Concussions are on the rise and with new statistics that are being collected and studied, we as optometrists have more questions to answer. One very important question is: How do concussions affect the eyes?
Basics about concussions
First let’s talk basics of a concussion. What are they exactly?
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI). They happen by a jolt to the head or even by a hit to the body. This causes the brain to move rapidly back and forth in the head. The sudden movement of the brain creates chemical changes which can cause damage to brain cells.
Concussions are cumulative in nature so not only is it awful the first time, it’s progressively worse the second time. Generally it is harder to fully recover the second time a concussion happens. Typically, 80% of people will spontaneously recover with time. However, if symptoms last over 2 months, recovery may be more difficult. We will touch on recovery a little bit later!
Symptoms from concussions
Now, what are the symptoms? Aside from visual changes, many people will suffer from the following:
- Feeling of fogginess
- Poor sleep
- Difficult falling asleep and staying asleep
- Light and sound sensitivity
- Loss of balance
- Difficulty concentrating
Vision can absolutely be affected from even a minor/mild traumatic brain injury. Classic signs are blurry vision at either distance or near and double vision. While most of the time theses visual changes are temporary, they can still wreak havoc on daily life.
It’s impossible to predict when or if you are going to suffer a concussion but the best way to prepare is having a good baseline of your visual skills.
At MVC, our annual eye examinations evaluate your visual acuity, eye movement issues and any signs of ocular diseases. This is a great way to record any abnormalities that could have been present prior to any head injuries.
Now for those of you that are in recreational or competitive sports, we offer a special pre-screening program that is an individualized baseline test different from an annual eye examination. At these screenings things like eye movements and eye tracking, which are crucial in sports, can be meticulously measured. We often do pre-season screenings for entire sports teams so that all players are prepared for the season. We have been fortunate enough to provide our services to olympians and sports teams of all levels.
If you’d like to register your team for pre-screening testing, click here to contact us for more details!
Beyond baseline testing, at MVC we also offer vision rehabilitation for anyone who has suffered a traumatic brain injury/concussion. We abide by the “return to play” protocol put out by Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation. Our vision therapy sessions include eye exercises/training and if necessary specialized glasses to assist with any visual distress. All rehabilitation programs are customized to your visual needs.
Tips on prevention
Lastly, how can we prevent traumatic brain injuries? Check out these simple tips to help keep your brain and eyes safe:
- Buckle up! Always wear a seatbelt when you are in a moving vehicle.
- Protect your noggin! Wear the correct sized and fitted helmet when engaging in sports.
- Be smart! Never drive under any influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Keep it bright! Improve lighting to avoid trip hazards in hallways or stairs at night.
- Save your tailbone! Install nonslip mats and handle bars in the bathrooms especially for the elderly.
- Strengthen your visual skills! Children are at less risk of concussions when they have better visual skills so consider vision therapy prior to starting a sport.
- Absorb it! Always lay down a shock-absorbing material around any children’s playscapes.
Now that school is just around the corner so remember to protect your head and eyes before you start your varsity and house league sports! Schedule an annual eye exam here! Have a great season!