As an eye doctor who helps athletes reach their genetic potential, my favorite part of the Duke-UNC game last night occurred when ESPN's announcer Dick Vitale crooned that Duke forward Jabari Parkers’ nearsightedness wasn’t affecting him as he sank a three pointer. Dick’s broadcasting partner chimed in “that’s because Parker’s wearing his contact lenses!”
When I polled the NBA teams, the stats of players who needed to wear contact lenses, eye glasses or had LASIK to see better(regardless if they chose to play with them) was:
· 18.9% in 2012-1013
· 16% in 2009 - 2010
That’s a far cry from the 54% of 18-29 year olds in the United states who need corrective eye wear (this is the same age group as the NBA players ....click here for stats).
Comparing those statistics, 30% of those blurry high school basketball players (3 out of 10) got weeded out of getting into college or beyond because of their vision.
Change the age range to include 18-35 year olds, and it turns out 61% of us in the US need something to help us see our best. This suggests that nearly 2 out 5 basketball athletes get weeded out of making it to the professional level due to their vision.
They're pretty smart there at Duke. Coach K jumped in and insisted that Jabari start wearing contacts when he arrived at school. Dr. Terry Kim got him wearing contacts that didn’t feel funny so he wouldn’t have to blink as much.
Athletes need every edge to be the best. Ignoring the small problems in high school can blow into bigger problems when the completion level gets better. Big fish in a small pond are just average fish when they jump to a pond full of big fish. A split second here; a missed judge distance there and you’ve missed the shot.
Also, elite athletes have bigger areas of this clear vision. As you just read in my last blog, elite athletes standing at the arc of the three point line only have to move their eyes in two gaze positions to see from the left side line to right side line where the average athlete has to move their eyes almost 5 gaze positions to see everything. Again, another season elite perform at a higher level. Elite see more quicker allowing them to react faster.
In a recent WSJ article (click here), it was suggested that less than perfect vision may be acceptable in some sports (especially basketball) but I think the stats I state here suggest otherwise. Sure, there are some of the 18.9% in last year’s NBA teams who chose not to wear correction while playing, but there is still 30%-40% of potential athletes who never made it there because of their eyes.
Another stat showing players like to see to play was last years’ Miami Heat. There were 4 players on there team who had LASIK…..Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosch and Mario Chalmers representing a whopping 27% of the team.
Jabari hit the eye wall. He’s busted through it with contacts! (I bet will be reading about his LASIK at Duke in about 4 or 5 years! Keep the lasers warmed up Dr. Kim!)
Welcome to my blog! I hope this helps you learn a little more about me and also keeps you up to date on my fun world of sports vision.