Amare Stoudemire, a forward-center for the Phoenix Suns, has had to take a ‘time out’ for the season after experiencing visual disturbances during a game against the Clippers on February 18th. It is reported that ‘he was bothered by the eye during an inbound play and then continued motioning toward it after trying to block an Al Thornton slam. He came out of the game briefly but re-entered and finished with 42 points, his second best scoring game of the season.’(source)
Sources say he was struck in the eye while fouling Al Thorton but was talking to his teammates about how much his eye bothered him even before the game started. (source: Arizona Republic 2/20/09) This is not the first time he has had eye-related problems and injuries. Back in October he was accidentally hit in the eye during training camp by a teammate which resulted in a torn iris to the same eye.
A retinal detachment is a very serious condition which can lead to permanent vision loss. The retina is the sight-seeing tissue that lines the inside of the eye. You can think of it as “film for your eye’s camera.” In this tissue, the image of what you are seeing is captured and sent to the brain for “developing” or interpreting. If the structure of the retina is disturbed or damaged, the image of what you are seeing can not be captured and vision is lost. That is why it is so important to protect the retina. You can do this by getting yearly eye exams and having your pupils dilated so early structure changes in the retina can be detected and cared for.
Blunt trauma is not always the cause of a retinal tear or detachment, they also can happen ‘spontaneously without injury.’
You are at a greater Risk for a tear or detachment if you:
- are Nearsighted (have Myopia)
- have had a Retinal Detachment in the other eye
- have a Family history of Retinal Detachments
- have had cataract surgery
- have had other retinal diseases or conditions such as retinoschisis, uveitis, lattice degeneration, Degenerative Myopia
- and of course, trauma/injury to the eye or orbit (which accounts for Amare’s sports related injury)
Symptoms of Retinal Tears or Detachments are:
- Seeing Flashes of light or ‘lightening bolts’ in your vision
- Seeing a sudden or gradual increase of Floaters which can appear as little dots that swarm into your field of vision, or cobwebs or curtains that block part or all of your vision in either eye
A retinal detachment is a medical emergency and should be taken seriously. You should seek treatment immediately upon experiencing any changes in your vision particularly but not limited to flashes and floaters as we discussed. In my personal opinion, if Amare sensed something was wrong with his vision, his medical team should not have let him re-enter the game, I don’t care how many points he ended up scoring. Amare’s injury may have cost him the season, but it could have cost him a lot more. He is one of the lucky ones. After surgery was performed on his partially torn retina, his prognosis looks good and he is expected to recover in eight weeks (two days too late for this year’s season).
Bottom line, retinal detachments can cost you your sight. Take a proactive, preventitive approach towards protecting your eyes and your vision. Get yearly eye exams including the dilation of your pupils so that your eye doctor can examine your retinas properly. Know the warning signs of retinal detachments and “if you see something, say something.” When in doubt, get it checked out.