In Austin, people like to stay active. Whether it’s organized sports or your own personal fitness regimen, this is a town that likes to move, and there are countless options here for staying in shape and enjoying the outdoors. We sat down with Mann Eye’s Dr. Luke Barker to talk about his background in sports as well as what athletes and active Austinites can do to take care of their eyes—from the court to the trails to the playing field.
What’s your personal background with sports?
Dr. Barker: In high school I played basketball, tennis and golf, and I played intramural football, basketball and tennis in college and med school. Currently I’m also pretty active— I like to mountain bike, I like to road bike, I like to snowboard. I like to surf and go to the lake, and I like to hike. I also play in local tennis, basketball and ultimate Frisbee rec leagues.
What role does vision play in an active lifestyle, and what’s its importance?
Dr. Barker: Good vision is paramount to an active life. If you don’t have good vision, you’re not going to be able to see anything— you won’t be able to see the Frisbee or the basketball or the football. You won’t be able to see the trail ahead of you and the obstacles you have to avoid. Therefore, quality vision is vital to being active. Being able to have the freedom to function at your optimal level in any athletic activity without the hindrance of glasses or contacts is a huge advantage.
Do you work with athletes?
Dr. Barker: We see patients from both high school and collegiate athletics— University of Texas, Saint Edwards University, Austin Community College.
What are the most common eye issues that athletes face?
Dr. Barker: Some of the most common issues are refractive error, which is needing glasses or contacts to be able to see. Take the swim team for instance. If they’re wearing glasses or contacts, they’re not going to be able to see that well underwater where they need to be able to have good vision, with goggles and things like that. So that’s really important.
One of the other things we see a lot with athletes is injuries. If they get hit in the eye, or a scratch on the cornea or something like that, I’m here 24/7 in Austin. I’m available to help out in any of those situations. And also preventative care, just to help them maintain optimal vision throughout their career and lifetime.
What are the best ways for athletes to protect their eyes and keep them sharp on the field?
Dr. Barker: Wearing sunglasses when you’re outdoors to help provide protection and clarity is important. Polarized glasses are very beneficial to help with minimizing glare. If you’re playing for the baseball team or football team, and the sunlight or stadium lights are bright, it causes a lot of glare, so polarization helps a lot. And preventative care, making sure you’re doing everything you can to keep yourself performing at an optimal level. That’s so important now, with sports medicine for your whole body, including your eyes.
For more info on eye care from Mann Eye, visit www.MannEye.com