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They're The Only Eyes You've Got

The following four items are well worth your time reading. They are about wearing eye protection, or more appropriately, the consequences of not wearing eye protection.

The first article is written by NMSRA member, Dr. Hal Hudson, inspired by his discouraging observations that most of the Las Vegas players (during the Team New Mexico vs Los Vegas Team Matches) did not wear eye protection. You will find Dr Hudson's comments to be very informative, clinical, and certainly authoritative.

Unfortunately, Las Vegas players are not alone, believing in untouchable eyes. Many players in Seattle, San Francisco, and San Diego, just to mention a few cities, are likewise not using eye protection. Thankfully, here in New Mexico, utilizing eye protection is the norm.

Special guest contributor Will Carlin graphically brings the subject closer to home. His first letter was originally published by Squash News in June '92. It was later published by the World Squash Federation with copies sent to every national squash body in the world.

In a preface to his second letter (explicitly written for the "Tell-Tale") Will remarks, "It remains extremely frustrating to me that the international players are so reluctant to wear the eyeguards - particularly since they set the trend for United States players right now."

Note also, that in neither letter does Will identify the costs for all of the surgeries, treatments, and doctor visits; however, those costs are believed to have surpassed over $45K to date.

[Ed. note: For those of you who watched Will win the 1989 Albuquerque Open Grand Prix, you may not realize that he later also won the 1989 U.S. National Softball Championships.]

Lastly, International Referee Rod Symington's article addresses the interpretation of the Rules of Squash regarding eyeguards and continuous play.

You Can't Keep It Deep If Your Eye's In A Heap

By Hal Hudson, MD

Ask any long term squash player if they have ever had an eye injury or barely escaped such an injury and the answer is invariably "yes." So why the reluctance by some to not protect their eyes on the court?

During a recent "Team New Mexico" outing to Las Vegas, I noticed several opponents who chose not to wear eye protectors. I Played a diabetic player who had already undergone eye laser surgery for diabetic eye disease who did not wear protection. Perhaps, as Randy Kahn observed, the international game, the lack of mandatory eye wear rules, and exposure to touring pros influences many not to protect their eyes. "If the pros don't, why should I?"

Mandatory eye protection is less likely in foreign countries. In Quebec, only 25% of squash clubs mandate eye protection. Often less than 50% of foreign players wear eye protection. How-ever, a survey in Australia indicated that only 6% of queried players would give up the sport if mandatory rules were enforced.

In Berlin, a study of all sports-related eye injuries indicates that squash leads the way with 33% of injuries compared to 18% due to soccer and 14% due to tennis. The squash ball is a menacing missile to the eye. It is small enough to fit perfectly within the protective orbital rim. Even at low speeds, it can cause very significant damage to the eye. Many ball-related injuries occur when you mishit your own shot. However, some studies indicate that nearly 60% of eye injuries are caused by the racquet. Combine racquets, balls, elbows and heads in a confined area during a hotly contested squash match and the potential for injury to the eye is high.

Let me describe a few things that often happen with blunt eye injuries. Most often there is bleeding inside the eye that takes days to absorb. Surgery may be necessary to drain the blood. Glaucoma can develop from the bleeding both immediately and long term. Daily eye drops or even further surgery, often with a loss of peripheral vision, are not unusual with glaucoma. A cataract is common after direct eye injury. Only surgery can correct cataracts. Retinal detachment is another common problem requiring major eye surgery with a definite chance that good vision won't be obtained. Persistent double vision is possible. A ruptured globe is very likely. At best this results in an unsightly eye and often requires the eye to be removed.

I applaud the local clubs and tournaments that mandate eye protection. I challenge all of you "heady" squash types to always wear approved eye protectors whenever in the court. Please don't count on your prescription glasses to fully protect you. See the light now or you may not see it later.

Will's First Letter

June 11, 1992

To all my friends in the squash community:

I want to thank all of you who have called or written me since my eye accident; it has been flattery of the best kind to know how many of you have not only followed my squash career but also cared about my well-being. Thank you.

For those of you who don't know, about a month ago, I was playing in the semi-finals of an MSRA tournament when I was hit in the left eye by a squash ball. I suffered a torn and detached retina which required emergency surgery to repair.

I was playing without eyeguards. This will surprise some of you, for many know me to be a strong advocate of protective eyewear. Rest assured, it was not by plan, but rather only because I was using a different bag than I normally do, and I had forgotten to transfer the goggles.

In any case, the prognosis is good, thanks largely to Dr. Cynthia MacKay who performed the surgery (and who, many of you will know, is the mother of Rob and Hope, winners of many national junior titles). Dr. MacKay thinks the vision is going to be fine, but she also mentioned to me that if this had happened ten years ago, I would have lost the sight in that eye.

