What first comes to mind when these names are mentioned? Yes, they are all famous sportsmen. You probably know this – they are all world renowned athletes who have made a name for themselves in their respective sports. What you might not know is they are also athletes who have undergone refractive laser correction, more commonly known as LASIK. In case you don’t already know, LASIK is the abbreviation for laser in-situ keratomileusis.
They are not the only athletes to have undergone a laser surgery to correct their eyesight. Pro basketball player Dwayne Wade, pro golfer Vijay Singh, and pro baseball player Greg Maddux have also done it. Many other pro athletes have done the same, and have never regretted it since. But why, you may ask. Why did they want to risk the possible complications that may or may not come with a laser surgery? First and foremost, how often do you see an athlete wearing glasses during a competitive match? Almost never. This is because glasses tend to slip off easily when doing vigorous activities.
Why not wear contacts, you might ask. Contact lenses have their own perils as well. Without proper wearing schedule and cleaning techniques, prolonged usage of contact lenses can result in various complications. Even with proper maintenance of contact lenses, some people may develop an intolerance to contact lenses due to dry eyes. While competing for titles, athletes have to be focused on their preparation for tournaments, and cannot afford to be worried about tedious issues such as contact lenses.
Intolerance to contact lenses is one of the most common reasons cited as the reason athletes have turned to LASIK as their choice for refractive vision correction. Mario Balotelli, the enigmatic football player who currently plays for Liverpool FC and the national Italy squad is one of those who faced problems with contact lenses. In 2012, he decided to undergo LASIK to treat his short-sightedness once and for all. World tennis #1 Novak Djokovic has also had a problem with contact lenses in a more recent occasion. In February 2016 in the Dubai Duty Free Men’s Open tournament match against Feliciano Lopez, the tennis world champion was forced to retire from the match due to an eye infection and severe allergic reaction. Despite being instructed not to wear contacts by his doctor as it may worsen his condition, he disobeyed the orders. As a result, he felt very uncomfortable while wearing his contact lenses during the match forcing him to end his unbeaten streak of making 17 consecutive finals. Moral of this story, think twice before disobeying your optometrist’s or doctor’s advice.
Plenty of other professional athletes who have undergone LASIK enjoy crisp clear vision, enabling them to perform at the top of their game without the hassle of glasses or contact lenses. It is very unlikely that an athlete like Lebron James can manage to win three NBA championships, four NBA most valuable player (MVP) awards, three NBA finals MVP awards, and two Olympic gold medals if he has to wear glasses while playing in a basketball match. Mind you, those were just few of his many achievements in between 2008 and 2016 (which explains why he is known as “King James”). King James' performance showed an immediate improvement after his LASIK surgery in September 2007. He then went on to etch his name in the basketball hall of fame ever since. Today, he is one of the highest earning sportsperson in the world. Coincidence? Perhaps.
Speaking of highest earning sportsmen, how can we forget Tiger Woods. Mention the word “golf” to anyone on the street and nine times out of ten, a person will think of Tiger Woods. Mr Woods turned pro in 1996 and took the golfing world by storm, winning his first major tournament, the 1997 Masters at the raw age of 21. And it doesn’t end there as he went on to win countless trophies since then. In 1999, Tiger Woods underwent a LASIK procedure, and just like Lebron James, somehow managed to elevate his game to an even higher level (as if he wasn’t already good enough). Tiger Woods performance showed a drastic improvement in 1999 after his LASIK procedure as he finished the 1999 season breaking eight records in golf. Another coincidence? Perhaps not.
While some have the option of wearing contact lenses during sports, some are not able to do so, due to the nature of their sport. One very good example is swimming. Did you know, it is not safe to wear contact lenses while swimming as the water in swimming pools, lakes, rivers and oceans are contaminated? Water in public areas are home to viruses and bacteria such as the Acanthamoeba. Not even tap water and showers are completely clean, which is why you should only rinse your contact lenses with an appropriate cleaning solution (as recommended by your optometrist). This bacteria can adhere to contact lenses while swimming, causing infection and inflammation to the cornea. If not treated early, the victims may have to undergo a corneal transplant or lose their vision permanently. This condition is known as Acanthamoeba keratitis. Avid swimmers, you now have a good reason to consider a LASIK treatment for your eyes. While LASIK does not prevent your eyes from having an infection while swimming in the future, it sure lowers the risk if you have been wearing contacts while swimming all this while.
I too, have witnessed several occasions in which glasses become a hindrance during sports. Let me tell you about the most recent occasion. A few months ago, my friends and I went to Kota Kinabalu for a hiking trip. During the hike, a friend of mine, Alex had to adjust his glasses countless times as they kept sliding off his face, and he had to clean his spectacle lenses frequently as sweat dripped down his face.
Two hours into the hike, we had a short conversation:
Alex: How I wish I didn’t have to wear glasses! But if I don’t, I’d be as blind as a bat!
Me: Have you tried wearing contacts?
Alex: Of course! Sadly, I couldn’t last three hours without my eyes feeling dry and uncomfortable. With the high altitude and lower oxygen levels up here, I thought it would be worse, which is why I decided to just hike with my glasses
Being a regular hiker myself, I felt for Alex. It was uncomfortable watching him climb up the mountain for hours (which felt like forever), and constantly adjusting his glasses. If you’re a glasses wearer, and happen to love football, badminton, cycling, or running (or any physical sport for that matter), odds are that you know how Alex felt. Well thanks to LASIK, Alex can see clearly and can enjoy hiking without the hassle of worrying about glasses or contact lenses.
Wouldn’t you want to enjoy sports free from glasses and contact lens, just like Alex?