Finding and Choosing a Good Sports Vision Specialist
First, it is important to understand that the term “specialist” is rather misleading. There is no additional training requirement to be a sports vision eye care provider. However, some have learned additional skills and can give you the best vision possible for your chosen sport. Finding a sports vision specialist is important, especially if you are involved with sports that might require special protective eye gear, such as hand ball, paintball or similar sports. Or if you would simply like to enhance your sporting performance while protecting your eyes in the best way that you can, a sports vision specialist can help.
Get a referral
The simplest and most direct way to find a sports vision specialist is by asking your current eye doctor. In fact, if the doctor knows you're an athlete, he or she may suggest this to you before you even ask. Sports related eye injuries number around 40,000 or so a year, according to Prevent Blindness America, so most eye care professionals are more than happy to suggest a specialist who can better help with acuity as well as safety.
Doing an internet search for sports vision specialists is easy and no, you do not have to only ask Google, you can use whatever browser/search engine that you like. The keywords “sports vision specialist” should be refined to include your location so that you are not slogging through five million entries.
Visit the websites of major eye care organizations
Visit the American Optometric Association (AOA) website and use the ‘find an optometrist’ tool. You can further refine your search by using the “find member of sports vision” tool as well. The AOA is the main organization of sports vision specialists in the United States.
The College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) is actually devoted to the study of vision development in children; however they may provide sports vision services to children and adults. There is a ‘locate a doctor’ tool on their website as well.
Try Talking to local coaches, sports staff, family and friends
Ask your coach or the athletic staff if they use a particular eye doctor for the team members. You can also ask local friends and family that you know participate in sports.
How to narrow down the field
There are a number of questions that you should ask the sports vision specialist when you call or go in for a consultation:
- How long have you been an optometrist/ophthalmologist, and have you focused on sports vision for your entire career?
- Do you work with any local sports teams?
- Do you conduct sports performance related tests such as those for hand/eye coordination and agility?
- What is your typical sports vision therapy program and how long does it usually last?
- What are your fees and rates for services?
- Do you prescribe special contact lenses for athletes?
- Do you suggest LASIK or orthokeratology for athletes?
- Do you treat sports related eye injuries?
- Do you fit scuba masks, goggles and other protective eye wear for my sport(s) of choice?
Why choosing the right sports vision specialist is important
The safety and well being of your eyes is critical. If you are at all serious about your sports performance, you need to have a specialist that you trust. If you are not comfortable with your doctor or just don't see eye-to-eye with him or her, you're not likely to heed the advice given, or obey instructions for equipment. You are also not as likely to return for follow ups as needed or to call when you have a problem. You don't have to fall in love with your specialist, but it does help if you at least like him or her enough to speak up if there is a problem with your eyes, and you should also respect the doctor's enough to listen to their advice.
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