In a sense, it is ironic that Dr. MacKay performed the surgery, for she was one of the strongest early advocates for required eye protection and, eventually, I was one of the early converts. I say eventually, because at first I was as opposed as anyone to them, and I was annoyed that colleges were mandating them. And because I was so opposed to them, every little thing about them annoyed me: constant fogging, sweat dripping on them, inability to effectively clean them during a match, and all the rest. But a couple of things happened that first year they were required: I had a conversation with Dr. MacKay about the fragility of the eye, I had a pair broken off my face by the backswing of a number two college player, and I got used to them.

It has been about ten years since I was first forced to wear the eyeguards, and I have rarely been without them since. During that time, I have been hit in that general area by either racquet or ball maybe half a dozen times - in ten years of playing almost every day for more than a couple of hours per day. In other words, not very frequently. But I got nailed- and it hurt, it was expensive to take care of, and, until I was sure I was going to be able to see again, it scared the you-know-what out of me.

Perhaps the odds are quite low that anything like what happened to me will happen if you never wear them. I know all the arguments, including the "I'm a good player and I only play with good players, so the chance that... ". Guess what? I'm not a bad player, and my opponent was someone who is one of the best in the country. I can only tell you one thing: it does happen, and it's not worth it. And I am telling you that with the knowledge that my sight will be almost totally unaff'ected. Plain and simple- wear eye protection, it isn't worth the risk. Period.

I'd love for something good to come out of my own stupidity; I hope some of you will become converts for good.

In the meantime, your good wishes have spurred me on, I'm hitting the ball again, I'll be playing again soon and I hope to see many of you in Houston [ed. comment: Will is referring to 1992 U.S. Nationals, in Houston].

My best,

Will Carlin

Will's Second Letter

October 20, 1994

Dear squash friends in the Southwest:

A little over two years ago, Squash News was kind enough to print an open letter I wrote about getting hit in the eye by a squash ball. Randy Kahn recently asked me if I would follow up that letter since the Southwest was trying to really emphasize the importance of playing with eye-protection. I told him I would be grateful for the opportunity.

Let me begin by explaining my injury a bit more completely than I did two years ago. Imagine, for a moment, your eye as a basketball. The retina - which contains the rods and the cones you may remember from high school biology and which is the "movie screen" onto which the images you look at are projected - is like a layer of Saran Wrap lining the inside surface of the basketball. (Actually, the retina is even thinner than Saran Wrap, but the analogy is a good one, I'm told.) When it is torn, the fluid in the eye (called the vitreous humour) can actually get between the "Saran Wrap" and the "basketball" and start to lift the plastic-wrap-like retina away from the eye; when it actually becomes separated, it is called "detached". If the retina becomes too detached, the eye is no longer able to process the things it looks at and blindness ensues.

My retina was torn and partially detached. The operation to fix it consists of sewing a small piece of metal to the outside of the eye to indent the "basketball" so that the edges of the torn "Saran Wrap" are able to overlap. A little while after this physical surgery, laser surgery then ''burns'' the edges together - gluing the edges, in a way, through the formation of scar tissue. Does all of this sound painful? The post-surgical pain was the most excruciating pain I have ever experienced. For about a week after the surgery, I had to lie still; I was not able to read, to watch TV, or to move about. I could listen to the radio, the TV, or cassettes, but that was it - and I was either in terrible pain or I was nauseous from the pain-killers.

From there, it was another two months or so before I was able to start exercising at all vigorously, and another few months after that before I was able to play squash competitively at all. Knowing this, you may be able to understand why I burst into tears almost exactlv a year after that surgery, when I found out I had to go through it all again.

The first surgery had been remarkably successful thanks to Dr. Cynthia MacKay, who is truly an amazing retinal surgeon, but the impact from the ball (directly off a well-struck forehand from about five feet away), had damaged another part of the retina, as well, and that weakened area had finally torn. About a year and a half ago, I underwent a second long surgery. This time, there were some post-operative complications, and for about a week, there was great concern about whether the sight could be saved at all. The pain was again extreme, but the fear of losing the sight in one eye -- and all three-dimensional sight with it -- outweighed all the pain.

My eyesight is remarkably good now. I have almost 20/20 vision in that eye, but I do have a ton of ghost-images called "floaters" in that eye. Normally, I'm almost not aware of them, but they do bother me most in two places: first, when I'm reading there is one particular floater which follows the words along like a bouncing ball, except that it always lags just behind or skips ahead of the words I'm actually reading (it does, at times, get quite annoying); and second, when I play squash the white walls make an excellent background on which to notice floaters. Most of the time when I'm playing I don't notice them, but once or twice a match, when I'm anticipating the ball going one way, a floater confirms that anticipation incorrectly and I go completely the wrong way.

