Wednesday, December 12, 2007

LASIK and the Athlete--Cheating?

About 3 weeks ago, I had LASIK in my right eye. I had only moderately sucky vision at 20/40, but it bothered me to no end. If I got tired, my vision would get blurry. At dusk, everything was blurry. Since high school, I would habitually close my fabulous left eye (which somehow sees 20/15) to see if my right eye could read whatever my left eye could. This got me funny looks from some teachers, and a few college professors thought I was winking at them.

Swimming, the vision didn't bother me as much, since I couldn't keep my goggles on to dive in, so I didn't wear them to compete, making everything blurry anyway. But when I finally figured out how to keep the darn things on in college, I still would miss the wall sometimes. As a sprinter, that's the end of the race. You miss the wall or barely tap it, you're done for. Cycling at dusk or running in shady places, I just couldn't see right.

I wanted LASIK for a long time, but the thought of not being able to swim kept me from doing it. When I finally did my research, I realized I'd only be restricted from swimming and sweating in my eye for one week. That's it! I could do that! I found a doctor in Hollywood who had done the procedure on several pro athletes, and picked a day right after the end of my triathlon season (marked by coachancé's 70.3 World Championship race).

After watching a long video on what could go wrong, and initialing that I wouldn't sue if, say, the little flap they'd create in my cornea flipped off, I was almost good to go. They had to "drug" me first, to make sure I wouldn't fidget, with a medicine that all the Hollywood stars are addicted to, according to the tabloids at VONS. 5 minutes later, they came in to see if I felt "heavy" when I stood up. "I guess so?" I replied. Good enough! They took me into the surgery room, put coachancé on the other side of a glass wall, taped my eye open, shoved something in it so I wouldn't blink, then everything went black for about 15 seconds. And it smelled like burning hair. They were cutting a flap in my cornea. That was a freaky experience. Then a pulsating light glowed in a dot above my eye, then I was done. Ta dah!

I had to put an antibacterial and a steroidal drop in my eye 4x a day for a week, wear funny-looking aviator-like goggles for the day, and tape them to my face every night for a week, then use wetting drops 6x/day for a month after, and I'd have perfect vision until I'm in my 40s! Hurray!

Upon my return visit, I discovered that they had corrected my eye to about 20/15. As of now, my eye is a bit scratchy in the mornings, and a little blurry until I blink hard a few times, but after that the vision is crystal clear. There is definitely a bit of a glow around lights at night, but as I only had one eye fixed, the other helps out and it doesn't bother me at all.

An interesting article was written a few years ago about how LASIK enhancement was akin to doping in sports, especially in those sports that require great accuracy, like golf and baseball. The author, William Saletan, argued that LASIK is akin to a performance-enhancing drug. If Tiger Woods couldn't see 20/15 from his LASIK procedure, he wouldn't be able to hit the ball the correct distance.

Couldn't he have worn glasses that gave him the same correction before? Mark McGwire wore lenses that corrected his vision to 20/10. Superhuman vision is achievable without LASIK, if you ask your doctor to make your lenses correct your eyesight to this degree. And I doubt any Major League player would have trouble affording the costly LASIK procedure, should they like to have this vision burned into their head.

The advantages to LASIK over glasses or contact lenses? Total peripheral vision, and you don't have to rely on anything but yourself to get yourself around. I only wore my glasses when I drove at night, worked at the computer, or wanted to look intellectual, so LASIK wasn't a life-altering experience for me. I still haven't gone swimming since the procedure (off season!) so I'll see how much clearer the clumps of hair at the bottom of the pool are in due time. I have gone on some long bike rides, however, and the clear vision I experienced even while highly fatigued was tremendous.

I hardly consider LASIK akin to doping. Restoring your vision to what it was when you were young (or what it should've been then) is nothing like using drugs to get stronger muscles you never had. Hit the weight room to become stronger! And if you'd like to restore one of your 5 God-granted senses--with glasses or permanently, it's your right.

What are your thoughts?

Happy Clear Vision!

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