Lebron James had LASIK so he could see better to play. Chris Bosh had LASIK too. Kevin Durant wears glasses.
Those of you who have read my book See To Play have learned, athletes with even the slightest visual problems are overwhelmingly "weeded out" from becoming elite athletes. Vision effects how they play and the statistics suggest almost 4 out of 10 athletes lose to better sighted athletes when making it to the top.
I am the team eye doctor for the USA National Baseball team, the team that once played in the Olympics, and I noted in a past blog that this year's team fell in line with past teams in that a little over 20% of them needed vision correction in order to see to play..... and make the team. This is consistent with my experience with athletes in professional sports as well. The percentage is considerably below the percentage of people in the normal population who need vision correction.
I decided to contact the trainer of the 2012 USA Basketball team, Joe Sharpe, to find out the status of their vision.
"How many of the 16 athletes play with contacts/glasses/refractive surgery?"
The answer I received was basically the three mentioned at the beginning of this post.
A recent study on nearsightedness in the US states that over 40% of men in the age group of these basketball players are nearsighted. This would suggest that 7 guys on the team should be nearsighted (ok, it's really 6.7, but it's my blog and I'm rounding up for dramatic flare). Continuing with this logic, 4 players who dreamed of making this year's "Dream Team" were weeded out along the way because their nearsightedness hurt their play.
3 "blurry" players were lucky along the way in fulfilling their dream of becoming an Olympic basketball player.....and 4 guys got the boot!
(By the way, I'm only talking about nearsightedness. It's estimated 1 in 4 of us are farsighted and should be corrected with lenses...which would suggest we're missing even more bespectacled athletes on this team as well)
Ok, what if your child dreamed of being on the "Dream Team" and then at the 7th grade level became nearsighted? Would you go ahead and tell him to drop out even though this is the same grade that the NCAA could talk to him about scholarship?
That may sound a little absurd, but vision is overlooked. I've spent a career trying to get the word out. I've written a book to get the word out.
I've also helped a ton of athletes along the way too!
Just this week, I examined a 13 year old female basketball player. She's doing great in her sport in AAU. She passes the team's physical because she can squint out 20/20...but in my office during her first ever eye exam, she's slightly nearsighted (20/25) in the right eye and considerably worse in the left (20/40). When I questioned her specifically on her aiming (because I know how her vision affects her game), she admitted that she has learned out of necessity to aim behind the rim and a little to the left in order to sink her shot.
She was getting ready to be weeded out for a possible scholarship and didn't even know it. I corrected her vision with contacts and now she can aim for the center front of the rim.
Get athletes to the eye doctor's office at a very young age and followup every year. Also, those serious about being the best should read See To Play: The Eyes of Elite Athletes
On May 25th, 1999, I received a call from a friend of mine who was a trainer in minor league baseball. He told me that the Tampa Rays were thinking about using their first Major League Baseball draft pick (the first overall pick in the draft) on Josh Hamilton, a local high school baseball player. The trainer explained to me that Josh hadn't had an eye examine in over a year and that everyone wanted to make sure Josh was performing with peak vision.
I was very familiar with Josh but it wasn't just because of his baseball ability.
I was also teaching the high school Sunday school class at my church at the time. The students had brought his name up for a couple of years since he was their age, a very good athlete and very outspoken in his faith in Christianity.
So, naturally, I was excited to meet him.
Josh spoke with a reporter from the News and Observer later in the day and the next day they reported that he had 20/10 vision. (Click here to read stories from other athletes and coaches who were around Josh as he grew up in this area.)
I haven't checked Josh's eyes since that visit, but I have kept "an eye out" for reports on his vision (ok, sorry for the pun). I have recently read that his acuity is 20/15. (click here to read an article).
In my book, See To Play, I discuss how there are many factors that go into how well an athlete sees and that visual acuity can actually fluctuate from time to time. For example, I've tested athletes at 20/10 one time and then 20/15 during later vision tests. Nutrition and fatigue can play some role in this occurrence.
Visual acuity is the first building block to an athlete's visual system. Read my book to learn about all the building blocks!
I've included a picture of me with Josh...back in the day! Of course, I'm the only one wearing glasses!!
So, you're 18 years old and you were just selected in the draft to play on an National Hockey league Team. What's next?
For a newly drafted Carolina Hurricane's player, this means you will be leaving home in a few days to attend Pete Friesen's Conditioning Camp. Pete jam packs training and educational classes into a 4 day camp in Raleigh which is designed to help the boys focus on reaching their dream of becoming a professional hockey player.
I've been very honored to have a role in this camp. Dr. Jason Price and I take part in testing their vision during their physicals at the beginning of their first day. We then rank the athletes based on these findings. A couple days later, I give a 45 minute talk on vision and vision training. During this presentation, I break discuss vision's role in hockey, go over each individual's visual findings and ranking, and then offer them ways to improve their visual skills and ultimately help them reach their genetic potential.
Pete does an incredible job to help mold these athletes into becoming their best. By including vision's role into that equation, they learn how to develop the edge that may actually help them make it to the top.
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.