Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The relationship between strabismus and sports

I just went running. Strength is returning and I'm more relaxed. Communicating sources, I suppose. The experience I wanted to share is the following... After running for a while and especially the brief period after running lasting a few minutes, my eyes point at things more correctly. This is interesting because obviously I am getting tired, but at the same time I'm directing a lot of energy towards another process that doesn't involve too much accurate eye work. As long as I don't run into a tree, we're good. My intuitive explanation would be that most energy and brain activity is used for running and not for seeing, so it functions more based on ' basic instinct'. So vision really is a learned habit, and does not happen all by itself. It's an activity that a lot of people take for granted. I already knew that, but now I felt it. Once I rested for a few minutes after running, my eyes felt less flexible again and my brain started abusing my eyes again according to my deeply rooted strabismic habits... :) Yeah, call me crazy.

I want to elaborate a little bit more on sports and strabismus. Given the lack of stereovision and ensuing lack of depth perception and oversight strabismics usually aren't heroes when it comes to ball games. Although as a kid I played football every break I got and was actually pretty good at it. I actually loved playing football (the real kind, not the American kind) but I think my biggest strength when it comes to that game was my long distance speed and endurance. Aside from my recent health issues and serious fatigues, I've always been a natural runner. Running must be one of the few sports that are not strongly vision related. Cycling and swimming too, basically no contact sports. Without any special training I ran the 5K edition of the Antwerp 10Miles in 18min50' at age 14. I finished 14th of thousands. I did it again a couple of years later. I also did longer distances a few times, but 5K was my favourite. When the double vision started eating me away some years later I was slowly losing my edge, when normally speaking age-wise I should be reaching my top performance.

I'm sharing these facts to illustrate a theory I have about running and strabismus. Because of the additional physiological stress strabismus causes it actually makes your body stronger and more fit to run to some extent up to some point in time. Reading in particular and school in general is so demanding for a strabismic you have to get stronger to meet these challenges. I used to go running sometimes as a venting mechanism, to release visual tension. Looking back at it now you could call it 'unconscious self medication'. It relaxed the visual system. That only works up to some point of course... When the pressure of strabismus became too much and I was struck by double vision, it was sucking away so much energy that running was just adding to the energy deficiency. At that point the physiological stress caused by strabismus is just too much and detrimental. I remember my gym teacher telling me that it is very clear my stamina was above average and I should maybe consider doing something with it. The thing is that sport efforts also influence my vision. I tried pursuing athletics once but it was impossible for me to focus on school work with that energy consuming activity on the side. I had to choose between keeping up with mandatory school work and extracurricular sports. At the time I didn't understand why all this was happening to me, but I just couldn't keep it up so I quit. There just wasn't enough energy for all of it. It wasn't the first emotional breakdown, and it wouldn't be the last. I always prioritized my school work even after developing double vision and I shouldn't have. It took me a long time to figure out that proper vision is thé priority and that the option was even on the table.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting! I have also felt that strabismus has had a huge effect on how athletic / into sports I am.

    For me, I have always hated and avoided sports. The balance issues that strabismus causes, combined with the fact that I can't hit or catch a moving object has totally driven me away from anything athletic. I hated being yelled at by my classmates in gym class for missing the volley ball. I somehow got hit in the face by the (fake, American) football at a birthday party. So I hated sports. I preferred reading, video games, and other 2D brainy activities. Strabismus made me a nerd.

    Also, you're really onto something with the idea that physical activity relaxes the visual system. I recently witnessed this at my vision therapist's office: Strabby can't see the 3D activity on the 3D TV. Vision therapist asks strabby to go jump on the trampoline and clap in mid air. Strabby does this for a while. Strabby comes back and instantly sees 3D on the TV.