This last week I attended the 8th Annual Traumatic Brain Injury Conference in Washington DC (May 16-17). This was an entirely academic meeting and provides up-to-date scientific findings relevant to this blog, including Near Point of Convergence.
I heard a presentation by Dianne Langford PhD, Professor of Neuroscience, Lewis Katz School of Medicine, Temple University, Pennsylvania. Dr. Langford presented recent data on College football players after practice. The results were quite interesting and relevant to ophthalmology. She described the effect of subconcussion on one element of vision and a blood biomarker (S100).
There is an abundant evidence on NFL football players and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in academic literature and this is common knowledge to the public. But what is really going on a small scale? This study from Temple University documents that even after mild hits (as in practice) football players have decreased focusing ability up-close (Near Point of Convergence) and elevated blood levels of a blood marker for brain injury.
I have previously discussed Convergence Insufficiency and TBI (a previous blog). Ocular Convergence is one measure of the eye’s capacity to focus on a near target and has relevance to reading. There is evidence that TBI can reduce the eye’s ability to focus up-close. This study appears to validate this conclusion and take things one step forward. These athletes didn’t even have concussions but had a temporary disruption in their up close focusing capacity. They did not experience symptoms or long term damage but the objective findings are documented. In addition, these visual findings were correlated to a blood test for brain injury. Additional large investigations need to occur, but a direct link between football hits and eye focusing, and blood test results is presented in this research.
If future studies verify a relationship between a blood test and an eye finding, this adds another reason for my blog to continue. The eyes and the brain are tied together and I will continue to report the highlights. If just getting hit in practice can effect the eyes, then one must think after a real full-contact game and multiple seasons of play permanent vision damage is common.
Steven H. Rauchman, M.D. is an eye physician and surgeon who has been in private practice for 30 years. He has served as a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) medical/legal expert for the last 6 years specializing in the area of personal injury and related traumatic brain injuries.