmatism in your eye, then you have two powers that need to be corrected for you to see clearly. Having an astigmatism in your eye is our way of describing a compound prescription. Instead of just one simple power like we described earlier, there are two powers together. Depending on your prescription, you can have myopia with astigmatism or hyperopia with astigmatism.

Courtesy of Ciro Boro - photo on Flickr

Courtesy of Ciro Boro – photo on Flickr

A common example optometrists use to describe astigmatism to patients is the difference between a basketball and a football. A basketball is nice and round, and has only one curve for the entire ball. You can think of that curve as a lens power. A basketball is a good example of a simple prescription. A football, on the other hand, has two curves. This is like an eye that has two powers or an astigmatism.
Astigmatism is not an eye disease, but rather a term we optometrists use to describe a compound prescription in one eye. So don’t be alarmed if your optometrist tells you that you have some astigmatism in your eyes. You are not alone – I have an astigmatism in both of my eyes and I see extremely well!

~Ranjeet S. Bajwa, OD, FAAO
California Optometric Association
http://www.coavision.org