The second most frustrating thing about the eye injury is that I feel that two years of my prime squash-playing years were taken away from me. The only two years I've lost in the first round of the Nationals were the two years after the surgeries, and I feel as though I'm now considered past my prime as a result, and I probably am (but I'm back to training hard again, and who knows? maybe next year I'll actually be back to playing well). So what's the most frustrating thing? That I haven't been able to stop more people from getting the same injury. Being one of the more visible people to have experienced this, many of those who have been similarly injured have written or called me. I hate to tell people this, but this injury is a lot more common than people think. And the truly amazing thing is, that it never has to happen. If I could only share one day of the post-operative pain, nausea, and fear, I feel strongly that no one would ever "forget" to wear their goggles again.

All of you who have read this letter this far, please do me one huge favor: let me be the idiot for all of us, and wear eye protection every time you step on the court.

I miss playing squash in the Southwest and I hope to be back there again soon.

My continued best,

Will Carlin

Eyeguards & Continuous Play

By Rod Symington, W.S.F. International Referee
(Provided by USSRA)

The rules of Squash require that play shall be continuous: After the first service is delivered, play shall be continuous so far as is practical.." (Rule 16). This means that once a rally is over and the score has been called, play shall resume as quickly as possible. The calling of the score is a signal for both players to get ready to resume play.

But what happens if a player's eyeguards are fogged up and there is an obvious need to wipe them? How much time should the affected player be allowed to take, and how often should a player be permitted to take the eyeguards off to wipe them?

These are difficult questions because there are no clear cut answers. On the one hand, the Rules require that play should proceed once the score has been called. On the other hand, it would be both unsafe and unfair to require a player to play on with fogged up glasses. A reasonable solution would balance these two considerations - play shall be continuous as far as possible, but a player has the right to clean his/her eyeguards if visibility through them is impeded. Referees have to use their own discretion in deciding the correct balance between the two factors.

But what happens if one or both players wish to wipe their eyeguards after almost every rally? Here again, it is impossible to give a clear and definite answer. If the court conditions are humid, or if the players are engaging in long, fierce rallies, it is only reasonable that the players be allowed to wipe their glasses before continuing play. Again, the referee must exercise discretion and decide what the appropriate behavior is under the conditions. If, on the other hand, a player tries to wipe his/her glasses after every rally, no matter if it be long or short, then the referee should step in and warn the player for wasting time.

Here the Referee must use the provisions of Rule 16.6: The Referee shall apply the provisions of Rule 17 (Code of conduct) to a player who, in his opinion, delays play unreasonably. Such delay may be caused by: Rule 16.6.1 Unduly slow preparation to serve or receive service.

One provision that would certainly help alleviate this problem would be for the players to prepare themselves before the match for the need to wipe their glasses, i.e., they should decide what method they are going to use (the end of their shirt, a piece of toweling carried in the pocket, or whatever), so that any delay is kept to a minimum. The referee can help here by insisting before the match that the players decide how they are going to wipe their eyeguards and by notifying them of the need for speed. A polite word or two about not tolerating any delay of game would also be in order.

In conclusion, here is a list of items to be considered by both players and referees:

1. Play shall be continuous, as far as possible;
2. Players are permitted to wipe their eyeguards between rallies when necessary;
3. Such wiping must be carried out as speedily as possible;
4. Players should take onto court whatever they need to wipe their glasses adequately. (Getting a towel from off the court or having a towel thrown onto court by a friend is definitely improper!)
5. Referees should advise players before the game of the need for (a) speed and (b) appropriate wiping material on the player's person;
6. During the game, if the player is taking too much time or wiping the eyeguards too frequently, the referee can use the Code of conduct to penalize a player's improper behavior.

PRO Tips: "Eye-Ball Glue and The Dunce Cap"

by Chris Lang,
New Mexico Sports and Wellness Pro

This month's tip will be brief, but if executed properly, you will see a tremendous improvement in your game.

Many of us enter the court optimistically. We want to enjoy ourselves, get some wonderful exercise and perhaps even win. But how many of us enter the court with a strategy or game plan as to how we are going to play? Probably very few of us.

My tips this month are simple, easy to understand and only require a conscious effort. First keep your head as still as possible while striking the ball. Your eyes must be glued to the ball while striking it. If you can't see the ball, it becomes increasingly difficult to hit and to direct.

Every time you hit the ball, think of looking for the little yellow or green dot on the ball's surface. If you "see" the dot every time you strike the ball you'll hit a better shot!!

Secondly, the next time you are out on the court, your game plan should be this: hit the ball straight and deep. This strategy is very effective and rewarding. Force your opponent to make errors. Punish him like the little schoolboy sitting in the corner of the classroom wearing a dunce cap, by placing the ball in the rear corners of the court.

Try playing a patient and conservative game and see what happens. I hope you are all playing well and REMEMBER TO KEEP IT STRAIGHT AND DEEP!!!!

The Tell-Tale Vol. 11, No. 2

New Mexico Squash Racquets Association

October 27, 1994

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