American Optometric Association statistics show that about 90 million Americans participate in sports. With any sport, players must assume the risk of injury, whether it be broken bones, torn ligaments or damaged muscles. But what happens when a sports injury affects an athlete’s ability to see?
University of Alabama at Birmingham baseball player Leo Harris found out firsthand the importance of seeking immediate eye care after a sports-related eye injury.
A native of Biloxi, Mississippi, Harris has played baseball since he was 5 years old. Harris played at St. Martin High School in Ocean Springs, where he was an honor student and ranked by Perfect Game as the No. 3 shortstop and No. 21 overall player in his home state.
After high school, he continued his education and athletic career at UAB.
“The coaches, players and the environment just felt like the right fit for me,” Harris said.
In fall 2020, he was struck in the eye by a fast-moving baseball. He came to UAB Eye Care, the clinical arm of the UAB School of Optometry, with his eye swollen shut and about the same size as the baseball that hit him.
“With any injury, there’s always some worry going on,” Harris said. “But for me, the thoughts right after that injury were just, ‘I hope this isn’t anything serious or anything that keeps me out for long.’”
BlazerVision is a partnership among UAB Athletics, the UAB School of Optometry and the UAB Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences that provides each student-athlete with comprehensive eye care, acute game-time care and state-of-the-art concussion baseline testing.
Through BlazerVision, Harris received swift attention at UAB Eye Care, where his condition dramatically improved under Weise’s care.
“With Leo’s injury, we were afraid we would find a detached retina, which could lead to blindness,” Weise said. “However, we found that what he had was a bruised retina, which we see with some regularity after a hit to the eye. Thankfully, the bruise to the retina was benign and healed much like any other bruise.”
This story originally appeared on the UAB News website.