4 Things you can do to protect your child athlete
Are you doing everything you can to protect your child? At 4Sight iCare we encourage sports as part of healthy development. Childhood athletics develops social skills, teaches discipline, and expands young minds through fun activities that make competition healthy for the mind, body and soul. Everyone should take precautions before allowing their child to participate in a sport, and each parent will ultimately make the decisions that are best for their family. One place that may not be at the top of everyone’s list is to visit your local eye doctor! Here are the 4 things you need to do before making informed decisions about safety on the field:
- Vision that’s safe to play. The rule of thumb at 4Sight iCare is 20/40 or better vision once all testing is done for non-competitive sports (that’s the minimum to legally drive in Illinois without restriction). If a child can achieve that without glasses, contacts, sports goggles, vision shaping retainers, or other methods, then the parent will be advised to have their child remove the glasses during play. For competitive, league sports (particularly for small ball sports) 20/20 normal vision is the standard because anything less would be dangerous. Of course if no correction is necessary to achieve 20/20 normal vision at distance, the vision report from the exam will read “should be removed for activities“. If not, perhaps it’s time to consider improving vision so they can see what’s coming and protect themselves from injury.
- Vision that protects but won’t break the bank. Parents frequently return with bent, broken or wrecked frames that were used during physical education, intramural, or even organized sports. This isn’t just dangerous, it’s reckless. Your decision to use non-protective eyewear for sport may result in serious trauma to the face and eyes, not to mention several warrantees and back-up pairs later costing you hundreds in repairs, replacements, and worst of all doctor fees to treat your child’s injuries. Preventable injuries are the worst to stomach as a doctor, because if we identify something at the annual eye exam that can save your child trauma and you money down the road we want you to take advantage of the protective eyewear, contact lenses, or vision shaping retainers over playing impaired or with your usual glasses. Bundled sports goggle packages and/or quality training for contact lens use at a facility that specializes in sports vision can save you time, frustration, and money. Make sure you are getting all the information about the product, what it is certified to protect, and what it will do better than their regular glasses that make it better for sports.
- Sports Vision Training. For those training for high-school, college, or professional sports seasons, training your eyes and brain to work faster and better to process the information on the field, you can be a safer player because you can react faster to dozens of scenarios that slow the game down and improve your ability to avoid injury. No matter the sport, SVT can improve hand-eye coordination, reaction time, and visual processing speed that all adds up to improved player safety and performance.
- Baseline Concussion Testing. Yes, this may be available at your eye doctor’s office! It’s not the same as the existing computer-based program for management days after a serious concussive event. This eye-movement test screens for concussion on the sideline to avoid a second hit. Second hits are the dangerous ones and by definition what makes CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) chronic because it is a repeat injury. Why are our children experiencing repeat injury? That’s clear, because initial concussion is not identified well enough to pull student athletes from play. It is statistically improbable that fewer than one minor concussion occur per week per 40 athletes. This means if your child’s coach isn’t pulling at least one student athlete from play to be further evaluated prior to a second blow, the children are at greater than necessary risk. Here are the facts: the CDC clearly states in it’s Heads Up concussion protocol that young children and teens are at greater risk and that repeat injury is the greatest danger. The way to avoid this is to identify the first concussion: that’s where your eye doctor comes in. We aren’t specialists in traumatic brain injury, but the first symptoms to present and the last to recover from blows to the head are saccadic eye movements (that’s why return to learn is so difficult for student athletes; reading is difficult). Evaluation of eye movements could not be more on point given your eye doctor’s specialized training. And this why many eye doctors are comfortable in the role of baseline managers and in some cases management of delayed return to learn decisions based on eye movement skills before and after normal concussion recovery protocol.
And there is no better way to identify concussion than with the The King-Devick Test. This Sideline test is done at the event to assist in identifying minor traumatic brain injury (concussion). As stated in this Chicago Tribune Article the CFL adopted this as part of its concussion protocol in 2015 and the NFL may soon follow suit because it is highly objective, validated by Mayo Clinic for all ages 9 and above (down to age 6 with modification), does NOT require a professional to administer and therefore does not take an athletic trainer’s attention away from the action on the field, takes just seconds to run when a head injury is suspected, and it’s extremely affordable. For a limited time, 4Sight iCare is offering database management and baseline testing along with unlimited testing on the field for one year at an introductory rate of just $8 per athlete! The App is free for the institution, club, league, organization, or parent group and runs on any 10-inch tablet. The database updates with the latest baseline data so if the student improves saccadic function through visual training exercises, the test remains valid. And this holiday season, CTE will only continue to gain traction with the release of the concussion movie on Christmas day.
Stay ahead of the curve and protect your child with an annual eye exam checking their vision to assess whether sports are safe without correction, buy them bundled sports goggles or other appropriate vision correction if necessary for their sport, use training programs like that at 4Sight iCare to improve performance and safety, and take out the $8 insurance policy so you know when a concussion has happened. If your coaches won’t allow it at your school, it can be done individually after each match so you know whether to pursue care or praise the helmet technology, heading technique taught by your child’s coach, or the thick skinned toughness of your child. Dr. Burke is available to present the technology and demonstrate the ease of implementation into your existing protocol. Remember, children are resilient and the symptoms of a mild concussive event may not present for days with traditional identification methods or they may come and go causing us to miss serious brain injuries without the latest technology in concussion identification for removal from play.