To See or Not to See?

Kane Waselenchuk by restrungmag.com

Kane Waselenchuk by restrungmag.com

If any of us were asked whether we really cared about the health and well-being of our fellow man, without hesitation we would say ”why, yes, of course.”  

However, do we walk the walk or only talk the talk?

I have a friend who refuses to wear eye protection on the racquetball court. Standard complaint, the lenses fog up.


“So, you’d rather not see at all?” Use of sarcasm sways him not. I tell him that the little bit of fogging he notices through the goggles pales in comparison to the lousy vision he might end up with if a racquetball smacked him in the eye. A racquetball, propelled by a tightly strung racquet, scientifically measured to travel significantly faster than a Nolan Ryan fastball (you may substitute a modern player but I haven’t been keeping up with baseball lately), and which is only slightly larger than a paintball, and which conforms nicely to the orbit (the part of the skull that holds the eye), and which must obey the laws of physics, can unleash devastatingly destructive force on the eye. 

So, if you were in my place, if you were on the court with this fellow, would you refuse to play with him unless he wore protection? Would you walk that walk?   

I realize that if I had integrity, if I really cared about my fellow racquet man, if I acted on what I know about eye injuries, I would refuse to play with him.  But, he doesn’t give in.  We all let it slide. We have given up. And I’m an eye doctor? Of all people to step on the court with a man not wearing protection!

As an ophthalmologist I know the consequences of these injuries, and, to prove it, I’ll throw in some of our big words … hyphema, traumatic iritis, angle recession glaucoma, secondary cataract, lens subluxation, vitreous hemorrhage, macular edema, retinal detachment, blow-out fracture,  diplopia, ruptured globe. And these injurious consequences are not mutually exclusive. 

Even expert and timely surgery may not be enough to salvage a ruptured globe or prevent life-style changing consequences. Best-case scenario might be a narrow escape with a lesson learned or a few days of pain and minor inconvenience. A worse-case and more than just a hypothetical scenario is a blind eye. And, what could be worse than a blind eye? Well, an eye that can’t see and also hurts. 

And, who knows, it might get worse. Might it affect your ability to work? Does the loss of our most treasured sense, vision, lead to major depression? Or does your spouse recoil at the sight of you and run away with the bouncer she met during one of her ever more frequent “girls’ nights out?”

Never go on the court without protection. We got used to wearing seat belts, didn’t we? Prescription glasses, unless made out of polycarbonate and held in sturdy frames will not protect a player adequately. Your everyday dress glasses are not sufficient. Non-prescription goggles should have a plus mark (+) on the lens to verify they are high impact resistant. That’s what you need. There are many viable options for eye protection, too many to mention here. 

Americans fear loss of vision to almost the same degree they fear cancer.  Proper eye protection would likely prevent 90 percent of the estimated 40,000 sports-related eye injuries that occur each year in America. There is no good excuse not to comply with this “no-brainer” recommendation. 

Epilogue: The day I started writing this piece, I showed up at the Y to play our usual Tuesday night games and, surprisingly, only one other guy showed up (are they trying to tell me something?). And the guy who did show happened to be the fellow who doesn’t wear goggles.  I came right out and said, “Suzie, I am writing an article about you.”  I told him of my dilemma, “Alice, how can I in good conscience play with a person who is not wearing proper protection? It puts me in a difficult position.” I tossed him a pair of spare goggles I had in my bag and, blow me down, he wore them. 

International Racquetball Tour (IRT) contributor, Terry Croyle, is an ophthalmologist in south Georgia. His masochistic, as well as futile, approach to the denial of aging is to subject himself to regular racquetball beat-downs by the younger players (and they’re all younger).