UAB helping high school athletes see football better

Helping football players protect their eyes

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Imagine walking out of a dark room into a bright, outdoor setting. When you feel that brightness, imagine trying to catch a ball in that washed-out, painful view. That’s what people light sensitivity conditions, like albinism, have to deal with in order to play sports. The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Optometry is changing that.

Several optometrists and ophthalmologists worked together to convince the Alabama High School Athletic Association to allow tinted visors for football players who have vision challenges.

Kathy Weise, O.D., is a professor at UAB’s School of Optometry and also the eye doctor for the UAB Blazer football team. Weise is one of the doctors who came up with a list of diseases that struggle with light sensitivity. There are 12 conditions that would benefit from a tinted visor on their football helmet. Those conditions are listed on a form the AHSAA that parents can take to the child’s eye doctor or pediatrician. The doctor could make a determination about how dark the grade of the tint should be.

A look at the tinted visor prototype.
A look at the tinted visor prototype. (Source: Candace Schmersahl)

“A tinted visor is a great first step in keeping these eager kids playing sports that they love, just like their peers,” Weise said. She believes this could make it possible for children to enjoy athletics, when it’d previously been painful or more difficult because of their vision condition.

According to UAB, Alabama may be the first in the country to offer this type of help for students. However, you might wonder why collegiate athletes aren't the focus when the idea came from UAB. Weise says high school is where it starts, and it's just a jumping off point for the future. "These conditions are congenital, and they're not going to outgrow them. They're not going to go away. So, UAB Football would be proud to look for ways to increase the number of kids playing sports. If we can get it in the high school athletic association, and see how it works for them, maybe we can continue to look at the NCAA and see if we can look at their policies as well."

The sun can get in everyone’s eyes at some point. So, if you’re wondering why tinted visors aren’t common for everyone, it’s a safety issue.

The visor makes it more difficult to check the face or the eyes quickly in the event of a possible injury or concussion. That's one reason why this is only for people with "inherited and/or congenital eye conditions that limit useful vision in daylight or bright-light environments."

Parents who want to get one of these tinted visors can get the AHSAA form here, and take it to their child’s doctor. Once the doctor signs off on the idea, just give the form to your child’s coach or sports trainer.

A look at the tinted visor prototype.
A look at the tinted visor prototype. (Source: Candace Schmersahl)

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