Athletes and PRK: Can PRK Really Improve My Performance?

May 2, 2024


Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) is a form of refractive surgery performed to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. During this procedure, a laser is used to alter the shape of the cornea, correct refractive errors, and improve vision. PRK may also reduce the need for contact lenses or eyeglasses. This can be especially beneficial for athletes, who can significantly benefit from clear vision.

Understanding the Importance of Vision in Sports

Clear eyesight is a crucial aspect of sports ability. Without good vision, optimal sports performance is challenging, if not impossible. Poor vision can make it difficult for players to accurately judge distance, which can be detrimental in scoring points, hitting balls, or fending off opponents.

Many athletes and people who exercise outdoors prefer refractive surgery to contact lenses because they sweat and are often in dusty environments. The sweat and dust can irritate the eyes of contact wearers, interfering with vision and performance. Because of this, a growing number of professional athletes are having PRK surgery or alternative refractive surgery procedures to enhance their performance.

How PRK Improves Athletic Performance

With PRK, athletes do not have to worry about glasses being knocked off their faces or contact lenses stinging due to sweat and/or dust. PRK also provides improved vision, which is ideal for those participating in sports for enhanced performance.

During this procedure, your eyes will be numbed and placed into an eyelid holder to prevent blinking. The ophthalmologist will then remove the epithelium, or the outer layer of cells on the cornea. You will then be asked to focus on a target light while a laser reshapes the cornea.

Many doctors recommend PRK over LASIK for athletes involved in contact sports. This is because PRK does not include the creation of a flap like LASIK does, eliminating the risk of flap complications in athletes who engage in sports that put them at high risk for eye injuries.

Factors to Consider Before Getting PRK

Consulting with a skilled eye care professional before undergoing PRK is key to optimal outcomes. A comprehensive exam can determine if you are a suitable candidate, as well as offer the opportunity to discuss any concerns or questions you may have.

Athletes who are interested in PRK should first consider candidacy requirements. Most PRK candidates should be at least 18 years old, be in general good health, have sufficiently thick corneas, and should not have serious eye conditions such as keratoconus, active eye infections, or severe dry eyes.

Athletes should also consider the risks of PRK. The recovery time from PRK is typically longer than LASIK because the epithelium needs time to regrow. After PRK, patients may experience increased sensitivity to light, and while rare, complications such as infection, under-correction, or overcorrection can occur. If you are considering PRK, be sure to discuss any and all concerns and possible complications with your doctor so you are educated and informed regarding your surgical decision.

Schedule a Consultation

Overall, PRK can be a very beneficial procedure for athletes seeking clear vision and improved athletic performance. For more information regarding PRK and if it is right for you, contact Anh Nguyen Ophthalmology today.  Our team of skilled ophthalmologists and optometrists is dedicated to providing professional care.

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