Excellent eyesight is more than just an advantage for competitive athletes. It’s a necessity. Whether it’s hitting a 90-mph fastball, using peripherals to anticipate an opponent’s moves, or seeing the rim clearly to execute a free throw, 20/20 or better vision can make a world of difference. However, not all athletes are blessed with terrific vision. While some may turn to eyeglasses or contacts, LASIK and PRK provide alternatives that can help athletes excel on the field without the hindrances of eyewear.
LASIK for Competitive Athletes
LASIK, or laser-assisted in situ keratomileuses, is a minimally invasive eye surgery that involves reshaping the cornea with an excimer laser. While this surgery has been used for decades to improve eyesight in all types of patients, athletes can also benefit from the procedure in a variety of ways.
With 20/20 or better vision from LASIK, competitive athletes have improved depth perception and reaction time. Even a split second can enable them to improve their basketball shooting or catch a hard-hit line drive. Athletes that undergo LASIK also cite better contrast in different types of lighting and settings. In addition, LASIK can also help athletes in all kinds of conditions. Helmets can make eyeglasses a nuisance, while dirt and sweat can often cause contacts to become cloudy or lose lubrication. Perhaps the best aspect of LASIK for athletes is that it only has a 24-to-48-hour recovery time, minimizing the amount of downtime and getting them back into games or practice.
PRK for Competitive Athletes
PRK, or photorefractive keratectomy, is a type of refractive eye surgery that removes the epithelium (top layer of the cornea), and lets your body naturally regrow it. This is unlike LASIK, which makes an incision in the epithelium to make a flap and then places the flap back in place. With PRK, recovery time can take anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks, meaning that competitive athletes should only undergo the surgery during the offseason or downtime.
While PRK offers many of the same advantages as LASIK such as 20/20 vision, improved depth perception, and better contrast, it’s also a preferential choice for athletes in contact sports such as boxing, mixed martial arts, or football. The reason for this is because the corneal flap from LASIK can become disrupted as a result of blunt force or a hard collision. ophtholmologisHowever, PRK patients don’t have this flap, meaning that a jarring tackle or jab won’t affect the vision.
Why Competitive Athletes Should Choose LASIK or PRK
Many athletes are terrified of getting LASIK or PRK, yet both surgeries give them a tremendous advantage both on and off the field. Improved eyesight can boost an athlete’s production, while also helping them to excel in the classroom or at their job. Once an athlete has undergone the procedure, they’ll wonder why they waited so long to get it done.
Both LASIK and PRK are revolutionizing the sports world by improving the sight and performance of competitive athletes. While both have their advantages, make sure to consult an eye care professional before choosing which surgery is better for you.
Dr. Alexandra Chebil, MD is an Orange County Ophthalmologist in Newport Beach CA. She has treated many professional athletes and specializes in custom LASIK vision correction. If you’re an athlete, you owe it to yourself to find out if you’re a great candidate.